Percydale Press - The Road to Success

What Price Your Work?

You want to be a writer. With a heart full of hope you send your efforts winging into the market place – and usually they come winging right back except for those that disappear into the void without trace.

But how anxious are you to get published? Do you want to be a professional writer or just to see yourself in print?

I write for my living and I deeply resent people who are so desperate that they allow their articles, stories, etc. to be published in magazines, newspapers, and on the radio without any payment whatsoever. It is unprofessional. These people are teachers, shop assistants, bricklayers, electricians, etc., etc. How would these hobby writers feel if people offered to do their work for nothing? There would be Union action, strikes, go slows and other industrial unrest.  

Look at it from another point of view. Say I have this overpowering love of plumbing. I am so desperate to practise my art that I will quite cheerfully offer my services freely to anyone who will allow me to do battle with their piping, with no charge for my time, effort or materials. Or I might be so enamoured of bricklaying that I will help you build your house with no charge. Try telling your accountant that you no longer require his services as you have found someone who does accounts for nothing. He’ll accept it but he won’t be pleased. These ideas are absolutely ridiculous. The plumber, bricklayer or accountant would soon complain if you used anyone other than friends and relatives on small DIY scale.

Writers have enough of a fight to make a sensible living within the profession as it is. Some publications ask us to sign away our rights, agreeing to relinquish all copyright for what amounts to a pittance. If we all stuck it out for the sale of First British Serial Rights only it would be a step in the right direction.

On several occasions I have had work accepted but on enquiry about payment I’ve been told that readers are usually quite happy to be published in return for a free copy of the magazine. Big deal! On its being pointed out politely that as a working writer my time and words are my income I have always been offered an acceptable fee. I also restrict terms on fees to FBSR with no adverse effect. Too many companies are claiming all rights without reflecting the value of the copyright in the size of the fee offered.

Of course a lot depends on the way you approach editors who hope for free contributions. Don’t rush in demanding your rights. Establish rapport, be friendly, reasonable, even apologetic, (“I really am sorry to be so awkward, but you know how it is---.”) Be comredely, chatty but not effusive, Nine times out of ten you will not only negotiate an acceptable fee, you will also have access to a new market for your work.

One disadvantage of modern technology is that it is now so easy to belt out a piece of work that a lot more people are doing it. The result is that amateurs who would not have had the patience to slog away with a typewriter are so anxious just to see themselves in print that they work for nothing. There are few other business that rely so heavily on free labour.

Be professional – don’t write for nothing. If your work is good enough you will find a paying market.

There is another insidious temptation abroad. The “A reader writes” article. Your work is published but you don’t get paid. With luck you might get a free copy of the magazine.

In the days when we had to slog away with one or possibly even two fingers on an old portable typewriter we had to be much more dedicated.

© Copyright Percydale Press 2006

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