Through The Lens Thursday is a one-year photography project (now in its second year), where every week, my project partner, Greta of GFunkified and I, will post a picture (or pictures) we have taken based on a prompt. Our hope is that together, we can teach and learn from each other, stay accountable to our goal of improving our skills, and hopefully, be taking some gorgeous photographs.
This week’s prompt is Words.
These words are mine, and they are in an actual book (My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving & Losing Friends). I’ve said this multiple times because I can’t quite believe it. My name, my words, in a book!
Earlier this week, an established blogger strongly expressed that writers should not offer their original, unpublished work in exchange for nothing but “exposure”. Ask to be paid in real dollars, because exposure doesn’t put a roof over your head, or food in your belly (her words, her meaning). When you pursue writing as something other than a hobby, when you put so much time, effort, heart and soul into it, you should be rewarded. You should be paid. It is your right as a writer.
The last few years have seen many anthologies published, mostly by bloggers themselves who have charted a career outside of their blogs, as editors, publishers, book promoters, writing mentors and teachers. Self-publishing is usually the way to go because it’s easier, and you have control over your content and timelines.
However, self-publishing also mean you don’t have a built-in system of proofreaders, editors, book cover designers, printers, marketing and public relations mavens, that a traditional publishing house offers. All these people and things require money, which as self-publishers, you have to fork out of your own pocket.
Let’s do some math. You want at least 25 to 30 stories in your anthology. Should you pay – and you REALLY want to pay, because you’re a writer too, and you know how much it means to get paid for your work – you want to offer at least $100 per story. That’s $2,500 to $3,000 just for content. Factor in all the other things you need to invest in to make this anthology happen, you could be out of pocket at least $5,000 and you haven’t even sold a single book yet.
Not everyone has $5,000 lying around. Even if you promise to pay each contributor 90 days after your book starts selling, it doesn’t mean you will make enough to cover costs, never mind make a profit.
But you believe in these writers and their stories. You want to get their words out there. Some of these writers will never have it in them to write their own book (me). They may put their words on a blog, or a website like The Huffington Post, but to be in a book? That’s rad. It doesn’t happen every day. So you do the work, but you apologize that you can’t pay, not for this book.
Do I want to get paid to write? Sure. Do I want to get paid for my original, previously unpublished work that will go into an anthology? Of course. Will I say no and not submit if it’s not paid? No, I won’t. Because I know that there is no other way my words will get published in a book, and all I had to do, was to sit down and do what I love. All I had to do, was write. Which I was going to do anyway, regardless of whether I get paid or not. So when someone is doing all the other hard work of putting an anthology together and wants my story, I say yes.
Am I saying that publishers of anthologies should never bother paying anyone, as there are so many like me, who will submit anyway, money or not? No, I am not. I believe that if a publisher can pay, they should. If they’re making money from sales of previous books, or through any other channels such as offering classes, consulting or editing, then they should definitely consider paying writers.
What I am saying is, in a roundabout way (I am getting long-winded in my old age) – if you want to get paid and the publisher (of an anthology, or a website) does not pay, then do not submit your work. Look elsewhere. Pitch for paying jobs. It’s your choice. But don’t tell everyone else that they shouldn’t try to get published because it doesn’t put a roof over your head or food in your belly. Don’t say that it’s not rewarding enough to see your name in print, because for some writers, it is. For some writers, it’s a stepping stone to something bigger.
No matter what you’re in it for, just keep writing. Own your truth and words. I did, and I have no regrets.
Next week’s prompt is Cute.
For the full list of prompts, check out my Through The Lens Thursday page. If you’d like to join Greta and I, but not necessarily blog your picture, join our Flickr group, where we upload our photos, and give comments, or helpful critique on each other’s photographs.
Would you submit your writing to an anthology or website if it doesn’t pay?