Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: Huffington Post exploiting writers

Original image via Kabsik Park courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.
Original image via Kabsik Park courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Okay at first I wasn’t going to say anything regarding the latest Let’s Bash Self-Publishing rant over at HuffPo, but (like all “real” writers) I am in the business of serving my audience—YOU—what you want to hear and after about the tenth person who sent me Laurie Gough’s Self-Publishing—An Insult to the Written Word, I figured y’all might want my take ūüėČ .

For another angle on this controversy, I strongly recommend Fisking the HuffPo’s Snooty Rant About Self-Publishing.

Moving on…

Consider the Source


First of all, am I the only one to see the laughable hypocrisy of anyone who writes for Huffington Post lecturing anyone¬†about¬†real¬†writing? Huffington Post is a predatory business, a literary parasite that has made hundreds of millions of dollars by paying writers in “exposure dollars.” And, by doing so, has contributed to obliterating traditional journalism.

One doesn’t need credentials or to submit queries to editors and hope one day this “news” agency will publish said article for actual money. Nope. If a writer has demonstrated an ability to cultivate readers, then Huff has slots available. They truck in wagons of cash and the contributor is paid in clicks and feel-goods.

Additionally, Huffington is run by geniuses who say crap like this…

Um…bite me?
Um…bite me?

Did I mention that Huffington Post sold for over $300 MILLION?

Yeah, how about an article,¬†Huffington Post—An Insult to the Written Word.

Wait, I did that already.

So apparently Gough believes real writing is only real when it has passed querying, editors, and a long list of “gatekeepers” but that apparently doesn’t apply to journalism which hasn’t been devalued at ALL.

*rolls eyes*

Very convenient.

Kobiyashi Maru

One of the reasons that self-published authors continue to take a lot of flack is that they refuse to play by the rules and that always pisses off those who like rules and those whom the rules have served.

Many of us started out playing by the rules then decided the rules sucked and so we decided to make our own rules. We found ourselves in a no-win situation and decided we no longer liked that game and decided to do things differently.

That is what entrepreneurs do. Entrepreneurs look at the market and what has sold, what is likely to sell, what they as consumers might like but does not yet exist and they act.

When I was an author starting out, anyone with one eye and half sense knew that social media was the next evolutionary step in human communication. I wanted to learn from experts. I bought all kinds of fledgling social media books and none of it applied to me as an emerging writer. I didn’t want to be in high-pressure sales. I didn’t like spam, so why would I serve it? I didn’t want to fundamentally alter my personality to have success. There HAD to be a compromise.

But in the existing literature? There wasn’t. Every book available was great for a business, but lousy for a writer who still had to have time to write books, probably work a day job and take care of a family.

I didn’t see what I wanted (and what I believed other writers wanted as well) so I created it.

But according to Ms. Gough I am not a “real” writer and I should have patiently waited until my work was blessed by Mount Olympus NYC Publishing instead of acting and filling a necessary and ignored need. Good thing I ignored that crap because Rise of the Machines has helped countless authors build platforms that have sold millions and millions of books.

The Long and Short of Publishing


The elites who love to bash self-publishing are (to me) shockingly uninformed about the history of their own industry.

For years, traditional (legacy) publishers were the sole gatekeepers and this had a lot of disadvantages for authors and readers.

Because traditional publishing was taking on a large financial risk and had to also maintain high overhead, they obviously had to be picky about what works to publish (and still do). These works had to bring in a certain amount of ROI (return on investment). This devastated the literary landscape and drove many works to the brink of extinction.

For instance, in the 70s and 80s long epic works were all the rage. Readers actually liked a book so long you could take out a burglar with it. I mean, Clan of the Cave Bear could have been registered as a deadly weapon. But the thing is, paper is heavy so it is expensive to ship. It costs a lot more to print a long book (Duh).

Additionally, big thick paperbacks? Only fitting a few of those suckers on a shelf. Why sell three books for $9.99 when you can sell ten books for $7.99?

