October 06, 2010
Want The Best From A Writer? Pay Them! By Dawn Colclasure | printable version
The saying that "time is money" applies to many of today's working writers. The time they spend doing work for free is time they could be spending earning that much-needed extra income with other writing assignments. If a writer knows they'll be paid for something, they'll likely put their best effort into the work they do.
I was reminded of this recently while working on a book project. I stated up-front that I was not paying writers for their contributions (which were quotes, interviews and short pieces). After some time, however, I finally "woke up" and realized that writers who contributed original material they wrote just for this book should be paid for their time and effort. It's only fair. And now they most certainly will be paid.
This realization came at the perfect time: I tried to write about something I have no knowledge about. Didn't work! I needed an expert. A world of research was not the answer to competently writing those short pieces for my book, yet enlisting a writer with skills in that field was! A writer will skillfully write about a topic a layman cannot, because if they know they'll be paid for their work, they'll more likely give it their best effort. After all, you get what you pay for.
Another truth about paying writers is that they will make this assignment a priority. If they know they're not going to be paid, it's no loss to them if they miss a deadline. They'll put more focus on the paying work instead - because that potential check puts food on the table, helps pay the mortgage, or treats the family to dinner out. When being paid, a writer is less likely to miss a deadline.
Some editors and authors shy away from paying contributors for fear that it can't be done. They can't afford to do it. I know, believe me! I am unemployed, so I try to bring in extra income each month with my writing. I've worked as an editor who paid writers for articles, and now as an author soliciting contributions for my books. I found a way to do it: By paying the writers on publication of the book. It gave me time to save up for their payment.
I figured out how to make payment to writers work. Editors and other authors in my shoes should try to do the same. Get another job, do some work for a friend on the side, or sell homemade cookies.
You can figure out a way to pay writers. They are worth every penny. The time they are spending writing for you is time they are spending away from their families and loved ones. That's time they could also spend earning income elsewhere.
These days, a working writer heavily relies on getting paid for their efforts. Jobs are scarce, the cost of food is going up, and the threat of an empty gas tank lingers. When a working writer finds work that actually puts money into their wallet, they're willing to give their all and meet those deadlines. The effort they put into their writing makes a magazine or book look good, and it makes the editor or author look good, too. The fact that the writer was paid for their contribution shows just how important the work really is to everyone involved.
Dawn Colclasure is the author of six books. Her forthcoming titles include the nonfiction books Spook City and TOTALLY SCARED: The Complete Book on Haunted Houses (co-authored with Martha Jette), the poetry collection Songs of the Dead, and the children's book The Yellow Rose. She is currently at work on a book series about revising your writing, with the first book scheduled for publication in the spring of 2011. Visit her online at: http://dmcwriter.tripod.com/
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