The 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.