I’ve been on The Mary Sue’s editorial staff for a little over a year, and when our former Editor-in-Chief Jill Pantozzi offered me my position here in March of 2015, I was thrilled, because I’d spent the previous seven years holding the several jobs you need to hold in order to earn one salary as a freelance writer. As she explained what the job was, it felt like a dream, and in my head I was all, “Wait, so I get to write about pop culture and feminism all day, I get paid a full-time salary, I get health insurance, and I get to work remotely? Somebody pinch me!”
The thing to remember is this: that shouldn’t be a dream.
As I mentioned, I spent seven years pursuing a freelance writing career, and believe me when I tell you I know how rough it is out there. I wanted to earn a living as a writer, but it’s difficult for even established writers to do so without either holding “day jobs” that have nothing to do with writing or running themselves into the ground hustling to get enough small freelance jobs so that they can afford to make rent. I did the former, plugging away at my writing career as I worked an entirely different job the rest of the time. Either way, you’re running yourself ragged, not eating properly, and getting very little sleep to make anything close to resembling a decent living.
What’s more, our country craps on freelancers. (Try looking for an apartment without pay stubs from one job.) They can rarely afford to see doctors, because the companies they write for don’t give them any benefits, which is all the more appalling since they’re usually sick more often because of running themselves ragged. They also have to hustle for each individual article to get published, and even when I was a regular contributor to certain websites and they relied on me for a column, there was never any guarantee that what I wrote would be approved, and no approval = no money for that article. So, I’d have to go back to the drawing board to come up with an entirely new idea. All that back-and-forth pitching and convincing websites to publish each and every article done entirely for free—just for the pleasure of having one article published for a flat fee that usually wasn’t enough to cover a trip to the movies, let alone rent or seeing a doctor.
That kind of treatment is often reflected in the site’s content. If a writer is hustling for five different jobs, or struggling financially, it affects the quality of their work. I’ll admit that at some of my previous freelance gigs, work was turned in late or not as good as it could have been simply because I was too busy stressing while balancing the freelance hustle with the demands of my day job(s). You can’t get a person’s best work when they’re struggling, or stretching themselves thin trying to meet the demands of several bosses.
The Mary Sue has never been that. From the day it started it’s been a publication—not a blog started out of someone’s house, but a professional publication started by an established publishing company—that has a full-time staff that it pays.
We are a nine-person paid staff that is responsible for making sure that you can get your Mary Sue on every day! Our editorial staff—Carolyn, Dan, Maddy, Jessica, Carly, and Yours Truly—does the majority of the writing here on the site, and what we don’t write, we edit. The lovely Charline started out as an intern here and has been a part-time Associate Editor since the Fall as she’s been finishing school! We have Alec Bernal handling our videos for us, often keeping me in stitches with his hilarious edits. We have Sam Riedel handling our social media strategy, and also taking part in some of our reporting. We spend every day, eight hours a day, creating content and reporting on news that we hope you’re interested in, all through the socially-conscious lens that’s become our signature.
And because each of our full-time employees is paid a full-time salary with benefits — the way one would (and should) expect to be at any other full-time job — we are able to give you our best every day. And while we were already proud of the work we were doing here, since the shift to a subscription model, we’ve been prouder still, because we are now able to delve more deeply into the topics and stories we care about. We’re able take the time to follow our feature ideas and see where they lead, which often means more interesting reading material for you! It also allows us the time to be more discerning about the news items we share with you, and look at all of it through our unique, critical lens. Writers and editors that are well taken care of = better content, which means a better Mary Sue!
You may not always agree with us—hell, we don’t always agree with each other—but we try every day to provide a safe space where dissenting views can be heard, examined, and discussed, all in the interest of working toward a world that is kinder to women, people of color, the LGBTQIA community, the disabled community, and all those who are marginalized. While talking about geeky pop culture stuff, because THAT’S WHAT GETS US OUT OF BED EVERY MORNING.
There’s been a lot of talk and concern about our outside contributors here at TMS, with good reason, many of which I talked about above. TMS has always paid some of their contributors (depending on a bunch of factors), and a major selling point for our subscriptions that we’ve been hammering home is that we want all of them to be paid. But we can’t do that unless we increase our revenue, and that means either more ads, or more subscriptions. We know how annoyed many of our readers are by ads, so we offer the subscription as an alternative—not a replacement, but an alternative—so that those who can afford to do so can subscribe to this publication, allowing us to become less dependent on ad revenue while still being able to pay writers and editors what they’re worth.
One of the things that impressed me most when I took this job was our owner Dan Abrams’ commitment to paying us all. I’m not saying we are paid a lot, because we aren’t. On-line media is a tough business but we work normal hours, get benefits and time off as anyone should. That is a definite priority at The Mary Sue, and it’s been happening, but no business can cover its costs without customers. In our case as a publication, we can’t continue to operate without the support of our readership.
Full-time gigs for writers shouldn’t be a dream. They should be standard. Here at The Mary Sue, they are, and it gives us a clearer, stronger voice that the site needs. Writers who freelance should be paid a fair rate for their pieces and should be encouraged to develop long-term relationships with their publications. We strive to do that here, too. We know we have a ways to go, and we want to do it better.
Your subscriptions will allow The Mary Sue to improve what it’s already been doing—allowing writers and editors to do what they do best and write to their passions. Your subscriptions help us continue to make that “dream” a reality.
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