1. friendly_meese
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    friendly_meese Member

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    readin' ritin' an' arithmetic

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by friendly_meese, May 8, 2014.

    Let me start off with a little anecdote that might seem off-topic. I spent some time working for a (relatively) reputable and honest content farm. Some of the clients were professional writers who would just paste their name on top of my article after perhaps editing it a bit to make it conform with their own voice. In nearly every case, my "research" consisted of five minutes of skimming a few websites and then b.s.ing so I sounded like an expert--which is something that I, as a natural writer of fiction, am excellent at, and which is a highly prized skill in content writing. As I did this work, I started to notice that various blogs, online magazine articles, and so on had the same feel as my content farm articles, and had almost certainly been content farmed by name-brand writers of nonfiction. Around the same time, a versatile published writer buddy of mine told me that, ever since it became common practice a few decades ago for name-brand novelists to publish a new book every year in order to sustain interest in the brand and maximize profit for the publisher, both writers and publishers have been employing ghostwriters in case the novelist suffers writer's block and can't meet deadline, or simply in case he wants a vacation.

    I wish I could say I stopped doing content work for ethical reasons, but the reality is far different. The work availability was poor and the pay terrible; in my busiest week I worked only about 20 hours and made only about $160. I also found out that the content farm was paying me $8 per article but charging the client $50. So I asked a buddy who has more than 10 years' experience selling his advertorial writing directly to clients on a freelance basis, how much he would charge for one of my articles. He read a few and said: "At least $50." The content farm was charging the going rate to clients because clients would have been suspicious if the work were offered too inexpensively, but they were maximizing profit by treating me like a galley slave. Even then, it's not so much that I refused to be exploited, as that I lost heart and couldn't summon even the minimal amount of enthusiasm to keep writing.

    Every profession is competitive, and nearly every profession is cutthroat, but the creative professions--music, film, television, theater, and, yes, writing--are psychopathically, bite-off-the-0ther-guy's-sweetmeats competitive. This is not surprising, as my educated guess is that there are tens of millions of publishable but still unpublished English-language writers, and the industry has the resources to publish very few of them each year. Self-interested industry insiders, who have something to gain from maintaining an insane buyer's market for fiction by sustaining the hopes of as many unpublished hopefuls as possible, and who always carefully conceal that self-interest in their public statements, have made ridiculous utterances such as: "writing is an inverted pyramid, because there's more room at the very good end than at the passable end." In fact, acquisition editors are so overworked that they have time only to glance at every third paragraph of a submission, for just a few pages, before deciding whether to bother reading it--which they don't in 99.999% of cases. Getting published has very little to do with hard work and improving your craft, and everything to do with the blind luck of having your manuscript seen by the right person at the right time. So what is better, grinding away at your craft for 20 years before you maybe get published for the first time, or buying a lottery ticket every week for the same 20 years? Your odds in the two cases are identical.

    No doubt some self-interested industry insider will respond to this with what amounts to damage control. I'm going to ignore them, and respond only to those who are obviously replying in good fairth.

    Oh, by the way, hi, I'm new here.

    Mickey
     
  2. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    First, welcome to the forum, Amigo! :) Warm cocoa welcomes to you.

    It sounds like you're trying to make a bad guy out of anorexic air, here.
    It's not ALL about blind luck. It's persistence:read: and hard work:write:... and yes some luck;).
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless my math is off, this would mean that they read only ten manuscripts per million received. I'm guessing that the proportion read is a little higher than that, if only because they probably read more than ten per year, and I very much doubt that they receive a million per year.
     
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  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Welcome to the forum. And may I say, that's a helluva first post. But it has left me very confused on a few things.

    Thing one:
    Is it your contention that your "content farm" was providing such services to "name-brand novelists"? And that you were so involved? That's a pretty juicy contention.

    Thing two:
    I would think that if they were simply "maintaining an insane buyer's market" (in economic terms, supply far exceeding demand), they wouldn't give a hairy rat's ass about the "hopes of unpublished hopefuls" (a phrase that strikes me as redundant). In a competitive market, doesn't demand always focus on higher quality for less money?

    Thing three:
    So, I take it that you've retired from writing to focus on success in the lottery. And you've joined the forum to advise all of us to do the same?

    I'll pass. A lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math because the payout rate never reflects the risk (odds of winning). The same cannot be said of writing, because the rewards of writing do not accrue solely in economic terms.
     
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