Guest Lori Widmer Asks Fiction Readers: What Is Your Writer Worth?

I am on the road today, so the wonderful and talented Lori Widmer has a guest post here, in preparation for Writers Worth Day.

Fiction Readers: What is Your Writer Worth?
By Lori Widmer

You loved that latest book, didn’t you? The story was compelling, and the writer took the time to develop the intricacies of the plot. You felt moved by it, entertained by it, and maybe even changed by it a little. That begs the question – do you know what your writer was paid for all that work?

This week marks the 4th anniversary of Writers Worth Week (extended to a week this year), an annual awareness-building campaign designed to help writers realize their value as skilled professionals. Make no mistake – fiction writers are no less business people than non-fiction writers. Yet many factors in the publishing industry are working against fiction writers. Did you know:

Writers are being expected to pay for book promotion. Once a standard part of a publishing contract, promotion is a bill now being pushed onto the writers. Publishers budget less for marketing and promotion for anything but the top-selling authors. The writer is now expected to pick up the slack. Swag costs money, and most publishers aren’t paying for it. More and more publishers demand a marketing plan as part of the submission package. It doesn’t help that self-styled “marketing gurus” and even other other authors encourage or demand writers to spend the advance on marketing.

Writers are being burdened with more promotional responsibilities. Publishers are requiring writers to put in much more time into promoting their own products. So now writers have to be not only great writers, but also sales and publicity experts.

Writers are receiving lower and lower advances. Gone are the days of huge advances for that killer book. Writers are fortunate to receive four figures let alone six.

Writers are expected to churn. It’s why that last book by your favorite author wasn’t as good as the first one. Writers lucky enough to receive multiple-book deals are expected to supply up to two new books annually.

Writers are being asked to pay for consideration. Some publishers are willing to consider your work – for a fee. Or worse, they promise publication – online – for a fee. This practice devalues a writer’s skills and value in the market.

In the spirit of Writers Worth Week, tell your favorite writer today what his or her work means to you. Also, write to the publisher and let them know, as well. Help writers protect their value and increase their ability to earn a living at their craft. Boycott products from publishers that charge for reading or publication. Let them know you expect better treatment of writers by the industry, and that you won’t stand for it as a consumer.

Lori Widmer is a veteran writer, editor, and author of The Worthy Writer’s Guide to Building a Better Business.” She blogs to the writing community at Words on the Page.


  1. Very informative post, thank you! I have noticed there aren’t many “one book” deals getting announced lately. There’s usually three or more. I thought that was interesting.

  2. And yet, writers write. 🙂 Great article, Lori. Thanks for the helpful information. Happy Writer’s Worth week!

  3. Thank you, Devon, for hosting me today!

    Lara, I don’t remember when it happened, but there was certainly a shift in contracts between publishers and writers. One of my favorite books – To Kill a Mockingbird – was a one-and-done book. It’s also a testament to how much a great book can earn. Imagine if a short-sighted publisher had refused the book because Harper Lee didn’t have another in her. I can think of others, too – Gone With The Wind and another favorite, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Publishers have moved the focus onto how much market penetration they can get from one author. How about focusing on quality? To me, that wins every time.

    Yes Teresa, we writers can’t help ourselves. 🙂 And I’m glad for it.

  4. Great expansion on the initial premise for Writers’ Worth Day, Lori. Next year, I think it should be Writers’ Worth Month! :o))

  5. Thanks for a very informative post, Lori. I bet there are a lot of writers (like me) that hope to write our own books and are totally ignorant on the process. I know I am. This was an eye-opener for me.

  6. You’re trying to kill me, Kathy! LOL My timing this year was awful – this week fell one day after I returned from a conference on the other coast. The preparations nearly sunk me!

    Cathy, thank Devon. She prompted me to turn the advice around to face the fiction writers. And she was right – ALL writers need to treat their talents as a business.

  7. Lori, interesting read.
    So if all of the above is the current state of the market, why do people still chase a traditional publishing deal?
    Me, I’d self pub on Kindle and take 70% royalty.
    You have to do all the promo anyway.
    Self pub every time for me.

  8. Hi Steve,

    I can only answer for myself. I prefer traditional publishing because I prefer print books personally. Plus I think there are still some excellent contracts to be had in the traditional publishing realm.

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