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  1. Sarah's Mom
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    Sarah's Mom Member

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    On Getting Paid to Write

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Sarah's Mom, Jan 1, 2011.

    I think I said in my "hello" post that I had been paid to write most of my life. A couple people have PMed me for details, but I don't PM too much. I was going to do a blog post, but then I thought that it might make a good thread, the stories of how those who have been paid to write got there. Might be of help to those still trying.

    I have a big personal investment in online anonymity, so I'm going to couch this in generalized terms. But the process is all that matters, really. I hope some others will come and add their stories.

    About me: At this point in my life, on the far side of 60, all my income above retirement money, comes from writing. (It just occurred to me, I've been getting paid to write for over 40 years now. huh) But I was not a professional writer as my main occupation for the most part. I am just a writer. That means I have to write. It's compulsive.

    1st sale: I was quite surprised one day when I was about 22 to receive a large envelope with a copy of a magazine and a check do for $25 (pretty good in the early 1970s!) and a letter inviting me to submit again. I was surprised because I had never submitted at all. The church secretary took one of my poems, sent it to a national Christian publication and voila! My first sale. I was mad about the invasion of my space and happy to have the $. It was very cool to see my name in print the first time.

    Around that same year, a fairly well-known novelist who wrote counter-culture stuff, hosted a contest for his next book which would comprise true stories from readers about how his previous books impacted their lives. $5000 split ten ways. Well, if you think $25 was a lot of money, $500 was a fortune. I submitted and won. I got the check, no book. I bought a refrigerator. I found out a couple decades later the book had come under separate cover, my ex-husband opened it, put it away and still has it! Still, it was a very nice refrigerator.

    Most of my paid writing derived from my jobs. I was paid to create an Annual report. I wrote a series of children's plays for a church organization. I wrote a booklet that condensed a lot of information in a specialized field for a Professor to use in classes when I was in college. I edited a union newspaper. I have twice been a regular columnist, once on women's issues, once on game strategy. I've written two non-fiction books, one made some money and people are still buying it. I made $10 on that one the other day. (Shopping for my yacht next week-end!) I once was paid to write lyrics for a song. I wrote advertising for a couple local businesses. I wrote for a trade magazine. I wrote a couple scripts that got some attention, but they only bought the story idea of one, turned it into a TV series, screwed up my concept and got themselves cancelled. I was pretty mad they didn't bring me on for the project and took a lot of petty satisfaction in their failure.

    There's probably other stuff, I don't remember. I wrote a lot of church stuff I never asked for payment for, but they'd cut me a check once in a while, anyway. One thing I was very proud of I never got paid for. I was approached out-of-the blue by our citiy's major paper to submit an opinion piece. Cool. I didn't, I was too busy, but it was wonderful to be asked.

    Getting paid to write has always been incidental to my life. I had a couple different professions that were great fun for me, interesting and challenging, and never wanted the grind of being a full-time professional writer. I've been offered a lot more writing gigs than I ever accepted. I've taught writing, coached writers, and gotten to the point I don't mention writing in my normal social interactions to avoid the baggage that comes with it.

    Of course, when I was young I was quite excited when I'd be paid to write. I dreamed of being a rich famous writer. For a few months. It just wasn't for me.

    In the end, I guess what I would say to young writers is: learn to do what you love well and then take opportunities that arise. To me, being a writer is like being a carpenter: You tell me what you want made, and I'll put it together for you.

    So, who else here gets paid to write and how did that happen for you?
     
  2. Mister Cheech
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    Mister Cheech Member

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    OMG: It's Michiko Kakutani, in the digital flesh!
     
  3. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    I once won $70 dollars for an article I submitted in a contest. I sold a couple hundred copies of a self-published work way back in another life when I thought I was going to be a professional public speaker. But I have never made money on any work of fiction as of yet.

    But my mind has changed a little over the years. I don't want to be a traditionally published author anymore. I really don't think there's any money to be made in it anymore, at least not compared to what I make in my day job.

    What I want is to write quality stories, novellas, and novels and offer them up for free on my website, or as a free, well-published, Kindle download, and if they are good, perhaps I'll get compliments on them. That's the reward I am looking for these days. For someone, a stranger, to e-mail me one day and say, "I just finished reading such-and-such, and I really liked it," that's would be my goal.

    One day, perhaps, I'll get a movie deal out of one of them. Who knows? I suppose that would be the jackpot.
     
  4. Sarah's Mom
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    Sarah's Mom Member

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    I want to read one! Link? Can we do that? You could PM me. I think online is the only way to go with this anymore. Enough with the denuded forests.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    When my two children, one of whom has autism, the other of whom is learning disabled, were growing up, my wife and I were heavily involved in advocacy work on special education issues. I wrote several op-ed pieces for Newsday, which is the daily paper on Long Island. I never got paid for any of them (not monetarily, anyway - the exposure paid very rich dividends in terms of policy goals), but I was invited to write an article for the New York State United Teachers, the teachers' union's state organization, for their monthly magazine. Got paid $25 for it.

    So far, that's the extent of my writing earnings. But I haven't given up, yet.
     
  6. Florent150
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    Florent150 Member

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    oooooookaaaaaaaaay dude :p I would rather have the big check :D
     
  7. finchgeam
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    finchgeam Member

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    I just recently discovered that I had been mentally going into a deep depression and was unaware that I was suicidal. I had wasted 6 years that I had been able to write. I got fat, lazy and only watched tv and thought my life was going nowhere. Now, after having an intervention, self-help and reading Stephen King's On Writing, I feel great and am back on my feet. So for now, I'm writing short stories, and sent them to a couple of e-magazines. Not really for any fame or money but for the feeling of having your name printed and being able to say, I'm a published short story writer.

