Nov 08

How to Get Paid for Writing

Get a reputation as a writer who asks for payment, and you will get paid. Simple as that. Hard to do sometimes, because feelings can be involved. Women writers in particular cheat themselves because of feelings. Writing is a business and you have expertise and should be paid for it.

I hope that by now every writer asks to be paid for writing articles, requests an advance when negotiating a book contract, and at the very least prices his or her e-book at a princely 99 cents.
Sep 29

Making $ on The HubPages "Content Farm"

I read at least 10 online horoscope columns per day, seeking my destiny, and figured I might as well write what I thought about them and the others I consulted or discovered or rejected: I've bookmarked about 80 in all. And so the "Horoscope Review" by astrologer "Sylvia Sky" was born in August 2010 on is a host site for articles by anybody about anything (except porn or hate speech), but you can make money if people click on the ads appearing on your pages. Such host sites are derisively called "content farms." People post poetry, novel chapters, articles about relationships, recipes, political rants, whatever, and hope for readers. But as the HubPages chiefs advise, you build a following by carving a niche and staying in it, and the best way to rise to the top of Google Search is to write quality articles. I've now published 54 HubPages articles that have been read more than 64,000 times; Google Ads pays me about $150 a month, and more each month as my readership grows, because they're good articles I work hard at. Nobody else was writing good solid knowledgeable reviews of online astrology columns. Some online astrologers are genuine; I recommend Rick Levine, Sally Brompton, Susan Miller (for monthly horoscopes), and Daniel Dowd (for weekly horoscopes). I've corresponded with some of these astrologers who have huge followings. All online "psychics" who have their own site are, without exception, fakes, and Sylvia can tell you why because she investigates their claims and calls their numbers.

Sylvia gets letters from all over the world thanking her for exposing fakes; about these matters, even the most intelligent people can be terribly gullible. I have fun and use my journalism skills, my ability to write for the Web, my critical talents and astrology hobby, and perform a service for thousands of people. Some writers hate "content farms." I don't. Sometimes I am asked if I provide psychic readings. I don't; I write horoscope reviews. Sylvia Sky is the Consumer Reports of Internet astrology. Sylvia embodies my weird interests. She is a successful subself. How about you? More about HubPages, coming up.
Jul 07

Never Do Anything Out of Desperation

A service that pays for editing had me try out for a contract job using a segment of a real-life manuscript. And do this for free. Ignoring my own advice (NEVER ignore your own advice!) I did it, and mailed it back, but received no acknowledgement, reply or thanks. And they got about 4 hours of my work for free. This refreshed my memory of a lesson I had learned before, and forgotten:

Act out of desperation and you will be treated like a bar rag.

"Desperate" and "despair" have the same root, "without hope." Thus desperation is a state of mind. I'm not saying "trouble is a state of mind." There is such a thing as real trouble: illness, no money, tragedies, threats.

But how many of us have had even 10 weeks of full-time training in how to handle trouble -- the one thing we know we will have? If you're like me and not very good at it, you might, "unencumbered by the thought process," fall straight into desperation, where you are vulnerable to exploitation, like the poor soul who calls a $3.99/minute psychic hotline to ask if he'll win the lottery.

We've all had our hands or minds wrung by desperate people. It is natural to flinch from them. And it is somehow natural, if a desperate person hangs around a lot, to want to injure them further, if only to make them go away. To take what they offer (anything! everything!) and escort them out. To shut the door in their faces. Or not answer the door.

Jun 21

I Could Vacation on This Money, Or I Could Print a Book

I signed the contract, wrote the check, and mailed it at the P.O. today. Asked the clerk for a pretty stamp. For good luck. I'm in high-risk territory here. If I do this wrong, if I'm deceiving myself. . . But if I do this right . . .

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."

Jun 13

Outsource THIS!

