This is the last one of these I’ll be doing about money for a while. For two reasons – one, my monkey-mind is getting a bit bored of it now, and two, I feel a bit uncomfy setting myself up as some kind of expert in this, or any other area.
Experiences for poets and playwrights will be different for novelists, short story writers, feature writers, YA authors etc. I can only talk about my own experience and my own little bit of the world. So much about asking for a fee is also about evaluating where you are in the food chain and that’s not something I can address in a series of slightly glib and typo-ridden blog posts.
But having said that: behold…
How to extract money, or let it be known you don’t work for free (the phrase book edition)
I’ve noticed when people want you to do things for free (or are simply naive about the fact that writers do get paid) they tend to use language that minimises the time, effort and expertise involved in the task. They say ‘pop over and run through a few tips‘ instead of ‘plan and deliver a workshop for fifteen’. They say, ‘tell me what you think?‘ instead of ‘spend a day reading to and responding to my manuscript,’ and they say ‘come and meet the group’ instead of ‘do a twenty minute reading and a half hour Q and A’.
I am not a conspiracy theorist. Of course not. The reason why people ask you to work for them is because they like your writing, performance or the cut of your jib, they respect what you do, they think it’s a cheap way to get people into the pub on a quiet night and because they want to hear what you have to say. It’s a compliment (or you can, despite everything, choose to take it as one), so it’s okay to be pleased and polite while also making sure you use words that professionalise the task and encourage others to value you properly. This (as if by magic) forces to you properly value yourself.
The writers I have talked to get nervous about asking for money. I get nervous about asking for money. Often, we’re not very good at it. We shy, retiring types. But a big part of asking is in noticing how we and the people we work with are using words. And we’re good at that bit. So think of it as a problem solved by a perfectly pitched sentence and you’ll be fine.
If you’re interested in novel (har har) ways to make money, this might float your boat.