Over this past weekend I attended a regional meeting for the company that heads my direct sales business. It's considered my own business, so I'm self-employed, even though I have to follow certain company standards and policies. This is similar to being a published author. You write the stories, but the editors and the house have certain standards and policies you must abide by once you're under contract.
Many people write as a hobby. This post is not for them.
The minute you pursue publication, you're taking that hobby of yours into new territory. Introducing the dollar sign makes it a business. However, it seems to be common among authors to reject the idea that they want to make money with their work. Which is slightly ridiculous when you think about it.
First, you deserve to be compensated for your hard work. You would expect that at any other job you have, so why deny that with your writing? And yes, I believe writing is hard work. It is not on the same level as other types of hard work, like being a surgeon, but it is still hard work. If it were easy, everyone would do it and be successful at it.
Second, if you're pursuing publication, or are already published, you have made the choice to stop viewing your work as a hobby and to start viewing it as a job. Maybe even a career. And since it is a form of self-employment, being an author means you're running your own business.
Businesses exist to make a profit. Don't deny that just because this particular business is a form of creative art. A friend of mine is a painter, and you can bet your last banana that she puts a price tag on every piece she finishes. It takes time and effort and skill to create fine artwork. She has every right to charge for it in a way that compensates what she put into it, plus extra for profit. She doesn't want to just break even, and she shouldn't be expected to. Her painting business is in the business of making money.
While at the aforementioned meeting, I noticed that pretty much everyone there was passionate about what they were doing. They loved it. They believed in their products. And that's necessary to be successful, but that isn't the only factor.
At one point, one of the women who were running the meeting said, "Who here is doing this to make money?" Without hesitation, not only did she shoot her hand into the air, but so did everyone else in the room. They unabashedly admitted that, yes, I love doing this, but heck yes, I'm doing it for the money, what a silly question.
I couldn't help but think that, if I'd been in a room full of writers, maybe a couple of people would have raised their hands, and the rest would smirk at their response. How sad.
If someone asked me why I go to my job in retail week in and week out, I'd say, "I need a weekly paycheck," and no one would find fault with that. I love my job in retail, I really do despite the downsides, but the number one reason I am there is so I can pay my bills and buy food.
There is nothing wrong with working for money. Money is necessary to live. We should not be made to feel ashamed for recognizing this.
But also please note,
"doing it for the money" is not the only reason for a business. You must love your work. You must have a passion for it. There is a balance, yes, and that balance works both ways.
So, while I certainly understand why people say they write because they love it, or because they can't imagine not writing (because I echo those sentiments), I also think it wise to admit that you expect to be paid justly. Because once you start viewing your authorship as a business to be run, you will no doubt yield greater results. You will manage your time better. You will forge smart business relationships rather than just friendships. You will be more aware of what you do and say in "public", because your persona is part of what sells your work.
I'm not saying you shouldn't love writing, or that you shouldn't mentor others simply out of a desire to help them. I'm saying that if you are going to create a product to be sold, you can't deny how that price tag affects your choices. You can't ignore it, or pass it off as a perk. Published authors are self-employed business owners, and any business owner that denies the dollar sign is bound to go out of business sooner or later.
Do you agree? Disagree? Fire it up in the comments.