Ask The Editor

July 30, 2009

How dumb do these “Dummies” think we are?

I’ve written before about companies that ask writers to write for free or nearly free. Add another would-be exploiter to the list: the ” … for Dummies” folks.

On a writers’ email listserv, someone posted the following forwarded email:

Date: July 21, 2009 1:21:07 PM PDT

Are you a subject area expert who would like to write for

Because consumers look to for answers on nearly every part of their life, we’re looking for expert authors on all kinds of topics from iPhones to investing. If you’re a topic expert with excellent writing skills and would like to contribute articles to, please visit us.

We’ll review your credentials and writing sample. If there’s a match, we’ll contact you. Unfortunately, we can’t send feedback to everyone, so only the authors that we think are the best match for will be contacted.

I found it curious that mentioned nothing about pay. I know, from a number of writer friends who have authored Dummies books, that the company doesn’t pay well but the work is easy and some books earn out their advances and pay royalties. So I thought these authors might be interested in picking up gigs for the website if the pay were halfway decent. Checking further, here’s what I found:

[You] grant us and our parent, affiliates and licensees the right to use, reproduce, display, perform, adapt, modify, distribute, have distributed, and promote the content in any form, anywhere and for any purpose without compensation

There’s more but the above is all you need to know. Do not write for companies that want your labor and talent but offer nothing in return. This is a profit-making venture for them but it won’t be for you. Give away your knowledge and talent, and you’ve established its value at $0.

Leave the slave labor to a real dummy and keep looking for a paying gig. And, if you’re so inclined,  politely let the folks know that you don’t think much of companies that exploit writers.

– Anita Bartholomew


  1. Anita: Thanks for posting this! (I found the link when you posted it on FLX.) I have not written a Dummies book, but I’m outraged that they expect writers to work for free. It goes back to the idea that writers must be hobbyists who do it for the sheer joy, but you and I know otherwise!

    Comment by Susan Johnston — July 30, 2009 @ 9:41 am | Reply

  2. Anita,

    Great post. I hope this is not a sign of things to come in the business. Do think this could be a trend?

    Comment by Fred Minnick — July 30, 2009 @ 1:39 pm | Reply

  3. Anita, this is a great post. Thanks for this. I’m up to my eyeballs in offers to work for free – HA!

    Comment by Stephanie — July 30, 2009 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

  4. Yikes! Thanks, Anita.

    I’ve written for (and made some money from) the Dummies, but this is nuts.


    Comment by floatingink — July 30, 2009 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  5. Like you, I checked out the site after the listserv posting. I was incensed when I read the very blurb you posted here “without compensation.” It was the second site this week I was encouraged to check out — and both wanted writing for free. This is offensive and ridiculous. Thank you, Anita, so much for shedding a wider light on the site not paying writers.

    Comment by jesakalong — July 31, 2009 @ 10:18 am | Reply

  6. Thank for you for sharing this! I actually just submitted a request to write for and was confused as to why compensation is not mentioned. If I’m contacted, I won’t be pursuing further.

    Comment by Angela — October 2, 2009 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

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