Basic math.

So, the trend became to cut works off after a certain word count. Many agents would take one look at a query and if the work was over 110,000 words? Forget it. It didn’t matter that it was the next Lord of the Rings.

They weren’t being mean, they simply knew that publishers were wanting shorter works because they could sell more of them and enjoy a higher profit.

But what if a story needed to be that long?

The other side also suffered. Short works.

Pulp fiction got its start with the much-esteemed Charles Dickens and this form of storytelling really picked up traction in the early part of the 20th century. This type of fiction gave the general public access the larger-than-life stories with exotic and sexy characters. Pulp authors also made a really good living, some becoming among the richest people in the country.

We can thank pulp fiction for some of the greatest literary geniuses of our culture. Edgar Rice Burroughs almost single-handedly laid the foundation for today’s science fiction. Then we have Max Brand, H.P. Lovecraft, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ray Bradbury.

With WWII we experienced paper rationing and the pulp magazine fell into decline as publishers opted for longer works with…a greater ROI.

Notice how these changes really don’t have much to do with the skill of the writer and have more to do with paper costs, shipping costs and ROI (PROFIT).

As publishing became bigger and bigger business, it had less to do with the story and the quality of the writing and more to do with, “Can we sell this?”

Oh, but maybe I am misguided and Snooki’s—It’s a Shore Thing is great literature I’ve overlooked. But hey, I am a troglodyte.

Again, this is simply wise business. A publisher might love a vampire book…but unfortunately they already had taken on three other vampire books and filled that quota for the year.

The beauty of the new publishing model is we are seeing a MAJOR resurgence of works that were all but lost. According to Ms. Gough traditional publishing is some great champion of literature, but I would challenge her to query a poetry book and see how far she gets.

Death by Elitism


Every time I run across one of these articles kicking self-published authors what stands out to me is the almost repugnant level of elitism. It’s like they all hang out in places with finger sandwiches to feed their own BS echo chamber.

Elitism is a big reason that legacy publishing is suffering. Instead of working with the changes in technology and what audiences want, they have spent an exorbitant amount of time propping up a dying business model (probably with pinkies extended ūüėČ ). They continue to do business in a way where authors are paid the last and the least and where only the 1%ers truly benefit.

And sure, if you want evidence to support a theory that all self-published authors are hacks, there is plenty to be found. But, to assert that all self-published authors are drunken monkeys banging on a typewriter is myopic and completely ignores that some of the greatest works of our time are NOT coming out of NY. This assertion ignores how business-minded authors have changed the rules and created a game that works in their favor.

Remember, traditional publishing didn’t consider erotica a¬†real¬†genre until 50 Shades¬†sold a gazillion copies ūüėČ .

Author Animal Farm


Content creators hold no allegiance to any business that no longer serves their needs. But often what happens, is that these entities have created an idea that they have our best interests in mind, and to question that is some form of subversion. That if we don’t do things their way we lack talent, ability and legitimacy.

In the book¬†Animal Farm¬†the animals take the farm from the human owner by force believing they can run the farm in a way that serves the animals’ needs better, and at first? All is wonderful.¬†The animals are quick to create a foundational ideology to support this move and the mantra,¬†Four legs¬†goooood, two legs baaaaaad is readily adopted.

But then…

A hierarchy soon emerges and the farm is eventually run by the pigs and,¬†as the story progresses, conditions for the animals working the farm grow worse and worse and worse. The animals contributing all the labor fail to ever really look at the evidence and ask the hard questions, and all (but the pigs) pay dearly. The pigs have created a system that works really well for them and any animal that doesn’t toe the line is considered an enemy to all.

There is a similar ideology that has formed around legacy publishing.

Legacy books gooood. Self-published baaaaad.