Saw an ad for an editor who can do three things, mostly what I do:
  • Copyedit a manuscript, meaning: correct the grammar, punctuation and spelling, and establish consistency throughout. "Line editing" means the same.
  • Copyedit a manuscript and provide feedback on its contents, readability, publishability, tone, and so on.
  • Do the above, plus reorganize and possibly rewrite portions of the text.
Corporations may have outsourced their customer support, but nobody can outsource expertise in the English language, the foundation that supports the creation of American literature. That, the creation of American literature, they can't outsource either. A most cheerful thought!
Jun 07

The Death of Capacity: Having No Time to Write

If no one else supports you financially, the work you must do to pay rent and bills makes it difficult or impossible to write. Your job might be one long daily grind, or marginal and multiple. Makes it hard to do your writing. Is that true or false?


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.
May 08

The Privilege of Doing It

A scientist comes up to me after I discuss how writers never get paid very much because, it's said, just being published is pay enough, and it's a privilege to be a writer and I should be satisfied with that. . .She said to me, "I was a researcher and never got paid very much -- because just getting to do my research was, they thought, compensation enough. . ."

Surprised, I told her I thought all science people really raked in the cash with those grants.

Oh, no, she said. Post-docs, researchers, all sorts of people, they aren't paid very much.

I said, They also exploit young people. Because they're young, employers think they don't have to pay much.

She said, They do it to journalists, too. I said Yes, I know; I worked at a newspaper where goodies like circus tickets were supposed to compensate for pathetic paychecks.

Now I wonder: In how many professions are skilled and dedicated workers being b.s.'ed that they shouldn't be well paid because they have "the privilege of doing it." And like fools we believe and profess and accept that! What a wonderful scam!

(Winner of the June 2008 Artificial Difficulty Award!)
Apr 25

A Battle in the Pay-the-Writer War

Since 1997 I have given a one-hour talk/presentation at an annual two-week writers' retreat. In 1997 I was paid $150. In 2007 I was paid $150. So it goes for us writers. In 2010 I was paid $150. Told that my presentation last year was effective, I agreed to do a talk again this year, and set a date and time. Then I get an email:

"We are paying speakers $100 this year"

As soon as I read that I wrote back:

"Sorry, I will not do it for a pay cut. Gas prices, etc."

Why is it that everything goes up in price except what writers are paid? After 14 years, a 33 percent cut in a speaking fee? I'm no less experienced than I was in 1997. I'm no less published. I'm no less of a speaker. I'd be offended if it wasn't such a common occurence. But I respond differently than I once did. I DO NOT ACCEPT such insane offers. I don't accept the gig and then resent it and steam. I stay in the sanity bubble. Their budget is less this year? That's not my problem, it's theirs.

Yes, they may get someone else, but they will not be getting Catherine Rankovic. They have met their match. Maybe they will think twice before lowballing any other writers.

Feb 06

How 'Me' Can I Be?

Surprise: I'm writing less carefully these days. Not with less attention to grammar and spelling, not that. But I'm just letting it spill. Or letting it flow. I'm not taking the time to refine, refine, refine -- and then get word from an editor that she/he has a few suggestions (and remember, in my experience, editors' suggestions have 90 percent of the time been good ones. Start out as a journalist; that'll take the prima donna outta you). What's more important, I'm also asking myself -- more writing getting out, or less writing being sifted, re-sifted, shifted, pulled apart, stitched together? What about those whole days spent on one word or phrase? Whole weeks spent on one line? Was I being great-souled, or was I being crazy?

Have I been lied to? What is this thing about "perfection"? Are all great pieces of writing sweated over? I know one that isn't, the American masterpiece Moby-Dick. I mean, that's a breathtaking book. And yet somewhere in its depths author Melville put forth what I thought an unforgettable cry:

"This whole book is but a draft—nay, but the draft of a draft. Oh, Time, Strength, Cash, and Patience!"
Jan 22

How I Asked for the Going Rate

I was surfing on the web one day-- in the merry merry month of June-- and came across this website, based in the UK:

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!
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