Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tuesday Tirade- On not getting paid.

If there's one thing about being a writer starting out in the modern age that kinda sucks it's the pay; by which I mean that there really isn't any.

I am generally comfortable with my role as a small fish in a big pond, but it really annoys me that people undervalue the hard work of people like myself that bust their fingers on their keyboard every day, trying to entertain the masses. Most people assume that I get paid well for my convention appearences, but I don't. I generally attend on my own dime in exchange for a place to sell my books and "exposure". I often just barely break even, but I justify it in newfound friends and networking opportunities. Sadly, this "exposure" is the case with authors way up the food chain from me as well, and it sometimes gives me pause about my chosen profession.

"Exposure". God, I hate that word with a passion that would give the devil blisters. Would you seriously look your mechanic in the face and tell him that you can't afford to pay him to replace your fuel pump, but he'll "generate great buzz" for doing it? Yet when I look for open calls to submit short stories and novels to, They generally only pay in "exposure" and copies. Not a lot of copies either... I generally get two books each time I publish.

My wife and I often talk about the financial viability of my career. It comes up at least once every six months or so, and it's always a very difficult conversation to have. We sit there and do the numbers, and more often than not, it works out that my writing and speaking career is sustaining itself, but not actually turning a profit. For a few months after these conversations, when I get approached about submitting to a new anthology, or writing a screenplay for a local filmmaker, I'll ask how much I can expect to be paid.

I swear, you would think I just asked them to sacrifice their first born on an altar to Zenu by their reactions. It just makes me want to grab them by the throat and explain to them that THEY approached ME because they see talent there, (or a skill they themselves do not possess) or they would just write it themselves. I really don't see why I should be considered greedy or a sellout for expecting to be paid for what I bring to a project.

okay... this is getting a little intense, and I'm not done. here's a picture of a baby hippo to help us all relax a little:
You see, all of this is leading up to the fact that I would like to be a card carrying member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, a guild that looks out for Sci-Fi authors, and mentors and advocates for its members. They host the Nebula awards each year, and it's a pretty big deal. Here are their membership requirements: (from http://www.sfwa.org/about/join-us/sfwa-membership-requirements/)

To become an Active member of SFWA, applicants must demonstrate either:
  1. Three Paid Sales of prose fiction (such as short stories) to Qualifying Professional Markets, with each paid at the rate of 5¢/word or higher (3¢/word before 1/1/2004), for a cumulative total of $250, minimum $50 apiece; or
  2. One Paid Sale of a prose fiction book to a Qualifying Professional Market, for which the author has been paid $2000 or more; or
  3. One professionally produced full length dramatic script, with credits acceptable to the Membership Committee.
Even though I have two novels and four sold and published short stories, I do not qualify for for membership because I haven't earned enough. The thing is, many of the smaller presses that will take submissions from a small fish like myself can't pay that much or aren't considered a 'qualifying market'. The larger ones won't even look my way until I have more serious publishing cred. It a classic catch-22 of you need to be a well known author to make a sale, but you're not a well known author until you've made a sale. Either way, until you're in the inner sanctum, SFWA doesn't want to know you.

I suppose I'm not much of a joiner anyway... but it would be nice to be able to say my writing pays a bill once a month.

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