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Result: One offer withdrawn; they just didn't have more money.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

More Money

Writer friend and I were discussing how hard it is to ask for the right amount of money for a job. Especially if the amount of money initially offered is ridiculously low or degrading (recent request for material custom-written for some business's blog offered $10/hr. I could do better at Ponderosa.). How far should we go in naming our price? She said an older friend had advised her:

"Ask until your toes curl."

Good advice!
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!)
May 08

Why Aren't Writers Paid Like Professionals?

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.
But THEY all wish they were writers! Go figure.
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.

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.