Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dear Mike: How do I make more money with my stories?

Mike: First thing you need to know is this: It's absolutely imperative that you at least attempt to increase your pay rate, slowly but surely.

Remember rhat while writing is a passion it’s should also a business. Most writers, unfortunately, are artists first and foremost, if not completely, and have zero business sense.

As a result, they get so caught up in the struggling artist syndrome that they sometimes never escape it, dooming their careers to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Mt advice: Hire someone to represent you, which is nearly impossible when you’re starting out, or simply take a class in the art of negotiations or read a book on the subject (Herb Cohen’s “You Can Negotiate Anything" and "Negotiate This" are wonderful).

One time, at a national publication, I broke all kinds of ground and became the highest paid freelancer in its history.

Believe me, it wasn’t easy.

They desperately TRIED to NOT pay me so much.

And by my last contract with them, they played the hardest of hardball, told me they couldn’t afford to pay another dollar more. My answer: Okay, then, I’ll write LESS WORDS but for the SAME MONEY.

Know what happened?

Shock of shocks: They agreed!

Lesson: In negotiations, you always need to have an answer prepared in advance, solid replies waiting to be pulled from your back pock. I predicted their tactic and had a reasonable response.

Understand that you and the editor are at opposite ends. He or she is trying to pay you the least amount of money for the most amount of work; your job is to get paid the most for the least.

One Suggestion: Always ask for more. No matter what’s offered, act mildly disappointed, then ask for SLIGHTLY more. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Most of the time, you’ll get rewarded with a slightly higher offer.


You must give your editors great work, something irreplaceable. Individual. Unique. Dazzling.

Do all that and you’ll get paid what you're worth - or at least reasonably close.

On the other hand, if an editor can get the same thing from another writer and pay less, believe me, they’ll go to that other writer.

That’s just good business.

So knock ‘em dead with your stuff and ask for the world.

Good luck!

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Mary Moss said...

Great advice, Mike. This is a hard thing for writers to "get." Several of us in leadership of my Christian Writer's group recently met to plan out our year and this is one of the topics I brought up - how to help writers understand that writing is a business.

As always, appreciate your insights.

JaxPop said...

I read Herb Cohens "You Can Negotiate Anything" at least 20 years ago. It's a really great book. I particularly remember the advice to make the seller invest time so they're more desperate when you begin to walk away. Also liked the example of the appliance salesman that gave away a "free" gallon of ice cream - buyer had to return home 'cause it would melt, thereby eliminating the competition.

Got off track - sorry. Bottom line is: If you don't value your work, why would anyone else? Give something away? There are always takers.

Good Post.