    But the most money I made from writing, I would say was 0$.
    Things will pick up soon, I have nothing but time.
     
  8. Pook
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    Pook Member

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    O Rly?

    I think there is.
     
  9. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's all relative. I never wrote to make money. For one thing, I wrote for years without even sharing the writing, let alone having the courage to send it off into the world.

    Ironically, my Italian teacher entered a piece I wrote in Italian into a contest and I ended up taking first prize. First prize was a scholarship worth NZ$ 1500, which seemed a fortune for me at the time, especially since I didn't know about the whole thing and was more than shocked I won.

    From then on really, I felt much freer to share both my music and writing. But I don't take it as a given by any means that I will live completely off of either of these things anytime soon.

    I see at the moment the hard work writers go through. My cousin is both a traditionally published, and now also self-published writer/ professional illustrator, and it's been a learning curve to watch her progress from the side lines over the years. But we're keeping on and are working together on some projects.

    It's a long road sometimes, but nothing worth having comes easily...
     
  10. Sarah's Mom
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    Sarah's Mom Member

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    I don't usually respond to hit and run posts, but in this case...

    Writing is highly romanticized in the minds of most people who have any sort of ability and innate drive. The fact is, most professional writers are like me. They just do more of it. I've been paid to write all my life. I still am. Being professional at anything is a lot of hard work. You have to take yourself and to your craft seriously. You have to work hard. You have to be educated in language and grammar, whether formally or self-taught.

    What is not going to happen is: no one is going to suddenly discover you, wonderful you, and your fabulous talent and offer you a huge pile of $ to write.

    Try this. Figure out how many posts you have made to message boards in the last year and the average post count and multiply. A lot of you will find out you already wrote a book.

    I suggest respecting anyone who actually has gotten paid to write, regardless of how large or small the payment. It means they have produced something of value to another through a craft you are still trying to master. And if you have been paid to write, no matter how small the amount, be very proud. Possibly 1-4% of the participants of any writing forum have actually been paid for their product.

    As for the Michiko Kakutani crack: I am both older and taller than she.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    after i decided i had to be 'a writer' at the ripe old age of 41-ish, i started a business as a 'writing consultant' to help along the income while i was writing my own stuff... so for up to $150/hour back in the early 80s, i wrote anything that took words for anyone with the money to pay me for them... that included advertising copy & 'killer' dunning letters [to donald trump & joan rivers, among other deadbeats]; helping a masters-degreed educator write an application essay for her doctoral program then teaching her how to write her doctoral thesis; analyzing would-be writers' hopeless novels/whatevers and showing them how to do it right... and just about anything else that took words...

    in re work of my own, i had stories/poems published [by paying venues] was commissioned by pres. of MCI, NY to write the theme song lyrics for his b'way musical [sadly, it bombed on opening night]... originated & wrote a regional magazine's column for singles; edited magazines; etc., ad infinitum [all for pay]... up to 1995, when i gave up writing for money, along with all my worldly goods, and started doing all of that for free...
     
  12. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Thank you for asking, but no, not yet. I actually do have a website that I'm constructing; it's a combo site for me and my wife. She's an artist (she paints), and I write. The idea is that as I am out in the online world attracting people to my writing, they will come to the site and also see her work. As she's out there promoting her work, it will bring people to the site and they might take a look at my work. We call it The Gordon Composition. But that's a few months down the road yet.

    I do have a short story that is nearly complete, and I will be posting it in this forum for a review. I'm in that final editing stage where one looks very closely at how the sentences sound and flow together, trying to keep down alliterations or echos, that sort of thing, and of course a thorough line edit for punctuation and grammar. It's very tedious work at this stage of the game. I'm sure you know what I mean.

    I'd ask to read some of your writing, but I know you're trying to stay anonymous online.
     
  13. Sarah's Mom
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    Sarah's Mom Member

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    I do. Don't overwork it!

    I put a poem in the Christmas poem contest.
     
  14. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    I look forward to reading it. I went to there just now, but they don't seem to have those up at this time, or am I missing it?
     
  15. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    I'm right there with you Ed!

    It would be great to get paid, but my prime desire is to entertain.
     
  16. Sarah's Mom
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    Sarah's Mom Member

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    Here ya go, post #5.
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=36339
     
  17. cookie
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    cookie New Member

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    I was a Police Officer in England for 9 years and all I did was write everyday.

    Reports about nothing of any value mostly, we love a bit of bureaucracy in Britain.

    Anyhow they gave me a pay CHEQUE :)p) at the end of every month despite never contributing anything worthwhile in a crime detection sense so I suppose I can say I was paid to write.
     
  18. Allegro Van Kiddo
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    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

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    Aren't those reports good the court to look at if the person commits another crime? But, I know what you mean. I've written countless documents that I'm sure no one has read or ever will. But, it gave me a lot of practice writing factual stories, so it was worth it.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you hope to have it published some day, do NOT post any more than a brief excerpt anywhere on the internet... there are many threads here explaining why...

    btw, you can read all of my essays and 'philosetry' and other stuff any time you want... just go to my website and browse to your heart's content... you'll find one short story among the essays, titled 'top dogs and bottom feeders'... and bits of a couple of novels in the 'other works' section of 'writings'...
     
  20. TokyoVigilante
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    TokyoVigilante Member

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    I copy down open-ended answer questions in telephone surveys. Trying to copy down exactly the way people talk (we're required to. Company policy) can be a mind boggling task. But i guess I've grown more familiar with how people talk, as a result.
     

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