Elizabeth: Will Write for $$$

typewriter_moneyEarlier this week while surfing the internet aimlessly, I came across some writing posts that got me thinking.  In her recent Facebook post, author Elizabeth Gilbert, had this to say about creativity and money:

“Please understand that I have NOTHING against people wanting to make money out of their art. I always wanted to make money out of my art, I always strived to make money out of my art, and now I do make money out of my art, and I am grateful as hell. . . .The reason I always maintained other streams of income was because I never wanted to burden my creativity with the task of providing for me in the material world.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

My writing focus has always been on creative expression (and proving that I could do it), rather than an effort to build an income stream. Not that I’d turn my back on having successfully published books generating royalties, but I’m lucky enough to have a day-job to provide financial stability so that writing can be my passion, not something I have to do. I appreciate the freedom that gives me.

I recently got a new boss at work and when she found out I was a writer, she had all kinds of ideas about new writing-related projects I could work on. While I didn’t say “no” – she was excited (and I’m not an idiot) – I did wonder whether making writing part of my job would take the “fun” out of it? I guess I’ll find out when I finish the script I’m working on our new department video. 🙂

What happens though, when you do need your writing to provide an income? A couple of posts from friends of mine who have been doing a lot of freelance writing work to make ends meet provide some insights:

“I’m learning a lot about writing when I’m not feeling it. When you’ve promised to produce 30,000 words a week you have to write in every spare moment. Want to or not.”

“It’s a different game writing for $ and on a deadline.”

Ack! 30,000 words a week? It took me 2+ weeks to hit 15,000 and I was on a roll then. We’ve talked about motivation here and here in recent weeks and freelance deadlines certainly seem like strong motivation for writing, whether you’re in the mood or not. If nothing else, when writing is a job, it forces you to set a schedule and follow-through. After all, if you don’t, then you won’t get paid. I have to wonder though, how the pressure to get paid impacts creativity, either negatively or positively.

Out of curiosity, I went to a random freelance writing site to see what kinds of projects people were looking for in the “creative writing” space. Here are a few sample jobs:

  • “I am looking for a long term ghost writer to write fiction stories on various topics that I will provide.       Generally 10,000 – 20,000 words each.”
  • “I am looking to hire a ghostwriter to write hot erotic stories, 4,500-6,000 words each.”
  • “I’m looking to team up with a romance novel writer for the long term. (8,000 – 10,000 words)“
  • “We are looking for a talented writer to provide us with the first & last lines of 200 different stories.”

That last one sounded kind of fun and, judging by the number of writers who responded with bids, I’m not the only one to think so. Looking at the job postings, I had to wonder why someone would chose to ghost write for someone else rather than publishing under their own name.  I didn’t have to look far to find an answer to that:

“Money in publishing is slow . . . When I ghost I get paid on delivery.” ~ Kate George

A very valid point. I’m very curious about how profitable the freelance writing business is for those that are doing the hiring. Obviously they must be making some money at it or there wouldn’t be so many prospective job listings – right?

So, have you ever done (or would you do) any freelance or ghost writing?

8 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Will Write for $$$

  1. I do freelance ghostwriting and I love it. Sometimes it’s not the plot line i would choose for myself but it has helped me grow a great deal as a writer in that I can now produce a work of a specified length with good pacing instead of the meandering endless creations i generated when it was my ‘hobby’. In that practice improves craft, I have found that even some novellas that I thought had flimsy plots or lack of believability turned out to be incredibly fun and rewarding to write and I had great pride in them. As for the profitability for my clients, I know that the third novella I ghosted sold over 50,000 copies in the first month at 2.99 on Kindle. Another series I have ghosted singlehandedly has sold over 150,000 copies at the same price point in less than six months so I suspect there are profits to be made from hiring ghosts and requiring a specific trope and length.
    I continue to write for myself when I have time, no more or less really than I did before taking on ghosting, but the money helps and it’s been fabulous for my confidence and craft. It makes me feel like a ‘real’ writer.

    • Lora, that’s fantastic that the novellas you’ve ghosted have done so well. What a confidence booster! Also great that the process has helped you grow as a writer.

      I was surprised to find out how active the ghost-writing market is. I hadn’t realized it even existed.

    • I love this, Lora! A lot of people talk about “hack” work, but it’s not easy. I think when you ghost or freelance, you HAVE to “make many pots” instead of being allowed to concentrate on making that “one perfect pot” (there’s an inspirational chestnut that talks about this somewhere — creativity needs a lot of practice). Also, you’ve got automatic feedback from your client, which not every lone writer can get.

      I’ve kind of poked around looking for something like this, but I don’t know if I have the concentration or endurance to write 70,000 or 100,000 words that has to conform to a certain standard. I could use a lot of help with plotting, though. I’ve been thinking about taking a page from Michille’s master’s program and finding a great story, stripping it down to the plot, then fleshing it out with my own characters and setting and ideas.

      (-: But first, to find a plot that matches my wandering characters and setting in my WIP.

      But, maybe next year . . . do you get a lot of guidance with the pacing and that stuff? Even having someone say, “It’s dragging here” has got to be a big help . . . .

      • Michaeline – if it makes you feel any better, the freelance postings that I saw were all for works far shorter than 70,000 – 100,000 words. They were more in the 20,000 – 40,000 range, with some for short stories in the 6,000 – 10,000 range.

  2. No ghostwriting here. I’m in the same boat as you are Elizabeth. I have the day job that pays the bills. I write in my day job, but it is analytical/objective grant writing so it in no way interferes with my creative writing. And I didn’t know our McD buddy Kate George is a ghost writer.

    • Michille, my day-job writing is generally very analytical too. The new project I’m working on is a little less analytical, but still fact driven, so it shouldn’t wear out those “creative writing” muscles.

      I think Kate has been ghost writing for a while now, though I don’t know what specific projects she’s worked on.

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