Being paid vs being read


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Being paid vs being read

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Oct 2, 2007, 7:48 am

...which would you choose, if it was a choice between the two? (Don't cop out and give a 'mixture' answer!)

Thanks to Ferox for bringing this question up in my head with the 'Can Reading Ever Be Stealing?' thread.

-Danny Birt

Oct 2, 2007, 9:35 am

Being read, no question and no hesitation.

My average yearly earnings for my two decades as a writer puts me roughly at the same wage level as a banana picker in Guatemala.

It's why I post my stories on my site for free. Give me a million readers and I'm a happy man. A million bucks and I'm likely a burnt out bum drinking sterno through a straw six months later. An addictive personality is a terrible thing...

Edited: Oct 3, 2007, 2:07 am

I write stories because I love creating and sharing them. Being paid for some is just a bonus that allows me the time to write more and -- because publishers have a wider range of readers than most individuals -- it allows me to share my work with more people than I could reach on a personal basis.

Oct 2, 2007, 10:41 pm

How this: I don't want someone else making money from my writing while I don't.

Oct 2, 2007, 10:52 pm

Hmmm. . . . Then I guess it is about money for you, in an odd sort of backwards way.

Since I just got a royalty check today, I can't say I agree. (grin)

Oct 2, 2007, 10:56 pm

why not both? I made a liveable wage writing fulltime for several newspapers over a period of three decades or so. but of the two, i'd much rather be read than rich.

Edited: Oct 2, 2007, 10:59 pm

No one mentioned rich. (grin) But yes, read over rich any time. Like I said, though, the really good thing about occasionally being paid for writing is it allows me to write more, because I don't have to come up with another way to make that income. I don't make much at all, but it still helps to off-set things.

Oct 2, 2007, 11:05 pm

I'd rather be read, and I know this because I've rarely been paid for my writing and I'm much happier with someone saying they enjoyed my writing than receiving a paycheck. Besides, being poor builds character.

Oct 3, 2007, 12:06 am

At Zette: not at all. I do not want to be exploited. That is a *huge* difference.

Oct 3, 2007, 12:53 am

Okay, and I can see that difference. Do you have that attitude toward every publisher, or just the big houses?

Oct 3, 2007, 1:18 am

I've been thinking about this before posting and I love it when people read my work, LOVE IT. I've given copies away to people, read entire shorts to people so for me it's being read that matters.

Not so much being read that matters really, even more than knowing i've been read, it's some sort of innate feeling that someone is considering what you have to say, that someone is willing to give up some of their limited time here to read my words. That they think they're worth the time sacrificed to read then and hopefully, think about them, inspire them, frighten them, motivate them or comfort them.

I see books and writing as a stopgap between two strangers conversing in a way and there's really no price to be placed upon that. I'm monetarily comfortable enough from other freelance work that if I never made another penny from people buying things I write, but they still read them I'd be okay with that.

Maybe the real devious question here is: If you were rich, would you still write? And if yes, would you write any differently?

Oct 3, 2007, 1:44 am

At Zette: exploiters can be big players or little ones. I've done work for both types and had both positive and negative experiences with both. I don't discriminate depending on how much resources they have. I'm not asking them to break the bank for me, but I certainly expect them to play fair with me, tho.

Oct 3, 2007, 2:06 am

Absolutely. I know exactly what you mean, having seen it myself.

Thanks for the reply.

Oct 3, 2007, 4:13 am

OTOH - you don't get paid if you don't get read, right?

Personally, I must admit that I have written a lot for free, but not allways with truly ulterior motives. If I get an article published, even if it is unpaid, it helps me marketing my books.

I don't consider myself a "will write for pay"-writer. But a professional one.

Oct 3, 2007, 9:01 am

Being paid is wonderful but being read and having people tell me they like what I've written is much more rewarding to me.

Oct 3, 2007, 9:44 am

My worst case scenario is ending up like John Kennedy Toole (author of CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES): being read AND rich...but long after I'm dead.

Now THAT'S a nightmare to ponder...

Oct 3, 2007, 12:19 pm

Ugh. This is such a difficult question for me. On the one hand, I do very much want to be read, particularly when I get feedback from people who have read my work and were moved in some way by it.

On the other hand, all of the writing that I have done to date has been unpaid, and given that my other sources of income cut into my writing time, I find myself wondering what it _would_ be like to be paid for my work.

I guess I'm feeling slightly fed up by all the people who have, over the years, expressed their enthusiasm for my work, when that enthusiasm has never turned into something more concrete. A gal's got to eat, right?

Plus there's that nasty aspect of life in our current society where, for good or ill, value is expressed at least as much in monetary terms as anything. So in my more cynical moments, I have this suspicion that the only reason people like my work is that it IS free - that if they had to put their money where their mouths are, my audience would evaporate in an instant.

In other words, if my work IS so good, and so worth doing, why _shouldn't_ I get paid for doing it?

But I'm quite aware that I've become a grouchy curmudgeon on this issue, so please take this with a large lump of salt.

Edited: Oct 3, 2007, 12:26 pm

To paraphrase:

"Build a good story, they will come..."

Just keep puttin' one word ahead t'other, ranaverde, keep improving your craft and folks will find you. It's tough trying to make ends meet and really not much easier for me now than when I started out. But I'm a better writer and a better person because of my writing so...I'll take that as a trade-off...

You have my sympathy though. Believe me, I hear where you're coming from.

Edited: Oct 3, 2007, 4:46 pm

In the end, I'd rather be read. Writing is something I love to do; and I refuse to make it a job. So, I have a day job to keep my income flowing; so I'm free to write my story free from financial motivation.

That being said, if I were offered money by a publisher for my work, I would not have an issue taking the money. I would not, however, sign a contract for works not yet written.

