Do you actually value your writing?

Recently we have been talking about how you value your writing. This discussion has mostly been in our Facebook group but I recently put the question out on twitter too.

Opinions on valuing your writing

Opinion seems to be split along the following lines:

  • My writing is worth 1000s but I don’t get that
  • I give it away for free
  • The standard rate: 4p a word
  • Whatever I can get is enough
  • Hours of writing multiplied by basic minimum wage

That last one is my own thinking on the subject. Cost of your hours of writing plus the cost of running your computer plus the value of your ideas. I blogged about it on my personal blog – “Use maths to find your minimum price per story“.

On a similar note, it was recently reported that Ireland now allows writers a year on benefits (at a much higher rate than the UK) to develop their art. Do you think the UK should do the same?

Tweets about writing value

Ways to value your writing.

Treat your writing like a business

Something changes when you start to treat your writing as a business. You go from “this is my hobby” to “this is the value of my hobby”.

Bethany Cadman writes for, “Why You Need To Treat Your Writing Like A Business“.

To become more organized you need to have a plan. Start with your end goal and then work out the steps that you need to get you there.

These steps should make up your action plan, and from there you need to figure out how much time it will take you to complete each step, as well as the resources you need. Then you can create a realistic schedule and will know what you need to do and when from the very beginning.

Bethany Cadman, Why You Need To Treat Your Writing Like A Business

This is exactly the same point that I raised when I suggested writing a business plan for your writing. Know where you want to be and then plot the steps you need to take to get there.

Insist on being paid if money is being made

If my work is being used to extract monetary value from someone, somewhere, then I need to be paid. I don’t work for free, especially when someone else is attempting to gain a financial benefit from it.

John Scalzi, No, In Fact, You Should Not Write For Free

According to Scalzi, if anyone who is taking your writing is going to make any money from doing so, then you absolutely should be given a fair share.

Knowing how much your writing is work as a commercial offering is the first step in knowing how much money you should expect for commercial writing.

Pay yourself

The Wise Ink Blog has a post titled “How to Value your Writing“. The core idea presented in this post is that Jonathan Maberry’s writing process involves paying himself each day he writes. At the end of the week, that money is spent on something fun or enjoyable. Thus writing every day becomes something that he can look forward to.

You might like to try paying yourself for your own writing. That might mean that unless you sell your writing for more than you paid yourself, you were underpaid.

Track your hours

Freelancers – especially in the computer development sector – tend to track billable hours. Should you do the same, when you are paid for your writing you will know what your hours earning rate has been. You will also know how many ways you will need to sell that one work to earn a living wage.

Derek Murphy argues that writing is a business and if you fail at that business you only have yourself to blame. One of the things that I learned being self-employed was that unless I track my billable hours and find someone to pay me for them, I am just wasting my time. I wish I had learned that sooner it would have saved me a lot of early effort that went nowhere.

Yasmin Nair argues for that writers are exploited.

Writers are exploited. That won’t change until we acknowledge that writing isn’t a hobby or a passion — it’s a job.

Yasmin Nair, I’m a freelance writer. I refuse to work for free.

We will not, says Nair, change that until we start to treat writing not as a hobby but as a job. Tracking your hours is part of a job.

Not all pay is money

Some writing is paid not in money but in other forms. For example, your own blog is unlikely to pay you directly. However, if you invest in your blog it may build a platform that will sell your books. Thus the work you do is not free but an investment in future earnings.

The same is true of guest blogging. It only has value if it truly is an investment in growing your audience. Name “exposure” alone is worth very little. New readers, on the other hand, are potentially valuable.

We touch on this in: “Why you should (not) write for us“.

Learn who will value (need) your work

Jaimie Engle writes for about finding the true value of your book. Part of that is finding the niche that will metaphorically bite your hand off to get at your book.

If you can identify who is hungry for your work and frame it as meeting that need, you will sell and sell and sell.

Understand the rights attached to your work

When you sell writing to a publication you are selling a set of rights to reproduce your work.

For example, a UK based magazine will usually buy First British Serial Rights. That is the right to publish your work in a serial publication in the UK before anyone else. If you sell it again, you will be selling Second British Serial Rights. Second Serial is substantially less valuable – worth a tiny fraction of first serial rights.

You still own First American Serial Rights. You still own, First Irish Serial Rights. First Australian Serial Rights are still yours too. You get the picture.

The regional rights are wrapped up in World Serial Rights. Once you sell that, you lose all of the regional serial rights. This means that when you sell to a website, you give up any chance to sell to a magazine with that work.

If you are treating your writing as a business then you need to know about your rights and how to sell them (and in what order).

How do you value your writing?

  • How do you value your writing?
  • What is your ideal selling rate for your writing?
  • Is writing just a hobby for you?
  • Do you treat writing like a business?
  • Have you written a business plan for writing?
  • Do you agree with our take?
  • Is there anything you would add?

Use the comments to let us know your take on valuing your writing.

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