Many emerging writers are afraid to really look and see for themselves if this is actually true, or whether they are afraid of exercising agency. Structure is comfortable, free will is not. And any writer who wants to strike out and do things differently is no more an enemy to other writers or publishing than animals who questioned the soundness of working seven days a week for almost no food were enemies of their fellow beasts.

In the End

All writers have to do business the exact same way, regardless of the publishing path. We need to:

  1. Create something people want to buy.
  2. Find those people.

That’s it.

So be careful buying into the mantra, especially when those chanting it don’t even buy their own BS. If Gough really believed what she’s preaching, then why publish this article on Huffington? Why didn’t she query a regular print magazine?

She is doing the exact same thing she is blasting countless other writers for doing. She created an article and believed she could get readers. She is using new technology and new ways of reaching readers and all in a nontraditional way that I am pretty sure pisses off more than a few old school journalists.

She is aware of her market—that more people are reading blogs than print resources. She acted accordingly. She didn’t wait to be printed on shiny copy, she acted and went around more than a few traditional gatekeepers. She met the audience where they were with the kind of content they wanted and in the format they desired.

Um, hypocrite much?

Sure, there is a lot of crap that gets self-published but the genie is out of the bottle. What are you going to do?

It isn’t like we have some UNDO button to make it go back to 1999.

Legacy publishing has a lot of advantages but they are not a One-Size-Fits-All. Same with self-pub. In both, if we write crap we get ignored. Plain and simple. We just get to choose where we are ignored, in some agent’s slush pile or at #300,745,321 on the Amazon list. So to the elitists? This is the hand that history has dealt us so get to work on your own stuff and stop worrying whether or not I am “real.”

Because my opinion….

WHO CARES? Just pick the path that works for you and what you are writing and I say, “GOD SPEED! And BE BLESSED!”

What are your thoughts?

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

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For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on

Okay, so I just about calm down then see something that fires me up. So yes folks, I put on my war paint. And Huffington Post? You have simply gone too far.


Some of you may be asking what has gotten my panties in such a bunch. A friend of mine, Chuck Wendig, who’s a fantastic writer and legendary blogger brought this quote to our attention yesterday in his post Scream It Until Their Ears Bleed—Pay the Fu&%ing Writers. In Chuck’s post, it’s easy to tell what set him off. Check out this quote:

Um…bite me?
Um…bite me?

THIS Folks, is what happens when we let FREE get out of hand. FREE has side-effects and one of the primary side-effects are hallucinations that the other person likes it and needs it and actually you’re doing them a favor.


Before we go any further, yesterday I mentioned that I love the work of economist¬†F.A. Hayek and I will say that what Huffington is doing? It IS‚Ķ*gags* “just.”

They’re doing what they are doing with the permission of those who contribute. Those who contribute feel/believe that it is worth the “partnership” with Huffington and you know what?

That is their right.

Technically, there is no exploitation.

I once was excited to be asked to post for Huffington. I’ll admit, I bit too. At first I felt this gushy pride like I’d been asked to the prom by the captain of the football team, Huff Po. He was soooo cute and other kids would see me on Huff’s arm and be¬†soooo jealous. What that would do for my status!

*hair flip*

But what began as this fantasy that Huff loved me turned sour when he didn’t bring me flowers and only wanted to bend me over the limo for a quickie before he picked up the date he really loved, Advertisina.

Advertisina doesn’t give anything for free. She has standards and so Huff respected her.

Me? I was a literary booty call.

At first I thought my needs would be met. Two posts later? All I wanted to do was cry, eat Ben & Jerry’s and watch some movie with Bette Midler in it.

Advertisina would never be treated this way.

(Read how blogger Chloe Jeffreys was duped by Huffington into being part of a Depends commercial where of course, she was NOT paid).

Authentic Writing

So this assclown Hull believes unpaid workers are more authentic and that quote alone is enough to make me throw up just a little bit in my mouth. Authentic. Can you guys imagine any other business saying this and getting away with it? Any other business so flagrantly exploiting hard working people and getting off scot-free?

