Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday, May 12, 2008
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde

There are several topics to discuss to day, so I used sub-headers. Enjoy!

Negotiating Fees
So, I got a nasty but interesting email yesterday. Now, I get a couple of dozen nasty emails per week – that’s part of putting yourself out there. If you can’t deal with nasty emails, don’t have a blog/website/public life. Because there’s always the delete button and/or reporting the mailer to the ISP or the authorities, if it’s really squirrelly or dangerous. I don’t consider people who disagree with me necessarily nasty. Some dear friends and readers disagree with me on some issues, and/or give me a good solid kick when I need it, and that’s good. But there are also the parasites, and they’re a part of being out there. A lot of it comes from wanna-be writers I’ve never met and have no reason to deal with who demand that I coach/critique/write their idea for nothing/”get them published”, because as a published writer, I “owe” it to unpublished writers to get them published.

Now, we writers work our butts off, and most of us pay it forward, help other writers . . .who are willing to put in the work. But, simply because I am published and someone else is not, I do not “owe” that person anything. Help needs to be earned.

However, this nasty email was a little different and interesting enough for me to mention the topic. The person wrote that I am a hypocrite, because I advocate sticking to one’s rates, adding things like “aggravation fees” and late payments, and setting boundaries. This person claims to have read something of mine on a site I will call “Site X” for the purposes of this discussion, and then read the guidelines, which state that writers are unpaid. Therefore, I must be a hypocrite.

Uh, no. There’s a difference between taking on a pro bono client and writing 100 articles to sell at $1/each or not getting paid for them at all.

I have a couple of pro bono clients. Usually, it’s for a cause or organization in which I have a deep personal investment and belief. And, in spite of being pro bono, we still have a contract in place so that there are no misunderstandings. I also use samples of the work I do for these clients in my portfolio, landing me other, paid work.

I also write/have written for publications/sites that state in their guidelines that they do not pay writers. However, everything is negotiable. That doesn’t mean I sent them a submission and said, “You gotta pay me for this or else.” Most of these publications have approached me to write for them and we’ve negotiated a fee. That’s different then sending in something over the transom. And if you don’t know what sending over the transom means . . .go look it up.

I’ve always said, in discussions about payment, that each individual needs to negotiate on a case-by-case basis. When you say, “I never pick up a pen for less than X” – fine. But you may well miss some great opportunities. You may be in a position to do so, and that is YOUR CHOICE. Sometimes you come across a publication you think is just great and also has growth potential, and you want to be involved. Go for it. I choose not to join bidding sites, because I firmly do not believe in paying for job listings; if an employer simply wants to go for the lowest bid instead of the best writer, that is the employer’s prerogative, and it shows me that we’re not a good match anyway, so why put either of us through a miserable experience? I also choose not to work for sites that want a large amount of content per week/month churned out for a pittance. First of all, I don’t believe that many writers can maintain quality at that high a volume – and, if they can, they ought to be working for people who pay $1/word, because they’ll be able to retire in Tahiti in about five years – and they deserve so to do. Second, I don’t want to be tied down to a single site for 20 articles a week for crap money for weeks or months on end because I get too many good, well-paying, fascinating opportunities coming in and many of them involve travel. Third, I actually value my work and, by focusing on clients who value strong skills and content, we’re both happy and well-paid.

It’s case by case and everyone needs to make their own decisions and draw their own boundaries. The problem, in many cases, is once you establish yourself at working for crap pay, the companies willing to pay more are unlikely to hire you because they believe you get what you pay for; in other words, if your previous employers paid crap, that must be what they got. By establishing a reasonable fee within your market (and a small-town market’s reasonable fee will be different than a fee in a corporation based in New York or Los Angeles), you gain respect and are paid within the ballpark of what you’re worth. Because let’s face it, do we ever truly believe we’re being paid what we’re worth? We always want to challenge ourselves to move to the next level.

Do your research on the potential employer, have a clear-headed view of your own qualifications and how fast you write, and go from there. And talk to other freelancers – those who do it full-time – to get an idea of fee structures.

Life Stuff
Had a great day with my mom. Talked to my grandmother and she sounded good (what a relief). Went to White Plains, to one of my favorite Asian markets to get some vegetables, replace the bagua mirror for the front door that the scumbags smashed a few weeks ago (wouldn’t want to be them when that karma makes its return trip), and picked up a ceramic jar that I’m going to use as a kind of a “prayer pot” and a little ceramic bowl to use for . . .well, I’m not sure, but it was pretty, and I bought it.

Helped a friend move a massive piece of furniture. We celebrated with a beer (Blue Moon, of course). And another neighbor gave me a stack of leather-bound books she was getting rid of. I look forward to going through them!

I’m booked on a bunch of shows over the coming weeks, and the schedule works out so that the days I’m not on the show, I can be up in MA house hunting and doing some other work that’s booked up there. Even if the relocation starts during those weeks, I have a place I can stay here and complete my commitment. So it’s all good.

