What should writers be paid? And what is their time worth?

These days the reality for writers seems to be that their time isn’t valued.

Wright_Books2That intrudes in all sorts of ways. Zero return on time is the reality for bloggers amid an expectation that everything on the internet is free. What’s more, attempts to monetise usually annoy – I unfollowed a blog myself, recently, whose author spent most of his time telling readers how desperate his financial situation was, variously asking for cash and offering reblogs for quite large sums of money.

I can’t help thinking that a lot of the ‘free’ comes about because a large percentage of people who write do so for the love of writing. It’s their passion, their pastime, and they churn away for hours on their book, for which the return is the fact that they’ve done it.

But the fact is that while writing is a great hobby, bringing a good deal of pleasure, it’s also a profession – one that, ultimately, includes a broad skill-set including experience of how the publishing and selling industry works, what constitutes good writing, how to control writing style and apply it to any form, how to write essay-style reviews, how to edit effectively, and so on. And at that professional level both writing and all the associated activities, such as publishing, require skill, expertise and knowledge that are easily as complex, deep and demanding as those of any doctor or lawyer.

Add the experience of long years in the business into the mix and you add further value – just like a well-known medical professional can command higher fees.

Which bring me to the issue of those fees. I’ve seen people advertising their editorial/reading services on the web for $5 per item or 0.002 cents a word, or some similar token. To me that sort of pricing comes from (a) the fact that the people offering it are hobbyists themselves and have no experience in what the industry charges, or much professional experience in what constitutes good writing; and (b) it’s a response to the likely price expectations of those who’ll buy the service in a world of ‘free’

So what is this sort of service actually worth? You’d be surprised. A professional writer who’s had much the same professional experience in the field as I have told me recently she charges $225/hr casual rate and is looking to increase  it to $250.

I agree. I think that’s reasonable. Remember, what looks like a swingeing hourly rate doesn’t net anything like that much – an hour’s chargeable might require five hours prep, for instance, quite apart from costs.

But what you’re also paying for is genuine expertise and experience – the wisdom of somebody who knows their stuff, who’s been working in the field professionally. You’d be charged the same sort of level by a career coach. Or when buying expertise to that level from any profession.


Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


10 thoughts on “What should writers be paid? And what is their time worth?

  1. When I was about to graduate from nursing school, (back in 1991), we received a stern lecture on professional fees and worth of our knowledge and skills. If I wanted to work for free, I would have perhaps become a nun. Why would I expect any different as a writer, or an editor? I believe we’ve set the pricing ceiling too low. People are willing to mine for diamonds, paying less than a few dollars a book, in hopes that they will find a precious gem among them. I have no clue how we can undo the market trend, or if it’s even possible at this point. I was a technical nurse before becoming a professional nurse. I expected less pay. When I graduated as a professional nurse, I was given four patients, and when I retired my caseload each night was forty-four. The pay did not exponentially increase. You’re a prolific author, and I sincerely believe that’s what it takes to truly be successful at writing. One book wonders are rare.

    1. I agree. Being prolific, though, isn’t a guarantee of high return on the work! Some books sell well. Others don’t – returns on a royalty basis being always dependent on sales. Most authors make a living either from other incomes or via writing-related work such as editing, teaching, offering professional commentary and such like. It’s this last that can be given a specific hourly rate with some expectation of getting that return – and, for people who’ve been in the profession for years and are known, that $250/hr isn’t exorbitant.

  2. I agree! Lovely post. Writers should be paid something for their writings, if done in a professional atmosphere. (Blogs, like this one and mine, are done for personal reasons.)

    1. Thanks. It’s that professional atmosphere, definitely, that creates the ability to charge a fee. Other professionals charge to that extent when people buy their expertise and experience. So why not writers?

  3. I’m pessimistic about the future. The trend for ‘free,’ be it writing, music, photography, seems to be insatiable and unstoppable and I suspect the genie is out of the bottle now. I’m not one for saying new technology always kills off the old technology, but I think consumer buying patterns are not going to return to what they once were because the technology is out of control. In ten years time, if any professionals in the creative industries are still making a living I’ll be very surprised.

  4. Depressing but true! I think the big corporations will continue to profit. As for artists (musicians, writers, etc) – I guess we’ll all have to go and get real jobs on the day shift in some muffin factory, holding that ‘icing anointment utensil’ and waiting for muffins to come by, ready for their little green rosetta…

  5. Well, equally depressing is the idea that all arts are being removed from schools due to budget cuts and writing is being dropped from many curriculums in favor of more computer classes. Being a paid writer will be a moot point. no one will be able to either write or read in the future, just point and click! Sorry, that’s all the negativity I will give out today. 🙂

  6. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I get paid a small stipend for the articles I write for our local magazine. I can spend 1-6 hours to do the interview (6 hrs is for a group) then another 2-4 hrs writing it up. Editing adds another 2-12 hrs. Those are only guesstimates, but I think I’ll keep track just for the fun of it. I enjoy writing for the magazine and doubt I’d charge more if I were famous. I’d rather earn my millions from my books! 🙂

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