Wait. They don’t.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Paul Stein
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Paul Stein

AOL/Huffington reportedly brings in $2.3¬†billion¬†a year and Huffington’s entire business plan rests on profiting off unpaid workers. This means no benefits, no healthcare and no‚ĶPAY. Again, if¬†any other business¬†did this? People would lose their ever-loving minds.

But they don’t.


Well, it’s only writers and they should feel honored to be able to share their work outside of their grandmother’s basement.

We writers are continually treated as if others are doing us a favor and not the other way around. Did I mention that Huffington Post sold for over $300 MILLION?


Shame On You, Arianna Huffington

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via C2 Montreal
Original image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via C2 Montreal

And maybe what is making me postal is the sheer hubris I’m seeing. Arianna Huffington wrote a book called¬†Thrive¬†and over at Forbes did an interview on why entrepreneurs should embrace the third metric.

All I have to say is…

If Money and Power are two of the metrics and Ms. Huffington calls them LEGS then what exactly is this THIRD METRIC she wants me to embrace and why do I suddenly feel dirty all over again?

Embrace it. Just like that. Sure Baby, I’ll respect you in the morning‚Ķ.

Ms. Huffington is so far removed from reality, she doesn’t even realize she’s a troll.

It (the third metric) matters to entrepreneurs with big ambitions because in this new definition of success, building and looking after our financial capital is not enough. We need to do everything we can to protect and nurture our human capital as well. ~Arianna Huffington

Wow. Don’t you love how rich ladies tell you that money isn’t important. Btw, money is a HUGE factor in how most of us see success.

Hold on, it gets better.

Many of the problems contributing to millennials‚Äô stress ‚ÄĒ from a weak job market to massive student debt ‚ÄĒ require political action and economic reform. But at the same time, there are things millennials can do to help strengthen resilience and ingenuity in the face of adversity and also lead to greater performance in the workplace. Meditation, yoga, getting enough sleep, renewing ourselves, and giving back are all ways to make us better at our jobs at the same time that they make us aware that our jobs don‚Äôt define who we are. ~Arianna Huffington

Folks, there are few times I am speechless but I need a minute.

I’m back.

Ms. Huffington, I know you’re a mega-millionaire, but I am just going to speak for us little people. What is contributing to our stress are predators like you creating vast systems of wealth that rely on duping unpaid workers into believing you’re actually doing them a favor. Millennials are told to go to college and work really hard and eventually it will pay.

But Huffington doesn’t¬†eventually pay, does it?

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 6.35.42 PM

The problem is you and your ilk have generated a system where it’s socially acceptable to exploit workers and then demonize that worker if she has the audacity to complain. Ms. Huffington, how DARE you write about me living the life I want, about not settling for less than I am worth?


You have set the precedent for all kinds of other businesses to find lapses and loopholes to get around compensating contributors. To use technology to get around paying workers.

Workers whose contributions have been valued at some amount or how else would you pay taxes?

Food for thought.

And if they aren’t employees then you don’t need to give them benefits even though they benefitted you to the tune of $300¬†MILLION. But what do you care? You get to hang out with your pal Oprah who also benefits off unpaid performers who can help her push the same soma about¬†Living the Life You Want.

Sure, and doing porn movies will eventually lead to big roles in Hollywood.

Ms. Huffington, you create a business model that prides itself on not paying contributors and then have the freaking gall to say the answer to worker stress is….YOGA?

Original Image via Wikimedia Commons
Original Image via Wikimedia Commons

But I have to applaud you. You figured out how to monetize Stockholm’s Syndrome.

Btw, Ms. Huffington, embrace your own third metric.

To quote Chuck:

We can pretend that money is somehow a corrosive influence, that it corrupts the journalistic process ‚ÄĒ oh, wait, but Huffington Post is valued at tens of millions of dollars? Hull even says that they‚Äôre profitable. Well, of course they are. It‚Äôs easy to be profitable when you don‚Äôt pay the people.

