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Spoofs & Satire

Put These on My Byline

In line at the grocery store, the economics of online writing.

Credit: Bob B. Brown

Yes, I did manage to find everything I was looking for today, thank you. Am I paying with cash or credit? That’s a good question. Actually, today I will be using the deep satisfaction I have earned by having an essay accepted by a discerning online publication with a large readership to buy these groceries.

Here, I’ll pull up a screenshot of it on my phone—the article just came out yesterday, so it’s still right there on the front page. It looks great, right? Do you need to scan it in or something? Let me know how this works; I’m a little new to the process, but I’m learning!

What’s that—you require a different form of payment? Well, in that case, how about my high-level exposure to a wide online audience? Can I pay with that? Listen, maybe you don’t understand how “exposure” works: It means my writing is now reaching more readers than ever before, many of whom are currently enjoying and sharing my work, for free. This in turn brings increased web traffic and attention to the site that has published it, which compensates me for my labor and time with the feeling of deep fulfillment and validation I derive from being a part of said site. And you’re saying that when it comes to paying for some of my most basic living expenses, that counts for nothing?

I am frankly amazed that the enviable new writing credit I’ve added to my professional byline is not enough to pay for even a portion of these groceries.

I don’t think you realize how brutally competitive this particular publication is. Do you know how long I’ve been getting rejected by it, and how many of my friends sent me congratulatory messages when I revealed that my work had finally been accepted? I am frankly amazed that the enviable new writing credit I’ve added to my professional byline is not enough to pay for even a portion of these groceries.

How about just the four or five items I really need? Can the deep sense of accomplishment I currently enjoy, having achieved a long-term professional goal after dedicating years to perfecting my craft, be an acceptable form of payment for just those few staples? OK, what about just the milk? I’ll put everything else back.

Are you absolutely sure? What if I tell you about the hours I spent writing and revising the essay that was finally accepted for publication—could that work kind of like a coupon? I find it hard to believe that my professional accomplishments as a writer won’t afford me even 25 percent off this small bottle of laundry detergent. If I buy one, can I at least get one free?

In that case, I’d like to speak with your manager. Please let him know I am interested in finding out whether your store is hiring.