Like most working writers I’ve met, I’m not too excited about the idea of writing for exposure…
…he wrote, on his blog, which pays a total of nothing.
Let me try that again. I’m not too excited about the idea of writing for other people for exposure. If you want me to write something — if you want me to work for you — it seems reasonable to expect to be paid.
There are exceptions, of course. I’ve written free content for projects I believe in, for friends and people I like, and for the pure fun of it. But if all you’re offering is exposure, I get plenty of that here on the blog. And to be blunt, my time is valuable, and I only have a limited amount. Writing for you takes time that could otherwise go to other projects, or to hanging out with my family, or even to raking up the leaves and sticks in the back yard.
I’m pretty comfortable at this point with the idea that as a writer, I deserve to be paid. (Though I still struggle with interviews sometimes, depending on where the interview is supposed to appear and how much time will be involved.)
ETA: My apologies. That parenthetical was unclear. I wouldn’t dream of charging for a newspaper or TV or radio interview. On the other hand, if you’re asking me to answer 30 questions for a small, personal blog? At that point, it can start to feel more like I’m writing content for your site, which tips more toward the “pay me” side of things.
But what about non-writing stuff? I’m sometimes asked to speak at schools, or to present at libraries, or do talk about writing at a workshop. What about a half-hour Skype chat with a book club? Or speaking at the local NaNoWriMo kickoff event?
Often these invitations come with the understanding that I’ll be able to sell books. And I do love it when people buy my stuff. But the royalties from those sales almost certainly won’t cover the cost in time and travel.
On the other hand, I love libraries. I love talking to students about this stuff. I believe in paying it forward and helping new writers.
So what’s fair? In general, it depends on a number of things.
- What kind of budget does the group in question have? I look at an all-volunteer thing like NaNoWriMo differently than I’d look at a dues-charging writing organization, for example.
- How much time will be involved in the talk/presentation, including planning, travel, and the event itself.
- How much open time do I have on my schedule?
- How much fun will I have doing the event?
- Do I know the people involved?
I still have a hard time saying no. Some of it is probably a midwestern thing. A lot of it likely comes from being a struggling writer and having so many editors say no to me, to the point where I was desperate for any sort of opportunity.
It’s harder still to say, “Maybe. How much will you pay me?”
But as writers, I believe we have a right to ask to be paid for our work, and that’s not limited just to writing. Some places have a budget for speakers, and are happy to pay. Sometimes they offer up front, which is nice, and much less awkward.
But regardless, it’s okay to ask. It’s okay to say, “This is what my time is worth.” Some people might not be willing to pay what you want, and that’s okay too. This is business, and as long you’re not a jerk about it, there shouldn’t be any hard feelings.
It’s also okay to make exceptions. My daughter’s fourth grade teacher was a wonderful person, and I ended up doing presentations to her class for several years in a row, because I liked her and I had a lot of fun. (Plus, they did things like make me cakes.) But there’s a distinction between doing something for free because you want to, and doing it because you feel uncomfortable saying no or asking to be paid.
Your knowledge and experience and time are all valuable. So are mine.
(As you may have guessed, I wrote this as much for myself as for the rest of you…)