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What the WGA's Strike Reveals About the Literary World
On May 2, 2023, the Writers Guild of America, or the WGA, initiated a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television after the two sides failed to come to an agreement in regard to contract negotiations with streaming services. This comes after six weeks of intense bargaining, and years after the last strike, which lasted a reported 100 days. As a result, late-night shows will start doing reruns, and any new TV series, movies, or anything of the sort will be put on hold. Major networks are painfully aware of the millions of dollars already lost, especially since Hollywood was just starting to come back from COVID restrictions. However, it can be argued that the strike can be felt across the writing industry as a whole.
To give you an example, new writers will sign up to write for a content mill as a way to gain experience. These mills will pay pennies for articles that writers need to churn out day in and day out. The pay is not nearly enough to support the writer, and if they are able to support themselves somehow, more than likely they’re living off a shoestring budget that gets more shaky due to the inflation. And even if they do get a publishing deal, they have to wait months before they see any revenue. This isn’t even mentioning the thousands of books that are waiting to be sold on bookshelves, physical or digital. And even though it is every writer’s dream to make a living off their writing, unfortunately, very few are able to do so. True, there are advances available, but it means nothing if they don't know when the next paycheck will come. And the next. And the next.
Consider the brilliance of Edgar Allen Poe. Although he is revered today throughout horror circles for his use of imagery, haunting tones, and creepy environments, he originally died penniless. William Blake, the poet who penned famous works such as The Tyger and Songs of Innocence, suffered the same fate, even though his works are currently being studied internationally. Oscar Wilde, the gay icon LGBTQ+ bookworms know and love, was bankrupted after being arrested for his sexuality.The list goes on and on.
Nowadays, writers have more tools at their disposal. Freelance writing is a good way for experienced writers to obtain a steady income, all the while specializing in subjects of interest which results in higher pay. This can be by going to college and getting a degree, working in their areas of interest for a couple of years, or even volunteering. Then, of course, there’s the entrepreneurial avenue of writing, such as self-publishing and blogging, which can be lucrative. Even so, just like traditional publishing, building a job surrounding blogging or freelance writing takes time, and WGA writers rely on major networks and streaming services to bring in a stable income. They need to ensure that their ever-skyrocketing bills are being paid, and hungry mouths are fed. It’s clear enough that these networks need these writers. But while writers want their works to be recognized, at the same time, the recognition and money shouldn't come long after the writer is dead. Like any laborer, writers need to be able to provide for their families, rather than be accused of following a romantic notion that does not allow them to prosper financially.
Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Robin Goodfellow