Writing – and speaking – for free


Sir, – I wholeheartedly endorse everything Oisin McGann says with regard to writers being expected to work for free (October 16th). Were one to ask a photographer, economist, architect, politician or any professional to work without pay, you’d be quickly told where to go.

Similarly, experts in a particular field are often offered very generous appearance fees to speak at industry events, yet it is assumed that writers, for some reason, are unique in that they are happy to offer their services for nothing but the opportunity of some publicity.

It is high time writing was afforded the value it merits. – Yours, etc,


Terenure, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Oisin McGann (October 16th) makes the argument that all writers should to be paid for all published work.

A cynic might wonder why this exhortation doesn’t extend to the letters page of The Irish Times, which is almost always the section with the most original and thought-provoking (if only occasionally the most brilliantly composed) content? Sometimes the platform of publication is reward enough, it would seem.

Near-universal literacy rates mean that there is not only an endless supply of readers, but an endless supply of potential writers too.

It has been reported that publishers in the UK receive about a million manuscripts for consideration each year, of which only a few thousand make it to print, and only a few hundred are ever considered worthy of a review in a serious newspaper or magazine.

It is not just existing writers that pose competition, but dead ones too. If a person sat down and did nothing but read only established literary classics, they probably wouldn’t get to the end of the pile in a single lifetime. The laws of supply and demand mean that written work of any kind but the most currently pertinent will become ever cheaper. C’est la vie.

In such a world it is clear that writers, like artists of any other stripe, should write first because they feel compelled to and not to make a living. Arguing with the sea won’t stop the tide from coming in. – Yours, etc,


Phibsboro, Dublin 7.