Archive for the ‘Pricing’ Category

Hourly rates

Here’s an interesting post on figuring out your hourly rate for writing.  It’s ancient history in blog years but it is new to me.

So here are five books on writing for a living.

What I find interesting about these authors is that they have pretty different views of where writing for articles fits into the plan of becoming a successful writer. Some think it is essential. The first thing you do is go buy Writers Market, and then start writing and proposing. But for others, writing articles is only helpful in that it distracts other capable writers from competing in the ad copy business. Articles are fine for PR and self-promotion, but they pay far too little to be pursued as a real source of income.

For myself, I did buy a copy of Writers Market in a fit of hysteria, but after looking at it, I couldn’t understand why I did so. The pay is way too low, the time between acceptance and payment way too long, and you are supposed to be motivated enough to work on a proposal without knowing for certain that you have a customer. Maybe some people are able to do this often and fast enough to build a business, but my sense of things is that you would be far better off finding a couple of people who will let you write a brochure for them (for free if necessary) so that you can make a portfolio and try to get some business clients.

I talked to a publisher of a news magazine recently who was an editor about fifteen years ago when I did a few stories and book reviews for his publication. I asked him casually if he still did any journalistic assignments, as he did back when I worked for him. His answer didn’t surprise me. “Writing is for young people.” The people who write for those rates are those for whom writing is still somehow romantic as an activity. For those of us who are trying to make a living, it simply doesn’t make sense.

Of course, I’m sharing my opinion on the premise that I began a writing business earlier this year–that I am a “beginning writer” as of 2007. But I got my first job based on previous work I did part-time while a solo pastor. And I got that work based on relationships I built up before seminary when I did that low, low paying work. So I can’t deny that a history of writing can help–including a history of writing articles.

It all depends on your needs. If you have an income and can do some work on the side part time for awhile, then it might be worth investing a year of barely-worth-it writing so you can get a portfolio going (“Here are my two most recent projects,” is always technically true). My strong advice is to do some non-controversial pieces on health or technology or something that might be perceived as translatable into sales writing.

For the record, I personally found all of the above books worthwhile, even if I disagreed with a couple of them about the usefulness of writing articles for magazines.

Science fiction author and blogger John Scalzi, has done some homework for the rest of us to show how much a writer could once hope to make for a short story, in comparison to what he is likely to make now.

This evening I came across another article discussing how Robert Heinlein got his start in the science fiction writing business. The story is that back in late 1938 Heinlein, who could have used a bit of cash, wrote a story to submit to a contest for Thrilling Wonder Stories magazine, the grand prize of which was $50. Heinlein wrote the piece, decided it that too good for Thrilling, and submitted it to Astounding Science Fiction instead, which accepted it in 1939 and paid him $70 — $20 more than he would have got at Thrilling. The money was so good that Heinlein decided this writing scheme had its advantages and decided to keep at it. Thus was the power of a penny a word — Astounding’s going rate — in 1939.

As I was reading this again I was curious as to what at penny in 1939 would rate out to here in 2007, so I used the Consumer Price Index Calculator from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis to find out. Turns out that to you’d need fifteen cents in today’s money, more or less, to equal the buying power of that 1939 penny. Dropping Heinlein’s $70 into the calculator, you find that it was the equivalent of $1,034.89 today. Which is, you know, fairly decent.

Read the rest here, most of which is devoted to showing that modern short story publishers don’t pay anything like that amount.  I’m not surprised since the means for publishing stories has proliferated.  At one time there were only a few sources for short stories and the few who made it past the gate keepers could be paid better.  Now it is probably easier to get published in a forum somewhere but more difficult to make much money for one’s labors.  (I’m guessing here, if someone wants to correct my uneducated guess that there are more forums for short stories than their used to be, I’m open to a counter-argument.)

Recipe for burnout

I love problogger, but this is customized to attract someone who doesn’t count the cost. Ten blogs a day for a mere thousand dollars a month? That would turn your keyboard into a galley station. Does the company provide the big guard to beat out time with a drum as you row? I always provide pictures (see here) with my posts. It takes more time than you would think.

If you want an example of sane writing rates, consider this as an example:

Sign a 6 month contract for ghost blogging services and you’ll receive an instant savings off the above rates:

  • Two 100 – 200 word posts per week for $320 per month. That’s only $40 each!
  • Three 100 – 200 word posts per week for $500 per month. That’s only $41.67 each!
  • Three 201 – 500 word posts per week for $1,100 per month. That’s $91.67 each!
  • Three 501 – 750 word posts per week for $1,700 per month. That’s $141.67 each!

Ms. Edrich is slightly pricier than my normal service (though my normal service is to blog as a member of the group rather than straight ghostblog), but it is far more rational than what the ad offers. Imagine that you could write five good blogs an hour, day after day. What would be your hourly rate? Not much, and that would be on top of needing another job.

Not worth it!