Pay The Writer
Posted by Bob Mayer
I recently followed a discussion about what writers should charge when they’re invited to speak. 100% of those responding posted about how they didn’t charge anything, or only expenses, etc. Not a single person posted that they charged what they felt their time was worth. In fact, it seemed as if most felt grateful that they were invited in the first place.
Being the troublemaker I am, I posted a link to Harlan Ellison’s Youtube video reference Pay The Writer. Then, suddenly, out of the woodwork, came all those who agreed that writers should get paid for their time.
I like to be an author advocate since there doesn’t seem to be many of them. An indie bookstore closes, there’s an article in the paper, a blurb in PW, people lament, but an indie writer goes out of business there’s not a blip on the radar. I’ve found taking this position is not publicly popular. On Twitter, on loops, on Facebook, on this blog, there are people who have attacked me. The funny thing is, though, I then get a ton of emails and DMs privately, telling me they appreciate what I’m doing.
We don’t like talking about money (except for those who make a lot of it) in America. In White Palace, Susan Sarandon’s character asks her yuppie boyfriend how much he makes. He doesn’t want to tell, and her response is basically: we can have sex, but you can’t tell me how much you make? Apparently not.
Before I get crucified, yes, I do think one should volunteer to help certain non-profits (but also remember, a lot of people working at non-profits are getting paid and often they earmark funds for speakers. Schools, for example, often set aside funds for speakers and there’s nothing wrong with taking them) and also donate. At Who Dares Wins Publishing we donate a percentage of our gross at the end of each year to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. I’ve also made numerous talks and presentations gratis over the years. However, there is a difference between giving back to your community (doing select free workshops etc) and being asked to forgo your ability to earn a living.
We teach people how to treat us. This is a tenet of Warrior Writer. When I branched out from the writing world into other businesses with my Who Dares Wins consulting, I was surprised to find that if I quoted a speaking/consulting fee that was too low, I was treated as if what I was presenting was not very worthwhile.
You have to consider not only the actual talk, but your expertise. When I present Who Dares Wins, I’m not just giving a company a two-hour presentation. I’m giving them the benefit of decades of experience as a Special Forces student, team leader, operations officer, commander, soldier, instructor at the JFK Special Warfare Center and consultant to previous organizations. Also, being a NY Times bestselling author who has sold millions of books and started up a successful publishing company. That stuff was hard to come by. It’s worth something.
I do feel uncomfortable when someone asks how much I charge for a talk, particularly in the writing world when I know money is tight for the organizations. I remember, though, what I was told one year at the Maui Writers Conference. A CEO of a very successful company told me that in the corporate world, to get the kind of high level expertise that was being given at Maui (Terry Brooks, Elizabeth George, John Saul, Dorothy Allison, Robin Cook, Frank McCourt, Dan Millman, etc. etc.) one would expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars. And all these best-selling authors were getting was a plane ticket and a hotel room for their collective experiences and expertise.
I believe writers should value their expertise. If asked what you charge, consider who is asking, what is being asked, and what value it will have to those who receive your expertise. Remember, all they can do is say no, or tell you what they can pay. Or you can always negotiate. One technique I use for some of my day long presentations is give a percentage of my book sales at the event back to the organization. This is a win-win situation.
Publishing is changing. Writers used to treated (except for the few brand name authors) as the bottom rung of the food chain. We were interchangeable parts. We’re not any more. All those people between us and our readers (agents, editors, publishers, book reps, bookstores) are the ones whose jobs are in danger, although the ones who are adapting will prosper, just as writers who do will also. If we don’t respect ourselves, we’re not going to get respect from others.
Harlan Ellison — Pay The Writer (warning language)
Write It Forward!
About Bob MayerBob Mayer is a NY Times Bestselling author, graduate of West Point, former Green Beret (including commanding an A-Team) and the feeder of two Yellow Labs, most famously Cool Gus. He's had over 60 books published including the #1 series Area 51, Atlantis and The Green Berets. Born in the Bronx, having traveled the world (usually not tourist spots), he now lives peacefully with his wife, and said labs, at Write on the River, TN.
Posted on February 7, 2011, in Publishing Options, Write It forward and tagged Bob Mayer, Book Writing, business, Dan Millman, Dorothy Allison, Elizabeth George, Frank McCourt, Future, Harlan Ellison, Promotion, Publishing, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Terry Brooks, The Future of Publishing, Warrior Writer, WDWPUB, White Palace, Who Dares Wins, writer, Writer Resources, Writers Resources, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.