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How to Deal with Writers Effectively in One Easy Lesson

16 March 2012

From author Ray Garton:

That’s right, if you are a publisher, anthologist, or anyone else who frequently enters into business transactions with writers but often finds it 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 27 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.

. . . .

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:


. . . .

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.”

Link to the rest at Preposterous Twaddlecock and thanks to Kat for the tip.

The Business of Writing

17 Comments to “How to Deal with Writers Effectively in One Easy Lesson”

  1. I like this guy…

    • You obviously don’t know how much work an agent and publisher does. They need to be paid first and better. For without them, where would writers be? 🙂

      • Perhaps you are missing the fact that no one said these people should not be paid for their services. People are saying authors should be paid for theirs. And while we’re at it, let’s flip that question of yours. Where would agents and editors be without authors?? EVERYONE should be paid for their hard work.

        • Sarcasm. Look it up. 😉

          • Okay. I’ll admit two things. One, I don’t need to look up sarcasm, as I’ve got a pretty good grasp. Second, I did indeed miss his sarcasm. I think this is because I’ve been on a few blogs where someone made a statement just like that and they were very serious, so past experience worked against me on this one. So at this point, I’m laughing at myself. 🙂

  2. Harlan Ellison said something very, very similar. (Search YouTube for “Harlan Ellison pay the writer” to see the full, awesome, rant.) Ray Garton had better watch out, Ellison loves to sue people for plagiarizing.

  3. Yeah, I like Ray, too. Excellent writer as well. I’m going to blow our mutual horns and mention that we’re in an anthology together. I’ve since become a fan of his work and straight speaking!

  4. Amen! And writers should be smart and not work for anyone who has a history of stiffing people!

  5. Very good post. I remember Harlan Ellison did a vlog about something like this a while back, during the Hollywood writer’s strike. It’s what convinced me not to be one of those new writers that accept the ‘for exposure’ line.

    I’m yet unpublished but I want to someday make a living on writing. If I wanted to write just to be read, I’d write fanfic.

  6. I’ve noticed this can be a similar issue in the art world. I think that a lot of it stems from people thinking that it’s not “real” work. I mean, we just do it because we enjoy it, right? It’s not like you have to do math or something “hard.” Anybody can write or do art. I mean they teach you to do it in grade school. The amount of work and skill required to write or do artwork is so entirely divorced from the actual life many people have they really don’t have any concept of how hard it is. So they can’t put a value on it.

  7. I’ve been a professional writer for about the same length of time and I have to say I’ve never experienced that.

    I’ve done almost every kind of professional writing including copywriting, speech writing, script writing, brochure writing, writing press releases, writing web content, writing case studies, writing chapters for books, writing short stories and of course journalism.

    In all that time I have always been paid. Indeed I have only ever had one really late payment (8 months late). The person never tried to deny they owed me the money and assured me they would send it to me as soon as they had it. When they did finally send it they added an extra amount for loss of interest.

    Otherwise I have had people pay me within days or within a couple of weeks and they have never – apart from the example above – kept me waiting longer than about 10 weeks, with the vast majority of them paying within a month.

    I did have one person approach me with an idea for a book that he wanted me to write and then we could both share the profits, but I immediately informed him I don’t work on that basis.

    Maybe I’m just lucky. Maybe I just chose the right people to work for. I have no idea why our two experiences should be so different, but they obviously are.

    • Mr. Garton is a well-known and prolific horror novelist who has no doubt experienced many horrors while caught in the coils of traditional publishing.

      Milton, have you had the fiction-writer-with-trad-pub experience? My guess is THAT’S the experience Mr. Garton is writing to.

      And awesome for you for taking the paths as a writer that DO make you a living. Unlike fiction (at least for many people and until quite recently…)

      • Maybe that’s the answer, Anthea.

        I’ve mostly written non-fiction and perhaps the attitudes to writers are different in the fiction market.

        Thanks for explaining.

  8. *giggles*

    If I’m writing free, it’s a drabble, a gift for a friend, fanfic, or all of the above. It’s not a business transaction.

    Anyone who wants something that is not a drabble… and they’re not a really close friend…


    I love that phrase.

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