Donna's Blog

Getting Paid for Ministry

Posted by donnadawson on July 16, 2012 at 8:15 AM

Ok so it is one of Duke's pet peeves and I don't really blame him.  He works hard, long hours to dig out the facts and hammer them together into a wonderful article and then the publisher says, "I can't pay you but I can give you a by-line."  Duke fell for it a couple of times until his bills started to pile up.  When the dog-catcher came knocking at his door asking him to cough up the funds for his tags and he couldn't pay, I received a distressed cry for help.  I don't often open my purse strings but those bug eyes are pretty convincing and so I handed the pittance over and reclaimed our linguistic lap dog.  Then Duke and I sat down and had a chat.

 

"Duke, my friend, does the local veterinarian charge you when a particularly nasty piece of grizzle gets caught in your gums and you need a good cleaning?"  He nodded after a short ponder.  "And does Carmen's Canine Candy Shop charge you for those extraordinarily yummy goodies you get?"  Again the nod.  "So why do you think you need to give your writing away?"  It was a treat to see his bulging orbs bulge more as understanding dawned. 

 

Duke was taken by the 'poor me' attitude that is prevalent in the publishing industry.  I had to gently remind him that any business struggles and any businessman will do all he or she can to get a product or supply for free.  That's just business.  Where writers fall flat is in their emotional connection to their work.  They either don't realize or have forgotten that writing is a business--or should be--and emotions should be set aside.  Writers are so keen to see their words in print that they forget they have to pay the necessary bills which will allow them to continue to write.  We writers need to step back and ask ourselves if all the effort was worth something.  It's one thing if we are millionaires with nothing better to do than to research and write.  Most writers are not.  Knowing that we must receive something in order to give something should help us to refocus on the one reality of writing--it is a business and should be treated as such. 

 

Duke was quick to point out that we, as Christians, should be willing to 'give all for the cause'.  I countered that the Bible states that a 'worker is worth his wages'.  If we don't value our writing who will?  If we think that our writing doesn't qualify us to receive what is needed to pay the expenses incurred while doing it then why would an editor or publisher? 

 

Since that brief confab, Duke has been much more assertive--and has managed to keep his writing business in the black.  I find it rather amusing reading some of his emails of late. 

 

Dear Editor,

Yes, I do understand that you have limited funds.  I do as well.  It's very difficult filling an empty stomach with a by-line and a free subscription will not keep the bill collectors at bay.  Please do send a cheque in the amount of the above mentioned free subscription and I will be happy to take the free by-line along with the remuneration.  Thank you for your time.

 

I have suggested that he might be a bit snippy in some of his replies but his logic is flawless. 

 

They aren't likely to pay if I say nothing.  If I assert myself in a polite and friendly manner and hold my ground, I may get nothing--or I may actually get paid.  If I get nothing, I can send my article elsewhere.

What a smart dog.

 

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1 Comment

Reply Peter Black
5:04 PM on July 16, 2012 
Donna, you speak to me in your response to Duke.

I have received financial honouraria for some magazine articles. However, my 16 years of community newspaper column writing (the past 13 years, weekly) is unpaid, other than a free subscription.

I likely spend well in excess of 150 hours annually in preparing these for the paper. In an industry climate when large circulation papers are getting as much free writing done as they can to maintain thir bottom line, what is the small circulation paper to do without some percentage of volunteer writing?

Your article and draught letter for Duke does stir me to think about my situation, though.