"In business, you don't get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate."
Result: One offer withdrawn; they just didn't have more money. One offer on hold.
The third offer, a contract job. I was asked to make an estimate. I did -- noting the source and therefore asking for 25 percent less than the market price. And I asked for a percentage of the money up front, like a normal contractor. Never heard from them again.
In fighting for us writers to get paid what we are worth, I ain't winning but neither am I caving and kissin' people's feet. Now hear this, everybody: Pay the writer.
"Ask until your toes curl."
Then the contact person sent a polite and apologetic email saying the group was following the leads I had suggested to them previously, had learned what they felt they needed to know, and frankly some of them had been uncomfortable with the idea of paying me -- someone they knew -- and therefore had decided not to meet with me after all.
It hurt. Clearly, the money was the sticking point. I feel embarrassed having asked for it. I think the writers' perceptions of me have changed. But I wouldn't be following my own advice if I had bartered a Sunday afternoon, a 40-mile round trip, and hard-won expertise for "Thank you, you're very generous" and "Isn't she a nice girl." I want to say, "I AM a nice girl. But I'm 51 and if you've noticed that I'm on the skinny side these days, it's not because I'm dieting."
As small as this incident is, as small as I feel, this was a victory in the battle for writers to get paid.
This is a self-publishing project: an illustrated little inspirational book for women. The fantastic drawings by Sheila Kennedy will make the book of work of art. This project has long roots. At a printery I'd seen adorable little books, like children's books, except they were for adults; loved the shape and size. Then in my files I found the list, 31 lines, that would become the text. I'd written it to restore myself after a rough patch. Re-reading it I was surprised it was still "alive." I thought, this could help somebody else. My Inner Critic had a field day:
*who will read this? *you, writing inspirational stuff? *you want to kill your reputation this will do it! *you really want to embarrass yourself! *it will cost seeerious money! *where will you find an illustrator? *what qualifies you to try to inspire people? *why isn't it a book of poems? *you are crazy!
But I shut up my Critic (he looks and sounds like Christopher Hitchens). It wasn't easy. It was like the Puritans in old Plimoth: If somebody in town went nuts or on a bender, they dragged him to his house, tossed him in and then nailed the door shut, to let him cool off. Just in the last two weeks I first spoke of the idea to other writers. I explained the concept or brought them the text, nervously asking, am I crazy?
Finding the illustrator was easy; I was led to her. I didn't seek design and printing estimates; knowing its likely price and what I wanted, I asked for it and signed. My publishing experience, all of it, came in very handy. (I'm the kind who'll park the car in the first empty space and walk, rather than keep circling to find one closer to the entrance.) And, gritting my teeth, sent the check today.
Several streams had run together: the business course that said manifesting "crazy" ideas was the sanest thing to do. My editing of faith-based book manuscripts, which I found strangely moving although I am not religious. Karmic issues I won't go into. The "now or never" bit. The "leap and the net will appear"/"walk by faith, not by sight" bit. (Did it before, risking much more than I am now.) The "better to regret what you did do than what you didn't do." The "dare you dare you, double-dog dare you." The "I could vacation on this money or I could make this book. I'll make the book."
What drives my life, has always driven it, the real job beneath the job, is subverting the fate prepared for the writer in this society, and once I woke up to the reality, I took and cajoled and stole the time to write, and to finish and polish, because nobody was going to give it to me. If I was writing I would not "be there for them." And I published my own books because nobody was going to publish them for me. And I will use every tool in the box, or those that I find, to keep writing.
Back in the day there were books about this, one called Silences (1982) by Tillie Olsen, a short-story writer who completed only one slender book of fiction; her nonfiction study Silences is about the forces that keep writers from writing, about "the death of capacity," according to one reviewer. People don't read or talk about this book any more, maybe because The Feminist Press is the publisher. Now available in its 25th-anniversary edition.
Most writers can’t live on their earnings. With all our skills and hard work we don’t make as much as other professionals such as doctors, lawyers, programmers, plumbers, counselors, and realtors. I was wondering why. Possibly it’s because these other professionals:
- Pay themselves according to rates that compensate them for their labor, materials and overhead, and won’t take less.
- Capitalize on their credentials, successes, and/or sales totals.
- Get lots of business through word-of-mouth and referrals.
- Are active in professional associations.
- Dismiss as a lunatic any doomsayer who tells them that they will never make a living no matter how hard they work or how good their work is.
- Don’t imagine that they are failures if they aren’t the richest and most famous doctor or realtor who ever lived.
- Keep up with new trends and tools in their fields.
- Have to pass tests to get licenses or certifications.
- Aren't so naive as to expect to live on the acclaim and money of thousands of people they will never see or meet.
- Wouldn’t consider as normal and desirable a middleman’s offer to pay them 10 to 15 percent of the total take.
Here one can download, for a 30-day trial, a subliminal messages software program. It flashes messages on the computer screen for two milliseconds -- and these messages are positive, and you can select from pre-loaded messages, or create your own.
Subliminal messages, although you can't really read them, are supposed to be a painless way to imprint the mind, to change thought patterns and behavior. I said, I will try it.
The pre-loaded categories include losing weight, quitting smoking, winning athletic contests, making friends, and so on. I loaded the messages for Self-Esteem, Prosperity, and Success, and also made up my own category, Writing. Each of these categories is stocked with affirmations, which are nothing but wishes put into words. Some affirmations I put in my Writing category are "People tell me my writing is wonderful," "I am well paid for what I write," "I write poems easily and abundantly." Then I started the program. This was five days ago. Honestly, I think it's working.
For example, I was asked to quote a price on an editing job. I asked for the amount I wanted, the going rate: $75 an hour. Normally I lowball it, because it seems like a great deal of money to me, I certainly couldn't afford it, and because one person acted shocked when I had the nerve to ask for that much on a previous occasion. Where did I learn that writers and money don't mix? And what's more, why did I believe that?
I haven't heard the answer yet, but I have this odd sensation of "I'm going to stand firm on this." It's a good sensation!
I do notice when the affirmations flash on the screen -- but can't read them, except very occasionally and from my peripheral vision.
If you stare at your computer screen a lot, and think you could benefit, try it free for 30 days. I have noticed no harmful effects. And if I don't get the editing job -- I can use that time for my own writing. Win-win!