Let’s Be Honest

March 8, 2006

Writers have taken to tip-toeing around issues that concern us, cost us money, and, most importantly, cost us emotional and creative energy, simply because we’re afraid of annoying “the biz.”

While we all know that we’ll have to do things we’d rather not, it’s important that we admit to ourselves, and, if we wish, to our immediate support group, the aspects of handling a writing career that we hate.

I hate the fact that writers are expected to do the jobs of the marketing and publicity departments in addition to the actual writing of the book – only the writer’s not getting paid for the additional work.

A good part of my freelance business is PR writing. It takes up a good bit of my freelance business for the very fact that it pays well, and it requires a definite set of skills that are different from novel or short-story writing.

Yet, once a novel is picked up, I’m expected to do an enormous amount of work FOR the publicity and marketing department (not necessarily WITH them, but FOR them) – without pay.

It’s time to sit down and tote up the figures if I was paid hourly as a freelancer for such an assignment. Just roughly figuring the ballpark puts in the thousands of dollars.

“Oh, but you’re selling books and building your audience and working your way towards the best seller list . . .”

I might buy that argument first time out, as I’m building credits. But there’s got to come a point where the writer looks at the overall price of what is paid versus what is demanded and starts crunching numbers like any astute business person. This is our business, not our hobby. We should not be penalized simply because we’re passionate about our work. We should be PAID for it.

Time to bring out those negotiating skills.

I think we should start figuring in that additional time and work when we talk advances. Yes, most of the time we’re so thrilled someone actually wants to publish the baby of our soul that we accept any advance. But start sitting down and figuring out how much that advance works out to, per hour or per word, and how much additional money the time spent on publicity and marketing would bring in, if you were doing it for someone else’s book.

Once you’ve got a couple of books published and have established your track record, start pushing your advance figure higher. Do you have to tell your agent or publisher how you reached your number? Of course not. But know it for yourself, so that you know you’re actually getting paid for the work you’ve done.

Not only will others respect you for getting paid closer to what you’re worth, you’ll respect yourself.


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