This money thing keeps rearing its ugly head. It’s one of those subjects like religion and politics I was taught not to speak about in polite company. But as we are all friends here and God knows none of us polite, and this money thing keep rearing its ugly head when it comes to this writing thing I am expounding on here, well, we are back to that money thing again.
This time though, I’m not complaining about not getting paid or paid too little for what we do, but I am railing against having to actually pay for what we do.
If you have ever been in/near/or even sniffed around your local rock and roll scene you’ll have heard the term ‘pay to play,’ It’s an hidden little nugget of the-way-of-the-game that bands just starting out (or even playing for a while with only local success) often have to guarantee a certain draw (people coming out to see them) so these people will buy tickets, booze, food at the venue, in effect, paying the band’s salary for the night. In some instances (and this is true, I swear it) a band has to pay money upfront to play a prestigious venue, and hope to get that fee back in tickets sales later. Or sometimes just pay outright with no percentage of the door, no money coming back at all.
The same happens for us scribes. We either ‘pay to play’ by enduring a trial period where we work for free with the supposed hope that come 3-6 months time our labors will be accessed and a possible salary given us (if we prove we are good enough) or we actually have to pay a fee to submit our work (I see this quite a bit with play submissions, the tariff a supposed “administration fee” for accepting the plays, running the theatre, etc.) Most striking to me in this built-on-a-house-of-cards-which-are-really-$20-dollar-bills petard was when I noticed that the venerable Writer’s Digest Fiction contest requires a fee to submit.
Yes, there is a $300 prize give to the winner (plus a few other goodies) but I say forget if WD is collecting a fee to afford the $300 then forget the $300 and let me submit with the chance of being published in the mag (which is one of the goodies.) Certainly they make the mag anyway, they wouldn’t need my fee for administration costs, would they? Or does running a contest require such added person hours that submitters’ fees covers the extra cost of paying people?
The rule of thumb when seeking an agent or manager is never pay anyone upfront for them attempting to exploit your talent. Agents and managers should make their percentage off of the work they get you. I’d say the same is true for us writers…do not work for free, but more than that, do not ‘pay to play,’ send someone money to either publish you or consider your work.