What shall I write about? I pondered this morning and then – hey presto! – the postman arrived, with the latest issue of Writing magazine, in which I have an article (page 68). So, I shall write about that.
My article’s called ‘Living The Dream?’ and it’s about how much writers can really earn from writing, compared to how much the uninitiated think we earn.
I’ve written here about how a newbie in my class decided, within a term, that writing was going to be her ‘main source of income’. A flattering reflection on my teaching perhaps (I like to instil confidence!) or, more likely, bless her, a rather optimistic view of how much a new writer can expect to make.
What doesn’t help our cause, of course, is all the wannabees who will write for FREE! (and Lora Bishop’s written an article about that on page 69 of the magazine – opposite mine) and Alex Gazzola writes about it on his blog ‘Mistakes Writers Make’ here.
My own view on ‘writing for free’ is that it’s fine if you’re doing it for a charity, say or you’re a complete beginner, desperate for a few cuttings but after that, you’re doing all fellow writers a disservice if you continue to offer your writing to publications and websites without expecting payment. Because then they’ll expect us all to do the same, fees and rates will drop and drop until, in the end, it won’t actually be possible to earn any kind of living from writing. And we don’t want that, do we?
I was recently asked to judge a national short story competition (very exciting and something I’m more than happy to do). What is my fee? I was asked. That was very difficult. I didn’t want to price myself too highly and risk being told they couldn’t afford me (!) but equally, if I quoted a fee that was too low, not only was I doing myself out of valuable and much-needed funds, I was also lowering the organisers’ expectations of what they should be paying a judge. So, in effect, I was possibly spoiling things for my fellow writers.
In the end, I tried to gauge what they would be making from the competition (entrance fee x number of entries – they told me the number that entered last time – minus the cash prizes) and based my fee on this and also on how long I thought it would take me to read and judge the shortlisted stories and write a report. I was probably too cheap but as I say, not having any prior experience of being paid to judge a short story competition, it was a tricky one!
How do you feel about getting paid for your writing? Or are you so happy to see your work in print, that the money isn’t even a consideration?
PS: There are still spaces on the People’s Friend writing workshops in Bristol (featuring yours truly), Dundee, York and Manchester. More details here.