Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Selling Ourselves Short

Why do writers tend to sell themselves short? Mechanics, lawyers, doctors and plumbers all get paid a tidy hourly sum to perform their craft. Writers, on the other hand, tend to get paid a pittance for what we do and personally it's starting to get annoying. The biggest obstacle seems to be ourselves.

I freelance by writing blog articles through a writer's website. This site is great because they let you set your own prices for your work and the buyers can choose which rights to buy for the articles. I tend to calculate how long it is taking me to research and write say, a 500 word article and price it accordingly. Many writers on the site price their articles really low, say $5 to $10 for an article of the same length, making it hard to sell things for what they are actually worth. It drives me crazy to look at the recent article sales and see $4, $6 or $10 repeatedly. I refuse to lower my prices because that would mean lowering my standards and I charge what my work is worth. I know of other writer's websites where the prices are regularly under $10 per article, and the quality of the work reflects that fact.

Very few writers actually make a living doing what they do best. A kidlit writer only clears a few thousand dollars for a picture book, a few times that for an average young adult novel. Considering that you can only crank out one or two longer books per year, you'd better have a backup plan. Many writers make money by doing lectures and school visits, but again, some writers will do these for free, making it difficult for others to add to their income.

Sure, some people hit it big and are able to do nothing but write, but most of us have to look elsewhere for our income. It is so hard to do work that you don't love during the day for money and have to turn what you are destined to do into a "hobby" that just might bring in some extra cash. Maybe somewhere there is an alternate universe where the writers and teachers get paid $375 per hour and the lawyers have to scrape by on $10,000 a year. Hey, that might make a good story.

On this date: In 1922, the first Newbery is awarded to The Story of Mankind by Hendrick Willem van Loon

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