Know your worth

MoneyThe siren song of the writing business is money. People are attracted to cash, and well they should be, because that’s the measure by which we gauge success. You’re not a professional in the field until you’re pulling down enough money to make a serious contribution to your bottom line, and there’s no better way to know you’re on top than to look down from the summit of a giant pile of cash.

So given people’s taste for money, it’s surprising to me how many writers choose to ignore their value and take far less for their work than they ought to. Granted, some writers are terrible and don’t deserve to have their work purchased, but I’m talking about good writers with professional habits who produce salable material. Those are the ones who are out there shorting themselves every single day.

It completely blows my mind when I hear about some writer or another cutting a deal to have something of theirs published for sale, but for no money up front. Or no money at all. They’re basically saying, “Here’s the fruit of my labors for far less than it’s worth. Go make money off my effort while I get no benefit. Now here’s a jar of Vaseline for you to complete the process.” Why would someone do this?

There’s something very attractive about “being published,” and I suspect that’s what’s happening here. Writers are so desperate to legitimize themselves that they cut their own throats in their rush to get their name out there. But there’s no real reason to do this. If you’re going to do something for no money up front, just publish the damned stuff yourself. The end result may be the same and you make nothing, but on the opposite extreme you might do very well. You won’t know until you try. In the meanwhile, stop thinking other people deserve the money from your work.

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Open mouth, insert foot

BabyI will fully admit that blogging and social media are dangerous territory for the working writer. It’s far too easy to annoy someone with something you said, even if the intention was entirely different. So it has been since the advent of the internet as we understand it, so it forever shall be. Taking things the wrong way is like the internet’s favorite hobby.

I have a friend who has a policy: until he makes his living entirely from his writing, he feels no need to censor himself. He’ll write whatever he wants about anything he wants, and if you don’t like it you can kiss his ass. There’s a certain level of ideological purity there I admire, because it takes a lot of self-possession to say, “This is me, take it or leave it.” I generally want to make other people happy, so I tend to question my own judgment a great deal. It can be paralyzing.

Thankfully I seem to have found a balance in my online life that keeps me happy. There are, of course, the occasional hiccups, but for the most part I’m pleased with how things are going. I’ve learned the hardest lesson the internet has to teach: that you can be honest without being a dick about it. You can kind of see that evolution if you read through my blog entries over the last six years, as I groped my way toward an understanding of how to make myself clear while minimizing the number of people I piss off.

Continue reading Open mouth, insert foot

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