Elliott -- "I think it's worth pointing out that people have always written for free for literary publications, or close enough to free that there's not really a difference. If you spend months on a short story, say six months on three short stories, and one of them gets picked up by McSweeney's and they give you $500, you're basically writing for free anyway. And if you're publishing in The Alaska Quarterly, or Zyzzyva, you're getting $50, or nothing."
On the face of it, placing stories in magazines only makes economic sense as a step towards publishing short story collections -- but short story collections are in any case unlikely to make money... yet even if we aren't in it for the money, we writers still think that what we do is worth money...
Elliott -- "I went through a period of publishing for free, and then a period of being insulted that people wanted my work for free, and then back into a period of writing for free. And then I started The Rumpus. But that middle part, where you think people owe you something for your art, is very uncomfortable... You're supposed to get paid for writing what other people want you to write, for being able to plug in and push out content, for widgeting. To only write what you want is a luxury."
The explosion of free content that is the Internet has us all bewildered... we still half-suspect that if it's free it can't be good. We experience a lot of cognitive dissonance about this. What use would Poe have made of the Internet, given the chance? What use if any would Kafka have made? Is the writing I do for free a brilliant-or-perhaps-stupid way of promoting the writing I'm trying to sell? Or is it a way of transcending the capitalist system in my last few months before becoming homeless? And is blogging a luxury or a form of slavery?