The first check I received for writing fiction amounted to $5. I didn’t cash it. It’s in a frame. Look! I got paid! I was so proud of that first check. My wife and I went out to dinner to celebrate. A sale!
Since then, I’ve published a number of short stories in a number of anthologies and online. I’ve got a number more on the way that I’ll announce as soon as I’m able. At the beginning of this process, I was thrilled to get $5. I mean, I’m getting paid for plunking down words on a page? Someone thinks my writing is worth something? Sweet!
Now, I still get a kick out of getting paid for creating worlds. That said, I’ve found that I’m pickier about where I send my stories. When a story gets bought, I’m happy, but we don’t go out for dinner to celebrate too often anymore. Am I a snob? Or am I finding my feet and figuring out my worth?
Am I a snob? Signs say yes:
- A lot of magazines and anthologies pay what they’re able. If they pay $5, it’s because it’s what they can afford. Am I too good for them?
- Not many places have paid me professional rates yet, though many have paid more than that $5. Is my writing not that good?
- Many other writers are content to be paid $5. Do I think I’m better than them?
- But I keep getting rejections for other stories, too!
Am I figuring out my worth? Signs say yes:
- I have been paid more than $5 repeatedly for stories. That tells me someone thinks my writing is worth that much!
- If I was paid hourly, $5 for a story would be $1 an hour or less. My time is worth more than that, isn’t it?
- My writing is good enough that people are willing to pay to read it. If they’re willing to pay, then I should receive that pay.
But here’s the bottom line: If I want to use my writing to support my family and my insanity of children, I need to get paid enough to put food on the table. I can’t do that with $5 stories.
Is my writing that good? At least some editors think so. Does that mean I don’t need to improve? Oh, I still need to improve! I need to grow in my abilities. I need to match what editors are looking for. I need to write what people are buying.
Am I a snob? Perhaps.
But I’m also figuring out my worth. And as I continue to write more and increase the quality of my writing, I hope the worth of that writing continues to increase!
So for now, I tend to submit stories to places that pay better than that first place I got published. I have no ill will toward places that pay less. Like I mentioned, most of those places are labors of love and the editors pay what they’re able! But for me, I’m aiming to make more with my stories. I hope they’re worth it!