– by Devyani Borade
After all, money doesn’t grow on trees, right?
If only writers didn’t have to pay tax! Now that would maximize my meager earnings as a writer by as much as 20% – a significant growth indeed.
Luckily for us, though, there are some simple ways in which we can ensure that we are squeezing as much value out of the dollar as the law of the land will allow.
1. Stay away from non-paying markets
Bit obvious, really. It’s a lose-lose situation for you and a win-win situation for them, so why should you even bother with markets that cannot compensate you for your work? Forget the ‘for the love of literature’ and ‘amass glory and prestige’ rubbish. If you wanted that, you’d volunteer to be a Librarian or run for Mayor. Besides, neither love nor glory ever put food on the table or paid the bills. Ditch the deadbeat clients whose “cheque is in the post” or who are having “some minor trouble with their accounting system which will be resolved shortly” or whose “administrator has just left on maternity leave and a replacement hasn’t been found yet”. Instead, keep practicing your craft, honing your skills, and marketing your work; and you’re sure to find a good paying home for that story, even if it takes four months.
2. Ignore ‘exclusive submissions only’ requests
Life is too short to be making only two submissions per year. By all means be honest and inform the publication that you are making a ‘simultaneous submission’ but don’t hesitate to spread your net wide. There is a possibility you may receive offers one after the other and suddenly find yourself in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose your terms. Better a tough decision like that, than an easy one to wait and submit serially.
3. Submit electronically
I keep meticulous records. So I know that in the last five years that I have been writing professionally, I have made an average of 500 submissions every year to magazines across the world. That’s a total of 2500 submissions in my career so far. If I were to make all these submissions by post, I can’t even begin to imagine how much it would cost me in terms of time, postage and stationery, let alone effort of printing, mailing and self-addressing, not to mention the massive increase my carbon footprint! Save the trees. In this day and age, post is passé. Get with the times and submit electronically by email or online submission managers. Hopefully, eventually all publications will follow our lead and switch to accepting electronic submissions.
4. Like your cold cash comforts? Friends with PayPal? Take a rain check on cheques
This is especially true for people who work across borders. See if you can get paid in cash. Then the only chunk out of your earnings will be the international currency conversion rates. (People are usually hesitant to send cash in the post, though, and with good reason!)
The next best option is PayPal, who have a clear fixed fee structure and make transactions easy and quick. Here’s an insider tip: Ask the publisher if he can use the “Personal Transfer” option instead of the “Purchase” option to send you the money. The former is free for the recipient, so you won’t have to sacrifice any percentage of the payment to fill PayPal’s pockets, while in the latter PayPal charge a percentage of the transaction amount as their fee; that’s one of the ways how they make money for their business to grow.
Finally, if you must, opt for the humble and ubiquitous cheque. Your bank will bite a significant slice out of the income, but at least that is cheaper than two banks biting huge slices out of the income, at both ends, which is what usually happens if you choose wire transfers/BACS/direct electronic funds transfers and the like. And steer clear of being paid in vouchers and coupons. Not only may they be utterly useless for your purposes (think ‘$100 off on BabyNappies.com!’ to a pensioner) but they also have a nasty habit of lying forgotten until past their expiry dates. Here’s another handy tip: Shop around for the bank account that charges least for foreign cheque deposits. Sometimes it may be worth opening a new account in a bank that charges less, than staying with your current bank and pay more.
5. Swap complimentary copies, subscriptions and advertising space for cash
It’s nice to be offered ten complimentary copies. But after you’ve read one, and distributed another two, what do you need seven more for? Unless you intend to try palming them off (read ‘re-selling’) on the second-hand market, consider reducing the number of complimentary copies you receive in lieu of extra payment.
Similarly, unless you are an avid follower of cutting edge news from Nailclippers Inc. and contribute to them regularly, a free subscription won’t really make much of a difference in your life.
Advertisements are a shot in the dark. Some work well, while others sink without a trace.
The money, though, will come in handier every time.
6. Supply supplementary material
Do you have photographs that go nicely along with that story? Or perhaps you can do a decent turn with the drawing pencil and create some illustrations to compliment the text. Are there any experts you know who can lend weight to your article by providing interesting opinions and comments? Is there a leader in the field who you can interview? Can you lay your hands on graphs, charts and figures to back your report? If so, you have a potential lever to earn extra money for all this supplementary material.
7. Carefully consider the contract
Can you ask for payment for web archival rights separately, or is it bundled into your First Rights clause? Will your story be turned into an audio podcost for which you could charge more in terms of ‘electronic media’ rights? Does the market pay ‘kill fees’? Would you retain reprint rights? Is the contract for ‘exclusive’ use? Scrutinizing each contract you win pays off long-term and gives you insight into the various wheelings and dealings that go on in the publishing world. Be alert, keep your eyes and ears open and always check the contract for hidden opportunities.
8. Negotiate! Negotiate! Negotiate!
Nothing beats a little bit of spiffy negotiation. Never be shy to negotiate, you may just be surprised at how easily people can be persuaded to part with a bit more money. Provided you don’t overdo it, a little bit of haggling can produce wonderful results. See my article The Art of Negotiation for practical tips to negotiate for more money.
Use these tips to grow that bank balance a mite more and let your career flower!
Devyani Borade writes on the humor and pathos of everyday life. Her articles on the craft and business of writing draw on her own experiences in freelancing, and have been accepted or published by nearly all writing-related publications in the UK and USA. Visit her website Verbolatry at http://devyaniborade.blogspot.com to contact her and read her other work.