Well, This Has Troubling Implications

moneyWritingI’ve often argued that the market for fiction is kind of skewed, as markets go, by the number of people willing to write for nothing or close to it.  This not only makes it difficult to break into the writing game, it can make life interesting for editors and the like.  Imagine what life would be like if other fields were like this–if you could put the word out that you needed a plumber and 200 people would show up willing to fix your pipes for a pittance, only you had no way of knowing which ones knew anything about plumbing.

It is possible this has something to do with the amazing fame available to a published author making up for the fact that a solid pro-market short story will pay about fourteen cents an hour once you factor in time for rewrites and all.  But a more common explanation is that writers do it for the sheer love of creating stories.  I’ve often heard that one shouldn’t try to be a writer unless you’d be willing to do it for free (good advice, since that is exactly what you’ll most likely be doing, but again, it makes for an odd market).

So what are we to make of studies that show that when you pay someone for their hobby, they lose interest?

The way I see it, there are three possibilities:

1. Writers who fall into the middle ground of being paid, but not actually making a living at writing tend to quit, so the only ones sticking around are either not publishing yet or are very successful (I don’t buy this, given how many mid-list authors there are running around with day jobs)

2. Writers are paid so little, on average, that they don’t really notice that someone is paying them (not sure I buy this either, given how hard writers strive to get paid, but I suppose some might consider it more of a system of scoring than money, per se).

3. Writers are magnificent weirdos whose brains don’t work like other people’s, and are thus immune to the mundane considerations that motivate normal people.

I like (3), myself.

~ by smwilliams on March 5, 2013.

3 Responses to “Well, This Has Troubling Implications”

  1. I’ll go for option #3 too … although I think the “scoring” idea has some merit, as well (3 pro-paying short story sales allow a science fiction & fantasy author to join SFWA, for example).

    • That is true. Personally, the reason I’d rather have something published in a pro market than a semi-pro doesn’t have much to do with the extra few hundred bucks it would get me. The flipside of that is that payments of 1/5-cent per word somehow seem insulting, even if for all practical purposes it often wouldn’t be much different from a flat payment, or even semi-pro. That sort of indicates that payment is sort of divorced from its monetary value (for me, anyway). And the SFWA thing is another wrinkle.

  2. […] There’s no weird psychosis going on here, folks. Believe me, if someone got it in their head to pay me for a story, I’d take it. I would not subsequently lose interest in my writing, because someone decides to pay me for it. (H/T The Blue Candle Society). […]

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