Jun 27

Skirmishes in the Money Wars

I got three offers, two of them with figures attached. Of both, I asked for more money, pointing out my well-known reliability, track record and 30 years of experience. Asking for more felt very risky -- remember, I'm a writer and am supposed to be grateful for anything at all. But I know budgets are always more flexible than managers say, that an initial offer is always a lowball, and that it's a game. I have often meditated on this motto I saw framed in a real-estate office:

"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Result: One offer withdrawn; they just didn't have more money.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.
Jun 27

It Hurts to Be First

A small group of fellow writers, acquaintances, good people all, asked me to meet with them to get some guidance about a self-publishing project. I asked to be paid $100 for this, and through the contact person we set a date to meet.

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.
Jul 18

I Get the Going Rate

Just to let you know: I am getting the rate that I asked for, the going rate! I forced myself to grow up and ask for what I am worth after 30 years of writing and 20 years of college teaching.

Now I see that it was always a matter of growing up. And asking for what I want, and not settling for less. I had to step out of my comfort zone. My old comfort zone was about half the going rate. Isn't that pathetic? But now I am a grownup. A professional who finally asks for and gets paid a professional rate. It's a wildly new feeling. The air I breathe feels different. I have more energy. I have more confidence!

Don't know what to charge for your writing-related services? Consult the chapter "How Much Should I Charge?" that appears in the front matter of every annual Writer's Market. In the 2006 Writer's Market, that chapter begins on page 68.

Whatever your comfort zone is, whether financial or artistic, I urge you to try stepping out of it.