Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I Want More Peanuts!

I have been contributing regularly to a magazine for about a year. It pays me the least of any other publications to which I contribute, but I love it the most. Right now, they pay me about one peanut. I'd like to ask for two peanuts. How do I go about this professionally and in the right way with the editor? Can I even go there?

Yes! You can and should go there, in fact. But asking for a raise seems like one of the most daunting things that we do, right? I mean, it's one of those pulse-pounding sweat-inducing tasks that we put off at all costs. Why? Because we're so grateful that someone is handing us work that we don't want to seem ungrateful, nor do we want to offend the person offering said work.


Here's the thing: in any job, you'd get raises as time goes on and after you've proven yourself a valuable commodity. Writing is no different. If you feel that you deserve a raise, well, then figuratively march yourself into your boss's/editor's office and ask for one.

Here are some tactics as to how to go about it:

1) Say something like: "You know how much I enjoy writing for you. However, I earn more money writing for your competitors and was hoping that we could discuss a boost in my rate."

2) Be prepared with a number to offer. I think the best tactic to do so is to figure out how much you need or want to earn per hour for each article, and then suggest the word rate that will get you there.

3) Be kind and gracious yet still professional and firm. One of the best negotiating tips that I've read said, "Pretend that you're negotiating on behalf of a friend. You'd never allow her to get paid poorly, so do everything for yourself that you'd do for her."

4) Don't take it personally or worry that you'll be fired for asking for a boost. Most editors are actually PREPARED to raise rates if they can - the author just has to ask. And if they like you, they sure as hell aren't going to ditch you for asking. They might not be able to raise your rate, but seriously, you'll almost NEVER lose the job just for asking...and if you *do* lose a gig over getting money that you deserve, is this really an outlet you want to be associated with? (Other readers can chime in here to agree with me!)
So, those are my thoughts. Other writers out there who ask for raises, how do you go about it?


Patti said...

I haven't yet, but this advice is sound in the world of business.

Anonymous said...

Allison, a related question:

I'm an aspiring literary novelist, and have been for many years. All this time, I've also been freelancing unrelated (and un-literary) nonfiction work, both in the form of books (low-paying) and magzine articles (high-paying).

My freelance work has been just a job to me -- I've mastered it enough to do it half-asleep, but I only do enough to keep the bills paid and buy time for my "real" work that I put everything into.

Now that I'm selling my novel, I feel ready to show my "real" self to the world, and never again go back to those nonfiction articles I only did for money. So I've begun to sell some of my short stories, but while I regularly got 4-digit sums for nonfiction magazine features, I'm discovering that magazine and web outlets don't seem to pay much at all for serious fiction.

What should a writer in my position do to shift successfully to fiction?

Jenny said...

Great thoughts here. Amen!