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.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010
New Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Mercury — What the Hell?
Rainy and mild

Today is Writers’ Worth Day, and go check out Lori Widmer’s blog. You should read it anyway, if you want to make your living as a writer, because she knows her stuff. You need to learn how to value your work and yourself, and, most importantly, if you think writing for content mills constitutes a “career” you need to get a clue as to what it means to be a professional.

So I’m in a Mercury muddle. I hadn’t thought it was retrograde, and then an astrologer friend said it’s retrograde until May 18. My calendar does not say that. In the back of my calendar, I just saw that it said Mercury was retrograde from April 18 until May 5. So now I’m completely confused. I think my Mercury is just in perpetual retrograde right now, so I’ll have to sort it out this weekend with some alignment work.

Drove up to Westabrook, CT to the Tanger outlet center. Shopping is not my idea of fun, unless it’s books, but I had a list of things I needed, figured I could knock them all out in one spot, and, since I mistakenly thought Mercury was retrograde – – –

Let’s just say it was not fun. Couldn’t find anything I wanted and/or needed in THE ENTIRE COMPLEX. Since we’d driven an hour and a half and it was only 7 more exits to go to Niantic and The Book Barn, that’s what we did.

Gorgeous day to wander through the books. I’d crafted a detailed list of everything I planned to look for there, but, of course, since we weren’t planning to go, I had it at home. I kinda sorta remembered, and picked up the works of John Donne and the works of William Blake, both of which I need to read over the next few months for various reasons. I also picked up Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD, a book I enjoy, but isn’t on my writing shelf. I got a couple of novels, including Tim Powers’s DECLARE. I am rabidly wild about Tim Powers’s writing — I still think his book LAST CALL is one of the best books I ever read in my life. I’m going to read it over the weekend — it’s too big to take with me when I travel at the end of next week, and, once I sit down and open a Tim Powers book, the world falls away until I’m done. So it’s my Sunday treat, since tomorrow will be caught up in the Preakness and the pottery class. Once I’ve finished and submitted my Preakness wrap article to my editor on Sunday, I get to read the book. How’s that for a carrot? I also picked up an anthology that sounded interesting, and it happens to have a novella by yet another of my favorite writers, Sharon Shinn, in it.

Was in the mood for a burger, and, on the recommendation of the staff, tried The Niantic Diner, which is across the street from The Book Barn. The burger was good and hit the spot. I rarely eat red meat anymore because I feel better when I don’t — but once in awhile, when I crave it, it’s exactly what I need.

Drove back — way too much traffic on both I-95 and the Merritt. Still a lot of infrastructure work going on from the stimulus money. It’s a pain in the ass, but the parts of the road that are finished are wonderful. I’ve been driving these roads for decades, and it’s the first time the bridges feel secure and the pavement doesn’t rip up the tires. Yes, this is one of the few places I want my tax dollars! 😉

Couldn’t find Iris when we got home, and nearly had a fit. She’d made herself a nest tucked down amongst a pile of cushions and ignored us when we called. I should have trusted that, since the other two weren’t worried, there was nothing to worry about.

Heard from the vet. We’re going to add an olive leaf supplement and then a homeopathic nasal treatment, as though she has the feline equivalent of a sinus headache. If she responds well to that, we’ll also switch the cats’ drinking water to an alkaline water because Elsa’s pH is too acidic, and that could also contribute to the problem. We’re switching her from the synthetic steroid to a natural one, and, in about a month, will see if we can wean her off it or if we need to continue. The natural steroid has fewer side effects than the synthetic, so it’ll be better to use long-term, but we’ll eventually want to get her off it. We’re adding and subtracting things one at a time to see how each bit affects her, and kind of breaking new ground here. She’s definitely responding well to the first portion of treatment — she made quite a bit o forward progress just in the last two days — so let’s go with it.

I have to handicap tomorrow’s race card and get that up, then drive up to South Salem to get her additional medication. Hopefully, I can get some writing done, too. Thought of another issue in the screenplay — we know what all the older characters do and what got them where they are — the mainstay caper that broke them apart — but what do Lucas and Jimmy “do”? Are they still in college? Do they have jobs? Are they unemployed due to the bad economy? I need to figure that out, even if it’s not a big deal in the story. Lucas’s girlfriend has a job, so why wouldn’t Lucas? I can add in a line about him having a bit of bereavement leave, but then, what about JImmy? I have to figure it out. It can be solved in a short line, but it needs to be addressed.

I better get going — busy day leading into a busy weekend.

Devon

Writers Worth Day

What Are You Worth?

Today is the Second Annual Writers’ Worth Day, thanks to Lori Widmer of Pennsylvania. Hopefully, this grass roots movement will grow over the years. Until writers take control of their own worth, their own finances, and their own lives, they will continue to earn slave wages.

