If there's one thing that's more irritating than being asked to write for a site for free, it's when sites that insist on going on existing, despite their fees likely coming out to an equivalent of sub-minimum wage when divided over research time, writing, the editing process, and the additional costs of being a freelancer, make a big self-indulgent fuss about how THEY pay writers, as if it's some sort of favor.
Aside from being written in the fawning, self-conscious language of the Consummate Professional, there are two things that are extra-irritating, and also ironic about this letter being positioned as some favor or service to writers. One, as implied in the first paragraph, based on Who Pays Writers entries, it seems like CA's current rate and rate for the past 5 years or so has been $150, via paypal, for works between 2000-3000 words.
Let's say I am having an absolutely, insanely brilliant and productive day and write that in one 8-hour go, and also don't need to do any research for it. This already kind of constrains what sort of content you can feature, but just use it as a hypothetical. 150/8 = $18.75 an hour, tantalizing if I was still in high school working a no-tips gas station job. But the process of writing for a publication also usually involves at least one editing round, maybe give me half a day for that. 150/12 = 12.5/hr, looking slightly less peachy but still more than I got for toting around leaky trash bags, and I can do it from home.
But that's the thing as well, freelancing comes with a bunch of fees inbuilt, things like paypal fees and self-employment taxes, insurance etc. not being included in the rate... well, I'm bad at figuring these things out exactly but I think 30% off the top is a fair guess. So I have to put around $50 of this payment aside from the jump, $100/12 = 8.33/hr and that's leaving aside the time I have to prepare a pitch in advance of any of this happening, and the fact that pitches may not even be taken, so let's just put a 50/50 shot modifier on this, plus the possibility of late payments or payments I have to chase up multiple times to actually receive... Anyways, Rutter's is not looking so bad.
It's really humorous to invoke minimum wage and wage theft when your rates are so dire, and hardly stand up to serious scrutiny. And of course $150 is a "good" or "middle of the road" rate rather than simply a "bad" one in my particular area of writing, on games. And even then, this is all based on the assumption that I can research and write the piece, off the top of my head, in a single day. Maybe I'm just too committed to a universal work-life go-slow, but that would not be my best or most interesting work, which is of course what these publications say they want and flatter themselves into believing they're supporting. They wouldn't stop you from putting more work into a piece, in fact they tend to stroke your ego to get you to do so, so they can get a better deal. But really, what am I meant to say at this as a "better" alternative, an "opportunity," them acting like they're doing me some kind of principled fucking favor? Thanks for only stealing like half the wages I should get for this, rather than all of them???
Which plays into the second thing that is especially ironic about this grandstanding: CA recently refused co-ownership with its writers, because it didn't match the editor's "vision" for the publication. Of course, it's "complicated," but self-aggrandizing apologia like this really highlights the fact that, historically, wages are only ever an inadequate and compensatory substitute for actual ownership of the context and output of one's work.
Getting fed up with how little I got in return for changing the focus of a piece to make it more saleable or seeing it spackled with ads for things that I think actively worsen culture and human flourishing, like Amazon Prime deals, or military shooters, or whatever is why I don't freelance and don't try to professionalize my writing, because it is a ripoff, and these sites don't help, they just maintain the bottom step above falling into completely non-paid and non-owned work, total dispossession, and demand you thank them for not pushing you off. They directly contribute to race-to-the-bottom rates. They can't afford us, just as much as the people asking for free work can't.
I write on my blog for free because I think professionalization discourses that revolve around negotiating only better pay, or pay in the first place in this case, but are still subject to the terms of platforms, owners, shareholders, advertisers, etc, are limp at best and encourage unquestioning complicity with the needs and values of capital at worst. There's no way to make yourself more marketable out of a fundamentally exploitative relationship, and often times these ideas shutter the horizon more than they open it up by presenting doing anything outside of capitalist relations as a threat to their position to begin with.
Obviously this isn't to say "write for free for a site you don't own," I would literally never do that. It's also not to say that you should never write for a paying site either, but that you should treat it as it is, an antagonistic relationship, no matter how "nice" they are, no matter how much hot air they blow up their own ass about how paying contributors is a "priority" etc., and in general be more critical of what your work and perspective has to lose (as well as open and engaged culture in general) from people who exhort you to professionalize to the standards of closed platforms, subscription services, advertisers and so on as some sort of progressive strategy.
Game Jolt started a massive deletion campaign against games with even a whiff of "sexual content" in them this week, these are the works and histories this ideology will relentlessly steamroll in the interests of maximum marketability, or even just some bozo with platform ownership's "vision." Anyways, I made a mini-site about it, building on Oma Keeling's video work "Who Plays Unspeakable Games?" That's all I've got for now, back to killing time at my day job, lol.