The Writing Forums were a series of closed industry events that took place during EWF 14, bringing together clever people to look at problems facing the writing community. Described by one participant as “a secret tree house of brain storming” the three forums looked at concrete ways we can work toward change. Focusing on women in writing and publishing, queer writers and how writers can better be paid for their work, each of the three events produced a series of recommendations, resolutions and ultimatums. 

EWF is committed to continuing to work with the writing community to see real change in these areas. 

Pay the Writers Manifesto

Compiled by: Jacinda Woodhead and Bec Zajac

This document reflects discussion that took place at a closed forum on issues facing writer payment models, held at the Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne on 28 May 2014.

1. Transparency in the industry

We think there needs to be more transparency in the publishing industry about who is paying what. We propose that one first step is to ask publishers, festivals or organisations to identify as an ethical publisher. This label means the publication supports writers being paid and will publish an easy-to-find statement on their website about how much they pay.

Note: If your publication, festival or organisation is unable to pay, we ask that you instead publish a statement explaining why.

2. The need for a collective, multi-tiered campaign

We think there is the potential to grow a collective movement that can work and advocate for writers, starting with minimum rates and better conditions. We believe such a campaign should begin with a focus on high-end, commercial publishers so we can address the really obvious exploitation currently occurring in the industry.

Such a campaign will have a number of strategies, and involve a number of organisations and collectives, including Pay the Writers, the Emerging Writers Festival, the Media Entertainment Arts Alliance, the Australian Society of Authors and the state and territory writers’ centres.

3. The next step: a big meeting

We are calling a meeting at The Wheeler Centre on the evening of Wednesday 30 July to start to talk about how we can approach this issue collectively.

This meeting will be open to all writers, editors and illustrators and those concerned about their welfare, especially those currently working as freelancers. We invite people to come armed with ideas and enthusiasm. The meeting will aim to establish some general principles we’d like to organise a campaign around – for example, what are the aims of a campaign and who will it benefit?

We propose that we begin with a campaign that focuses on big commercial publications that are not paying writers or not paying them adequately – because commercial publishers should always pay their writers and staff.

If you are a writer and think you should be paid for your work, turn up to this meeting.

4. Breakdown the silence around pay

We need to normalise the payment conversation: we encourage writers at all stages of their career to ask publishers about payment for their work. We will create a simple statement that writers can include in their dealings with publishers, which will be circulated via social media and available on the EWF website, along with other relevant information.

We also plan to organise a survey about who is being paid in the publishing industry and what they’re being paid, so we can start to get an idea of the landscape. Keep an eye out for the survey so you can participate.

5. Continuing Pay the Writers

We want to continue this collective, with the support of the MEAA, the ASA and the writers’ centres. All writers are welcome to join.

While we appreciate this could be a campaign with challenges, we hope to see progress in the next six months. We ask the EWF to commit to revisiting this campaign next year, so we can reassess where we are at.

6. Recognising that cultural and political projects and labours of love exist

We recognise that not all publications can pay the same rates, for example literary magazines or experimental poetry journals. We support these projects, and differentiate between them and commercial enterprises.

Presented in partnership with Emerging Writers’ Festival and Overland.