What we do consists of a specific set of skills, skills that we have learned and honed over time, in much the same way as a doctor or a lawyer. We take skill a step further, though,and meld it with creativity and imagination. It’s difficult to put a price on it, but it’s worth a living wage.

Yes, anyone can put words on paper. But not everyone can arrange those words to seduce, entice, teach, engage and make someone see the world differently. It’s not all about selling something. It’s about sharing a different view of the world, helping people see and feel.

What is that worth?

Hard to say. But it’s worth a living wage.

Ask yourself why you write. Hopefully, you love it. Hopefully, it’s your vocation and your passion, as well as your business. But never forget that it’s your business.

Because so many people hate their jobs and their lives and are too cowardly to change them, they promote the myth that you can’t love your job AND earn a decent wage. It gives them a feeling of power to keep others as miserable as they are. This IS a myth, and the best way you can bust it up is to earn a good living via writing. You won’t without skill, talent, imagination, and a heck of a lot of hard work. If you’re not willing to put all of that into your writing, keep the day job. But don’t hurt the rest of us who DO write to pay the bills by letting employers get away with paying substandard wages, and training them that this is acceptable. It is not. Every time you accept a crap wage for your work, you don’t just hurt yourself, you hurt others. You cause harm. Even worse, you make the CHOICE to cause harm.

What we do is unique. How we do it is unique to each of us. A hundred of us can write good copy for a website. And it will be a hundred different viewpoints. One of those will be that special, charismatic work that leaps off the page or screen and makes a positive difference in the world. That writer deserves to be paid WELL for the skill, the passion, and the creativity. YOU deserve to be paid well for your skill, your passion,and your creativity.

You know when I’ll write for a “maybe someday” fee or a fraction of a penny-per-page-view wage? When my landlord, credit card companies, and utilities accept the same way of paying bills. I need to know what I’m paid for my work, and then, in cases of the fiction and the plays, the royalties are the gravy. I’ve been lucky that the gravy’s been able to fill in during fallow periods, but royalties can’t be depended on for a living until one hits a couple of best seller lists. Janet Evanovich and Nora Roberts can count on royalties to pay the bills. I’m not there. Yet. And when someone hires me to do a piece of writing that generates income for his business, I deserve a fixed, solid rate that reflects my skills, my time, and the continuing income I generate for that business. If my creditors except to be paid the rates they set and on time, then so do I.

Published in: on May 15, 2009 at 1:55 am  Comments (6)  
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On the Road

I’m driving as we speak (well, okay, as you read).

So stop by Sole Struck Fashions for far too much information on lingerie!

If I have internet service, I’ll blog from the motel tomorrow.

In any case, come back on Friday to celebrate Writers’ Worth Day!

Devon

Published in: on May 13, 2009 at 1:26 am  Comments (9)  
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Writer’s Worth Day

Lori Widmer declared today Writer’s Worth Day.

That means, if you call yourself a writer or want to call yourself a writer, it’s time for some tough love and reassessment.

The reality: If you take those jobs that pay crap for a large number of articles, the likelihood that you will make a living wage in this business is very small. There are always exceptions, but if you really are that brilliant, your samples (even if you’ve never published, you can create samples) are good enough to land you a decent wage. If you think you can use these mass-produced articles as clips to get higher-paid work, those potential employees will laugh you right out of the arena.

If you have no confidence yet, you’re better off starting out for small, local publications that are looking for local coverage and/or taking on a cause or local non-profit on as a PRO BONO client and building legitimate clips that way.

A single newsletter for a legitimate organization like the American Cancer Society or your local animal shelter will garner you more paying jobs than 100 web “articles” for which you were paid $10. When you look at jobs, you need to consider the legitimacy of the employer.

If you have no self-respect, if you can live off a partner’s wage and you want to “play” at being a writer, go ahead. Write for these mills who pay crap and who publish crap. And that’s where your career will stay. In the crapper.

If you want to actually build a legitimate career so you don’t have to work in someone else’s cubicle and you’ll be hired by companies for whom you’d actually like to work, network with other LEGITIMATE freelancers (who hang out in places like Anne Wayman’s About Freelancewriting, Absolute Write, Writers’ Weekly, Funds for Writers, etc. Read Peter Bowerman’s book THE WELL-FED WRITER, and visit his blog, linked to the right of this post. See what professionals with self-esteem and a sense of their own abilities are doing to make a reasonable living in this game.

If you don’t respect your work, why should anyone else?

Show a little self-respect. Charge a fair rate, and you’ll get an employer who values you, and work that’s good enough to launch you onto the next wage platform.

Devon

Note: Racing Ink will appear here later today. Regular “Ink in My Coffee” postings will resume either the 18th or 19th of May.