In my particular case, I have one story that I believe reflects my mind truly; and this is the one I want to tell. I suspect when this story is done, it will be the only piece of fiction I'll ever try to publish. I'd rather write one story that is a true reflection of my mind, rather than publish a lifetime of work that was something less.

I know some may think that because I don't make writing my job, that I'll never be a 'true' writer. Really, this doesn't matter to me; I just want to write my mind. Having the title of 'author' or 'writer' holds little interest for me. I've read incredible things from all walks of life; I believe everyone's mind holds value. My hope is that more people start creating to reflect their minds truly. Notice this has nothing to do with making money nor being in love with the term 'artist', 'writer' etc. It has everything to do with being true to oneself.

So, I will be true to my story and write it to reflect my mind. I.e. I will write all the works of fiction that I'd wish to be published before seeking a publisher. That way, I can be assured that my mind is reflected in my story and that this reflection isn't convoluted by financial intentions (because I have a day job).

I know people can argue that my meaning is somewhat diminished by my seeking to ensure myself financially. Well, what can I say? I'm married and I love my wife dearly; I would not have her suffer being the soul source of income to accommodate, what is essentially, a selfish endeavor on my part. Being that careless towards someone I care about is not who I am; so I don't do it. I believe I can be both true to my writing and true to myself; it just requires me to have a day job ;-).

Oct 3, 2007, 2:05 pm

I've posted previously that there's nothing wrong with having a day job (and none other than Harlan Ellison agrees). You gain valuable life experience, etc.

In our case, when I decided over 15 years ago that I was dropping the distractions of working outside the home, my wife was the biggest supporter of this decision. We've pinched pennies and cut our lives back to the bare minimum so that we can live on virtually one income--though more money has come in of late because of film rights (just in time to save our overdrawn butts).

We've never considered writing a selfish endeavor on my part--it's my identity. I've never missed a day's work and never allow myself to "float". I'm a focused, intense person and will always be thankful that I have a spouse who is my greatest fan, number one reader and best friend.

Oct 3, 2007, 5:46 pm

There are those who offer their works for free online and a published book for sale simultaneously, like David Wellington.

Edited: Oct 3, 2007, 6:10 pm

As a rule, I never presume to have knowledge of another's intentions or situation; my previous post pertains to my views regarding myself.

As I said, I love writing both fiction and non-fiction. Writing is a part of me, just like my love of maths, photography, reading etc. I do all these things for me; they make me happy. Even though I may dedicate a thesis or piece of fiction to a loved one; the creation of that piece of work was ultimately done out of my own personal desire to create, motivated by nothing more than wanting to express my mind. When writing, it is just the page and I; it is a selfish and beautiful thing. I do not think there is anything wrong with my creative endeavors being selfish, but keeping those endeavors firmly implanted in a list of priorities is important to me. While I love to write and create it is not number one on my priority list; this is a commentary on me and no one else. Everyone has different priorities. It's one thing that makes us unique from one another, and I do not believe in the idea of there being 'good' and 'bad' lists of priorities.

Oct 3, 2007, 6:16 pm

I concur. Live a good, happy life and die leaving the world a better place.

Follow your bliss and best to you.

Edited: Oct 5, 2007, 4:27 pm

I think the be paid or be read question actually sets up a false choice, though it's an extremely interesting question.

Being paid supports being read. In our culture, money represents value. It's an imperfect representation, and I personally feel a lot of what people pay money for is valueless or worse. Still, people don't pay money for something they think is valueless. Paying money for writing reflects a judgment publishers and readers make about the value of an author's work. I'm not interested in being read by people to whom my writing means nothing; if my writing means nothing to them, why should they read it, and why should I want them to read it? There is certainly a value in writing as therapy, to understand oneself and work through various psychological issues, and I'm not denigrating the practice of writing for purposes other than publication. But the question was whether people would prefer to be paid or to be read. To the extent I want to be read, I also want to write well enough and about issues that are important enough that people will find my work of enough value that they are willing to pay to read it (or to support libraries that will pay to put my work on their shelves).

Oct 5, 2007, 11:34 pm

I think the 'paying' part might only be incidental to getting a wider audience for stories for some people. Supposedly, if it works right, by 'renting' the story to a publisher for a set amount of time, that publisher will get it to a larger audience than the person could do by himself.

It doesn't always work as well as it should, but in theory it's a good plan.

Oct 6, 2007, 10:38 pm

Nothing in life works as well as it ought to!

Oct 7, 2007, 2:17 am

Alas, so true!

Oct 7, 2007, 4:17 am

Writing (both fiction and non-fiction) is something I do because I get a lot of pleasure from it. I get even more pleasure from seeing it published, and more still from getting favourable feedback from readers. I'm in the fortunate position of not needing to make money from it, so the income is just a bonus for me.

My non-fiction is far more profitable than my fiction; the two publishing worlds are in different galaxies ;-)

Oct 8, 2007, 1:15 am

Yes, my non-fiction pays more, too. If I wrote primarily for income, I would give up on fiction altogether.

Oct 8, 2007, 9:08 am

Oh, maaaan.... *groan*

(First book, non-fiction, came out a year and a half ago. It made a whopping... eh... 900 bucks, roughly. Second book, fiction, due to be published in november...)


I thought I was going to make it this time!

31CrazyMary First Message
Oct 8, 2007, 4:22 pm

You really can't be paid without being read, but if the choice were viable then being read would win out.

Edited: Oct 8, 2007, 4:48 pm

being paid. i let people i know read for free, but when the time comes if it ever does, yeah, i'll want them to buy the damn book.

Oct 16, 2007, 10:37 am

Being read, for me. Most published authors make squat anyway, so you need a day job to support the habit. If you're read widely enough, there's a chance word of mouth will kick in. The more readers the longer your career will last.