In the dark days before the personal computer, before the Indie Author and the Internet, there were freelancers, or unpaid hopefuls, who would spend a fortune on various sized envelops and postage, which they always hoped would be adequate for their presumed business of writing. Hoping to make a bit more name for themselves with each placement, you might have thought us obsessed.
The best of the freelance writing got significantly better with the digital age.
One would do their very best to place with little magazines, collegiate periodicals, and other such publishing houses. In those days there were no personal computers. The best system a professional freelancer could hope for, was to afford what we called a slave computer, with a small, awkward window into the active document, the precursor to the low memory, table top computer.
The reason we called them slave computers, was because they would only do one thing. If you bought a word processor, that would be the only thing the computer could do. It would not do spreadsheet, data base, power point, etc. It was a text editor, nothing else. That was our generic term for the type of information processor you had at the time. Most of those programs hadn’t been written.
To buy a computer cost out the nose.
There were endless, portable storage disks to go along with the slave computer, which looked something like Mr Spock’s disk on the first Enterprise. A conscientious creative writer was incessantly stopping to save his work, and the disk drive was not really all that quick. If one would be so careless as to break even one piece of plastic on that system, the system would permanently shut down.
If one did succeed in saving enough money to get a slave computer, the freelancer could word process one’s stories onto the new system. We thought we were making out like bandits. One of the joys of being a freelancer was the day you had to go to the post office to post your latest package of stories. There was always a long line to wade through.
That was just the freelancer’s luck.
Until that time there was no such thing as a digital text editor for public use at all, except at the college computer room, where you’d get no privacy to work, whatsoever. It must have been something equivalent to driving a Model T Ford, to word process on that dinosaur of a computer system, for the brief period of time slave computers were in use. One never got a moment’s peace in public.
How one could ever be creative in the midst of all this, is a mystery to this day.
What a privilege to be a part of that time of development in the information processing field. One would be compelled to take at least one class in computers, or be out in left field. The times were always new for the information processing world. First to be manufactured after the slave systems, were the desktop computers. Those had more versatility.
These were low memory and slow to operate, but were an improvement over the slave.
Everything was changing in the information processing industry, as quickly as every couple of months or so, but a desktop system was expensive enough. It was even more financially prohibitive to replace your computer than it had been your slave system. The text editor got increasingly sophisticated, for the increasing benefit of the individual word processing system.
I must say I continued to get publication credits, in spite of myself.
What’s more is, the freelancer had to print out his work on a daisy wheel printer, which worked on an ink ribbon, like a typewriter. The freelance writer was required to feed separate sheets of paper into the typewriter associated with the system, until one achieved a good stiff neck. One was always buying typing paper, but the days of buying expensive ink cartridges had not arrived yet.
It was a process fraught with pitfalls and hurdles to surmount, many of which were financial, which seldom paid for the up keep. The entire process was more costly as developments in technology increased. There were endless expenses for the guy on the bottom: the freelance writer. The whole publishing process was more demanding than anything that meets the eye.
Experienced freelance writers were being put into a position of begging editors to allow them to take their work away from them for basically nothing, as they do with novices. The interaction between editor and freelance writer became more tense as the money wouldn’t come through. I’m uncertain the policy of exchanging writing for publication is different since before the information age.
At least submission and publication can be accomplished digitally now, which saves the freelance writer money. The removal of ink, paper, envelops and postage had taken much of the expense out of, what’s now referred to as the Indie Author’s budget (freelance writer). There are even free digital markets which except documents without question.
Many digital markets will sell your work unquestioningly, without fee.
In the days before the text editor, the freelancer would have to, by necessity, go into a bookstore and buy what we now call a hard copy of an indispensable reference book, Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market, which was never cheap. Then there was the study of awkward, analog, paper pages, and usually all too few markets to mail their work off to, in the mail. Publishing was a cumbersome, expensive process, especially for freelancers.
I don’t know what they did in the UK to research the markets.
At any rate, the freelancer has poured over his reference sources and settled upon some likely markets to send his work to. He fits his work into the appropriate sized mailing envelop, and we’re off to the races. The only foreign markets available were a few listings in Canada. Some utilized the foreign markets, some didn’t. Either way, one tailored his submissions according to research.
The only support we had was whomever was in our writing circle if you could find one.
There was no such thing as Facebook, or the social context of interacting with one’s writing peers, the way things are now. If you knew one other freelancer in your personal circles, one was particularly fortunate. Freelancing was an expensive, isolated business, with few places to go for any sort of encouragement or comforting.