Right. Well, right and wrong, of course.
[Edited: I should point out that this idea itself should be treated with suspicion. Validation does not make you a writer, and publication is entirely irrelevant to being an artist. If you write and consider yourself a writer, be proud of that. At the same time, I don't want to ignore the fact that there is very much a widespread idea that being accepted and distributed earns you your 'writing stripes'. To each their own - just don't let the glamour of pub. blind you to whether it's actually good for you.]
There's an old adage that money should always go towards the writer - but in the modern world of e-publishing and e-anthologies, is this so hard and fast anymore? Aren't there times when a writer can, quite validly, pay something - an entrance fee, for example - and still feel like everything's legit?
|The Destruction of Old Money|
The idea that money should always go towards the writer and never, ever away is a good thing, and a simple way of espousing the overall philosophy that writing is a profession you should be paid fairly for - while at the same time issuing a warning to new writers about vanity publishers and downright charlatans who will steal from you, knowing that being 'published' will blind many artists to the reality of what's happening.
Again, it's a Good Thing. New writers need warning, and sometimes people in general need to remember that fiction isn't always a hobby, and you can't expect freebies if you want quality and professionalism.
But then ... if you want to be a writer, you have to be willing to make some sacrifices and some investment. Money should go towards the doctors, too, but that doesn't mean they don't spent thousands of pounds getting their medical degrees. Money should go towards electricians, but they still spend their own money getting extra certifications and licences if it'll move them up a rung. Writers can't be too precious about this. The key word here is investment. So, actually, sometimes the money does need to go away from the writer.
Bye bye, money! For now.
Entrance fee to a competition? Pay it. What is it - £5? $15? You'd spent that on lunch without thinking. Don't be stingy and get suddenly protective because you've misunderstood the idea behind the writer / money flow. Overall - and especially from large and established publishers buying novels - yes, you should make money. But when you're building a future career, making contacts, getting your name out - no, it doesn't just happen with no costs at all. Network. Go to conferences. Spend yo' dosh on things you believe in.
You're essentially starting a business of one, self employed to write. Businesses have start up costs. Buy The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook. Pay to enter stories. Even pay for editing if the company is legit and well known. (Don't pay agents, and don't pay publishers. These rules are hard and fast).
Now, I mentioned caveats above, and here they are. If you're paying a few quid/bucks/yen to enter a short story, you can reasonably expect clear and open communication about:
- What winning will mean
- Who's judging
- What publication will look like - rights, formats, time-frame
- When winners will be announced
- Compensation - prize / complimentary copies / other
If this information isn't available, I'd be wary. If it is, and you think winning / being shortlisted / being published will boost your resume, your confidence, and your name as a writer - pay up.
So, there you go. Thoughts on money and how it sometimes does go both ways for writers. Agree? Disagree? Let me know. Let's keep the conversation going.