Actually, Chuck, I have a correction. HuffPo sold for hundreds of millions.

But again, let’s look at this notion of how NOT paying contributors helps “maintain integrity.” No, I think fellow author KJ Charles said it best:

Let’s be honest: if producers don’t pay people to write, then the people writing are the ones who can afford not to be paid. Which, as with publishing internships, means that the people who can get ahead are the ones with money. The rich parents, the lucrative day job, the well-paid spouse. When producers don’t pay for content, it privileges the voices of the wealthy.

There was a time when writing was a pastime of the wealthy because they were the only ones who could afford to write.¬†Do y’all really want to go back there?

I don’t.

Btw, might I mention that virtually every revolution started with an entitled aristocracy pissing off the working and middle class. We are Digital Citizens, NOT Digital Serfs.

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 7.13.15 PM

 Put On Your War Paint

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 6.29.58 PM

So here’s the deal, folks. If other writers want to write for Huffington?¬†Have fun storming the castle. Me? My hypocrisy only goes so far.

First, as a writer, I refuse to be a literary booty call. Do I guest post for folks? Sure. But the people I am guest posting for aren’t making hundreds of millions in advertising dollars so they get to pay me with exposure because that is the only capital they have. FREE is on my terms and I am its mistress.



I am not just a writer, I’m a consumer, too. Writers consume a lot of information. We read it, promote it and link to it. Until Huffington mends its ways? It is DEAD to me.

As a consumer, I choose to only support businesses who operate ethically.

I will no longer link EVER to Huffington.

I will not promote ANY article from Huffington.

I will tell everyone who will listen why they need to boycott Huffington.

I will boycott any advertisers linked to them and have no problem shaming the advertisers too because they are profiting off the backs of unpaid workers.

I have uploaded anti-HuffPo memes over on my Author Kristen Lamb page and at Pinterest on my Bite Me HuffPo board for others to see and share.

I am installing Block Site on my web browsers to block ANYTHING tethered to Huffington.

When Huffington issues an apology? I will link to that. When they post about their new plan to add in levels where writers can be compensated? I will link to that too.

And I will link to all PAID Huffington articles.

I had no problems with Huffington using free labor to get started. It was an untested idea. But once HuffPo started raking in the moolah from advertising? I feel there should have been a moral imperative to create some kind of compensation (especially from a woman who went on to write self-help books and claims to have a soul).

The business model should have changed once HuffPo reached profitability.

Sure, the untested newbies could work for exposure, but the pros? The ones blogging regularly who made Ms. Huffington a rich, rich, RICH woman? If she’d actually cared about workers and I dunno‚Ķbasic human freaking rights‚Ķ.she would have been better served creating a system of compensation instead of cashing out BIG and running off to write Rich White Lady books about how we need yoga instead of money to be successful.

(Btw, she doesn’t accept yoga¬†or exposure for those books. She wants $$$$.)

Writers, we are at a crossroads. We have to start standing up to this crap. If Huffington approaches you to post? I hope you say no. If you’re currently posting for Huffington, I hope you walk away. They have more than enough money to pay for content, but they won’t so long as we keep supplying them. Cut off the free supply and all that’s left is the paid stuff.

But everyone has to make their own choices. Me? I put on my war paint.


What are your thoughts? Are you tired of aristocracy telling you that you don’t actually need money? I am all for capitalism but this is sociopathy. Do you find it more than a little hypocritical that Ms. Huffington is calling for economic and political reform to aid in the weak job market‚Ķa weak market that SHE helped create?

If your landlord doesn’t take exposure dollars, do you think he will accept yoga and meditation as payment?

What do you think of embracing Ms. Huffington’s third metric?

Are you going to put on your war paint? I hope you do! Maybe if enough crazy pissed off painted writers are floating around the Internet people will pay attention.

I really DO love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of¬†my latest social media/branding book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†