Keep Starving

Ad for "Starving Writers" to write for freeSometimes I foolishly check out Craigslist to see if there are any writing gigs. I know better, but I do it anyway. It’s kind of like going to Applebee’s and thinking that you’ll have a good meal. Hope is eternal and stupid.

But sometimes you find something that makes it all worth it.

This particular ad is a double whammy.

First – it’s actually called Starving Writers. I suppose that’s honesty in advertising because if you submit to it, your compensation is “published.”

I’m not sure about you, but the last time I tried to get coffee by telling a barista that their compensation is that they practiced their coffee-making skills, they didn’t give me the coffee I ordered. They were even a wee bit annoyed that I had gotten them to make the coffee and then refused to pay actual money for it.

Second – they tell you that “it doesn’t cost anything” to submit your work to them.

After I finished making a little altar to worship their absolute kindness and generosity, I tried this with a contractor. I told them that I wouldn’t charge them to give me a quote on doing work around the house, and I wouldn’t even pay them for their work once I hired them. I’m not sure what their problem was, but they refused to even come to my house! I don’t get it. Why weren’t they totally appreciative of my willingness to take their work for nothing?

I’m 100% behind writers helping writers. Getting the names of other writers out in public, championing other writers’ work, reviewing books that you enjoy. These are all ways to help out and get writers the audience they need and deserve.

As someone who ran a small press for almost 10 years, I paid my writers. I didn’t make any money. I bought a few stories each month – $25 for short stories, $10 for flash fiction.

The stories appeared online, and once a year, I created a print anthology. Each author got one, plus the option to buy more and sell them. I finally turned a profit on an anthology, “Loving the Undead. An anthology of romance…sort of.” It wasn’t a huge profit, but it encouraged me.

I kept the press going until I couldn’t pay my writers anymore. Due to some health issues, I couldn’t work as many hours and couldn’t afford it. But I didn’t ask them to work for free.

Writers need to support each other, and that means in all ways, including financially. Buy their books, buy their anthologies, subscribe to their Patreon accounts, and join in on their Kickstarters. Writers do this to earn a living. They need to pay bills, just like everyone else.

[I do want to mention that I am also completely behind the idea of anthologies and books that are published for fundraising for various purposes. I organizations who make money from charity anthologies. They often get big name authors to help champion their cause and raise awareness. That is very different.]

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Why be a cheerleader when stripping pays better?

"Channel Solid Gold" by Abe Atri, CC-G, via Wikimedia Commons

“Channel Solid Gold” (a strip club in Mexico City) by Abe Atri, CC-G, via Wikimedia Commons

"Washington Redskin Cheerleaders" by dbking, CC-G, via Wikimedia Commons

“Washington Redskin Cheerleaders” by dbking, CC-G, via Wikimedia Commons

Seriously. This is a legitimate question, and I’d love some responses.

But first, let me tell you how I got to this question.

A news story popped up because some new cheerleader outfits were being called too skimpy and revealing.

I went to check out the article, and there was a great quote from a guy who claimed that there was nothing wrong with the outfits that bear a striking resemblance to something found in Victoria’s Secret or Frederick’s of Hollywood. But, he was careful to note, his daughter (also a cheerleader) would never be allowed to wear something like that.   “‘I think they’re a little overdressed. Of course, I’ve got a daughter who’s a cheerleader down there, and she will not be wearing anything like that,’ said Dennis Stanek.

Ah, the joys of hypocrisy!

This whole exchange got me interested, though, in the careers of professional cheerleaders. Just why is it worth it for them to engage in cheering on these sports teams? What do they get out of it? Is it just, as the article says, that they “[cater] to that 14-year-old boy or even that 30-year-old woman that they can inspire”? (Which, I’d like to assure you, I find hard to believe – perhaps men of all ages, but unless you assume all women are lesbians, that “inspiration” is lacking.)

So I went and found another article, one that talked about the Redskin cheerleaders, just to use as an example.  The cheerleaders who make the cut get paid – are you ready? – a whopping $75 per home game performance!  Wow, huge bucks in that field!  Now, to be fair, they also receive a pair of season tickets, but, of course, they’re working during the games, so they have to give those away.  Now, here comes all the unpaid work: two to five practices a week, lasting up to six hours each; practicing and studying the choreography outside of the practices; exercising, tanning, dieting, etc. and all those other goodies that they have to do to keep up their “look;” and eight days every year for a calendar shoot (they don’t receive any proceeds from the calendar sale, FYI).  Then there are the game days themselves, which means that most of the cheerleaders are up early in the morning to get ready and be at the field before 8 a.m. for a 1 p.m. game.  Then, assuming all goes well, the cheerleaders are done by 6 p.m.  On top of that, the Redskins won’t state how much the cheerleaders make for their personal appearances at various locations (which the Redskins charge for), plus any of the images of the cheerleaders are used without any fees going to the women, even though the football players are paid for the use of their likenesses.

Sounding like a raw deal?

Let me also note that the average salary for an NFL football player is $770,000 a year (as of 2010 figures), although the low end is a measly $200,000 and the high end a whopping $1.4 million.   To play a sport, and sometimes, I might note, play it really, really poorly.  I wonder if cheerleaders would get contracts like that if they fumbled and dropped the ball, so to speak…

Regardless, let’s get real now.

Strippers.

Forbes, in October of 2011, had an awesome series on strippers.  The strippers they talked to earned a whole lot more than those cheerleaders, and, depending on where they were, sometimes wore just as much.  (Remember, some areas, do not allow full nudity…)  So, one woman earned anywhere from $23 to $31 an hour.  When she worked anywhere from 75 to 96 hours per month (how many hours do you put in? 160 or more?), she took home about $2,200 to $2,900 a month.  On top of that, she was able to deduct all of her expenses for waxing, costumes, make-up, etc.  Another woman they talked to earned up to $4,400 a month, again working only 9 days that month.  The women admit that age can lower their earnings, and some months are worse than others, but we’re still talking about performing in scanty outfits.

Let’s look at it this way:
Similarities: Must be in good physical condition.  Must keep up their appearance.  Must wear skimpy outfits and perform in public.
Differences: $75 for a full day’s work.  $120 for about 4 hours’ work.

So, again, let me ask the question: Why be a cheerleader when stripping pays better?