I’m doing my best to stop this post from turning into a rant! I understand that magazines have, like, no budget these days and that writers are the bottom of the heap because, obviously, we just love writing so much we don’t really care about being paid, do we? But an email from an editor of a magazine got me so so slightly peeved this morning.

Apparently the editors of this mag are impressed with my work and would like me to join their team. So far so good. Unfortunately the position doesn’t pay. Am I interested in writing for them? I should point out here that this mag is not a fiction mag and they were offering me a ‘position’ that would involve me being sent writing assignments which I would have four days to complete… for no pay…I am struggling to see what would be in this for me, other than the love of writing.

I know everybody has to work for free sometimes. My sister, who is a nurse, works millions of hours for free because, as she rightly points out, you can’t walk out the door when someone is in pain or dying just because your shift is up. Slightly different situation I know, but still the point is everyone has to do a certain amount of work for no pay. I know this, and I accept it. I do lots of it. I write fiction for free all the time. When it comes to promoting a book there are hours of unpaid work that has to be done, and I don’t mind as there is a point in sight. The hope is you will sell more books, and in turn get paid. But for some reason the idea that writers want to be paid for what they do appears to be a bit of a touchy subject. There are people who seem to think that writing should be its own reward and that we should all be so grateful to be published that we shouldn’t really need the money as well. Unfortunately when you have bills to pay etc that idea doesn’t really work out. A lot of writers have day jobs. I used to have one of those and spent my time dreaming about what I would write in my time off only to find that I was so knackered and had so much ironing etc to do in my time off that I never wrote at all. Still, most writers need some sort of alternative income. Ben Myers stated in his blog one day (brilliant blog by the way http://www.benmyersmanofletters.blogspot.com) that he sells about 10% of what he writes and regularly has to flog his possessions in order to make ends meet.

You might be wondering why we bother, and sometimes I do too. But the short answer to that is – What else would we do? What else can we do? And we love writing. If we didn’t, there’d surely be no one left still doing it!

Years ago when I worked that day job in a bookshop we had an authors event for school kids one day, as we often did. All the kids always want to know how much writers get paid. It’s the first, and usually most embarrassing to answer, question asked. One of the writers that day boldly answered with ‘around ten thousand pounds a year’ all the kids went ‘wooo!’ thinking this was a massive amount of money. The writer quickly added ‘go home and ask your dad how much he gets paid.’

The figure for most writers is well under that though. The average earnings of writers in the UK is four thousand pounds a year. Pretty grim. So obviously it irks us a bit when yet another publication cheerily explains that they have no budget, but they can give you a byline. Or when an editor fails to mention the lack of funds till the last minute and then offers the compensation ‘it’s great exposure.’

The truth is, exposure isn’t hard to gain these days for writers, but money is.

p.s. sorry, that was a rant, wasn’t it?