Mostly took the day off as a “holy day” celebrating my mom and some great women in my life.

Unfortunately, my mom got sick in the night, so I’m playing nurse today to make sure she’s okay.

Most of it was mental work, not physical. Lots of “mental writing” – plotting, working things out, making a few notes on a few different projects, some pacing and muttering. Got some work done on the adaptation. It keeps surprising me in a good way. It will be able to be a complete stand-alone; there’s also room to do more with these characters that doesn’t hinge on this book. So it’s the best of both worlds.

So today, I have to give the work for Confidential Job #1 its polish and I have to dive into the essay. I have some serious deadlines this week, so I better hop to it. Because I have a short week, due to the Preakness, and next week’s looking pretty busy, with a research trip to the Museum of Natural History, the PEN Literary Awards, acupuncture, and shows.

I had a good morning’s work on the adaptation. Now, on to everything else.

Kent, thanks for stopping by. I’ll look for your YA story, and I’m also looking forward to what comes out in the future.

Hope you have a great start to your week!


Adaptation – 30,626 words out of est. 90,000

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
30 / 90

Devon’s Bookstore:

5 in 10: Create 5 Short Stories in Ten Weeks
by Devon Ellington. This ebooklet takes you from inspiration to writing to revision to marketing. By the end of ten weeks, you will have either 5 short stories or a good chunk of a novella complete. And it’s only 50 cents, USD. Here.

Writing Rituals: Ideas to Support Creativity by Cerridwen Iris Shea. This ebooklet contains several rituals to help you start writing, get you through writer’s block, and help send your work on its way. It’s only 39 cents USD. (Note: Cerridwen Iris Shea is one of the six names under which I publish). Here.

Full Circle: An Ars Concordia Anthology
. Edited by Colin Galbraith. This is a collection of short stories, poems, and other pieces by a writers’ group of which I am a member. My story is “Pauvre Bob”, set at Arlington Race Track in Illinois. You can download it free here:

Published in: on May 12, 2008 at 7:58 am  Comments (10)  


  1. Devon:

    It amazes me how civility goes out the window when it comes to communicating on-line. Anonymity emboldens the inner bully, people addressing each other in a manner they wouldn’t DARE try in person. And with writers there is always jealousy involved, especially if a wannabe runs across my site and discovers some of the pointed comments I make about people who write and publish very little, yet presume to be experts on every aspect of the printed word. I’m a professional writer and I have little time for those arses out there who just KNOW they’d be a great writer if they ever actually sat down and, you know, wrote.

    Good post, glad I came across it…

  2. Here’s to a great writing week for you! 🙂

  3. On Negotiating Fees: AMEN.

    On Life Stuff: Things are looking more cheery for you! Hooray! Hope your mom is better.

    On Writing: May you have a productive week! 🙂

  4. You hit the nail on the head regarding fees, Devon. I have my standards, but in each case I have to examine the ratio of work-to-pay before I turn down the jobs. Right now, I’ve taken on a few articles that aren’t paying much. The payoff for me isn’t in the cash, but in the clips in a much-coveted area. I won’t work for these people forever, but when I am working for them, they’ll get my best. I agreed to the work – to give them less than my best is cheating them.

    I’ve come across one person in my life who’s demanded I drop everything and guide her through her work life (and her personal life too, but I digress). I didn’t. That she’s still struggling surprises me none – she’s getting out of her career exactly the effort she’s investing into it.

  5. Hi, Devon –

    Good for you for setting such admirable standards for your work and fees. Your clients are lucky to have you.

  6. Great post. I cannot believe that someone would insist that you coach them. LOL. Oh please. They better find critique partners and betas. Sheesh. Anyway, I hope that you have a great week also and I hope you find that house.

  7. Blue Moon. Yum.

    I am very glad to read your thoughts on negotiating fees, and I appreciate how even-handed you were with the response. I think all artists suffer from the same issue, whether they be writers, painters, singers, or actors. Luckily we actors have a union that negotiates our minimums, but being part of a union (as you know) also has its drawbacks when it comes to picking and choosing what kind of work you can do. It is wonderful to see an artist who is standing up for what they deserve, and taking everything that comes with that. Bravo.

  8. I never unstand how people feel okay criticizing someone they’ve never met for something that is none of their business.
    I wish you nothing but the best in your house hunting endeavors in MA in the coming weeks!
    I hope your Mom feels better.

    Have a pleasant monday.

  9. I’m so glad you were able to spend some time with your Mom. I spent a good 45 minutes on the phone with mine last night, so guess that is better than nothing since we live so far apart. 🙂

    Have a great week!

  10. Great post on fees, Devon. I couldn’t agree more.

    Glad you were able to spend time with your mother.

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