Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Deal with Writers Effectively in One Easy Lesson

That’s right, if you are a publisher, anthologist, or anyone else who frequently enters into business transactions with writers but often finds them problematic, I am going to tell you how to deal with writers effectively in just one easy lesson made up of two simple, single-syllable words.


There seems to be a great deal of confusion about writers. Some people seem to believe that a business transaction with a writer operates under entirely different rules than all the other business transactions they enter into every day of their lives. This can be cleared up very easily with two more simple words:


This is how business transactions work:

1.) Someone provides a service or product in exchange for a fee.

2.) You need that service or product.

3.) You pay the fee, you get the service or product.

That’s how it works. That’s how it works everywhere. That’s how it has always worked everywhere. If you can’t pay, there is a problem. The problem is that you can’t pay. The problem is NOT that the person who provides the service or product expects payment because, as I pointed out:


I’ve been a professional, full-time writer for 30 years. During that time, I have heard many brilliantly creative attempts to get around this fact. I’ve even been asked for work by people who have no intention of paying for it and don’t even offer a payment, people who seem incapable of understanding why a professional writer would find that insulting. After hearing all of these approaches enough times, they all begin to sound alike. They run together into a blur of toxic, squirming bullshit that amounts to something resembling this:

“But we’re giving you the chance to be published by us/appear in our anthology/be a part of our team/etc. We thought you would appreciate that. We’re giving you a tremendous opportunity here. We thought you would want to be a part of what we’re doing. We’d like you to be part of our family.”

First of all, I already have a family, and they fucked me up beyond repair. I don’t need another one. And if I decide to find one, I certainly won’t build it around a business transaction.

I’m not asking for any favors, so please don’t offer any, or worse, pretend that you’ve offered one when you haven’t.

No, you’re not giving me a tremendous opportunity if you expect me work for free. What you’re giving me is an unlubricated pineapple right up the anus. I don’t need one of those. I need to be paid for my work. That’s why I’m here.

There was a time in my life when I wrote constantly for my own pleasure. That was before I entered school and during the years I attended school. You’re a little late. You missed it. That time is over. Now I write for a different reason. I like to call that reason:


There are a lot of writers who do not write for a living. They do other things in addition to writing. Some have entire careers separate from their writing. This does not change a single thing. That writer still provides a service/product and the business transaction is still a business transaction and SHOULD be carried out like any OTHER business transaction.

Let’s say you have a car problem. You take the car to an auto mechanic. The mechanic finds the problem and fixes it. Then the mechanic expects to be paid. But you say, “Look, I’ve had a lot of mechanics work on my car over the years, and now you’re one of them. I appreciate what you’ve done, but I thought you would appreciate being a part of that family of mechanics who also have worked on my car. I’ve done many wonderful things in my car and it’s taken me to many wonderful places, and I thought it would be enough for you simply to be a part of that.”

There is a spectrum of responses you might get that would fall between the mechanic chuckling and saying, “You’re shittin’ me, right?” and the mechanic introducing the business end of a tire iron to your forehead. Nowhere within that spectrum would you find the response, “Okay, sounds good to me. Have a nice day!”

No one is stupid enough to try that — not unless they’re affiliated with a hidden camera prank show on TV. No one is stupid enough to think that a mechanic — or any other professional, for that matter — would accept that kind of insulting bullshit in lieu of payment. No one.

And yet this happens quite frequently to writers. These and other equally insulting and skull-crackingly stupid things are often said in an effort to talk a writer out of being paid and after a while, it can get kind of demoralizing. But you know what?


There’s a reason for this. A lot of people write. Among those people are many who have no self-respect, no confidence in their work, a streak of masochism, and no concern for things like quality, reputation or respect. They have one goal and one goal only, and that is to be published. They will do anything and accept any kind of treatment as long as it results in their name being printed on something somewhere that somebody might read. To them, the sensation of an unlubricated pineapple up the ass is the sound of opportunity knocking.

Those of us who think we’re pretty good at what we do and have some self-respect and would like to be shown some respect and even have a certain fondness for the idea of getting paid for our work have a message for those who fit that description:


We are sane enough, however, to know that’s not going to happen. But we remind those interested in entering into business transactions with writers: