Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What's it Worth to Ya?

Today I received the most beautiful compliment from a reader.

Dear Varda,
You write so beautifully, why aren't you rich? :)

Not Rich

Well, my dear fan, what follows is a little story that illustrates why I am not rich from my writing. This story typifies the trials and travails of the freelance writer.

Last week, I finished polishing off a great little article that I thought would be perfect for a Jerusalem Day feature. Jerusalem Day is four days from now. Since that meant there was a time factor, after some deliberation I sent a query to several different publications at once, explaining that I would give exclusive rights to the piece to whichever editor expressed interest first.

Two of the publications wanted my piece but when I asked about payment they said they have no budget for guest features. They wanted my piece as a freebie.

I have enough writing credits to date that exposure in these publications does nothing to further my career. I thought that I might as well post the piece on my blog rather than give it to one of these places for free, so I said thanks but no thanks.

We Don't Care

The next publication suggested I send the piece to a different editor at that publication. I did so and to date, have not heard back. The lack of a response is irritating and hurtful. It’s like saying, “We don’t care enough about you or your query to respond.”

The final publication I queried rejected my piece. The editor said, “We’ll pass on this one, thank you.”

I thought about asking my friend Israel Pickholtz to guest host the piece on All My Foreparents since his blog features genealogy and my piece is a story about my family. He would have been happy to do so, but I wasn’t sure how this would help either of us or our respective readerships.

In the end, I decided I would post the piece on my own blog, four days hence, on Jerusalem Day, but with a caveat. Something along the lines of: “If you like the story, please consider using the donation tab.”

Darned Hard

I know it is counterintuitive to pay to read a blog piece but it is so darned hard to make a living as a writer.

But all I want is to be paid for the hard work I put into my writing. If you could only see me at work: I write and rewrite and write and rewrite, until each word and phrase is just so. It’s like polishing a diamond. I put my kishkes (Yiddish for guts) into my writing.

A Helpmeet

I am the mother of 12 children and writing is one thing I know how to do well. I only want to be recompensed for an honest day’s work.I want to work and be an Eizer k'Negdo--a helpmeet to my husband. I want to put bread on the table and pay my rent.

Is that so bad?

Question for my fellow bloggers: do you have a donation tab? Have you ever received any money through Google Adwords or through a donation tab? (To date, my blog has earned me a total of ZERO, which could be my faulty attempts at marketing my work.)

Question for my readers: Would you ever consider making a donation to a blogger for well-written, interesting blog posts when you can just as easily read them for free? 


  1. I don't have a donation tab, nor to I have ads.

    There is all kinds of stuff out there that I read regularly. There's political stuff that it's important to support. There's sports stuff who also put their kishkes intoi their research, podcasts and writing. There's stuff in the same genre as yours, some of which I link to from my blog.

    I prefer to do my donating off line.

  2. I don't have a donation tab, because I don't handle rejection well. ;-) This is the same reason that I don't submit my work to publishers who pay. But I have this theory that gets me through the work-without-a-paycheck aspect of writing. I have decided that every bit of "found" money that comes my way is Hashem's paycheck to me, when He liked something I wrote. :-)

    1. Hmmm. The living on air thing? Not really doing it for us. Checks bounce, people go hungry. Maybe Hashem doesn't like what I write. OR: maybe if you stand in the rain without an umbrella you get wet.

  3. Hi Varda,
    I’m sure you put all your love and kishkes into the meals / cakes you make for your family but you don’t expect them to put money in a donation box do you ?

    Some things you do for love and some for money and caring for my family and blogging come under the former category, writing articles come under the latter ( although if you want to make money from your blog without asking readers to donate there are millions of ideas out there in google land – not that I’ve tried any).

    I have a list of paying publications that I submit to and before I send any essay or article query out to a new one I check first that it pays – if not forget it.

    I too sent a Yom Yerushelayim piece out rather late ( but not quite as late as you did :-) ) and sent it off to one place at a time and said if I don’t hear within 24 hours I’ll know you’re not interested.
    It was eventually accepted and ( PG will be) paid for.

    But you’re quite right , writing isn’t a get rich ( quick or slow) profession, but it is possible to make money from it as I do and I know you have been doing over the years.

    And when you write as beautifully as you do you know you can't give it up.

    Mind you I have another branch to my income so it isn't as nerve wracking as if I was writing full time. Maybe that's the answer.

    1. Advice from you, Ann, is something I intend to take to heart. Thank you for your long and thoughtful reply and for your kind words about my writing.

  4. varda
    the problem is also getting people to actually send the cheque! i've been commissioned to write articles for magazines, been published in them, send in my invoice, and then not been paid, despite repeated requests, so then what do you do?
    i bless you that you will continue to write as well as you do, or even better and that you will get paid well.
    have you thought of having a mum's advice website... with your experience i'm sure you could get millions of hits..and make your fortune.. ads, adsense, googlehit thingy, etc just a thought.

  5. Sorry to hear you've been stiffed for payment. Not nice. Not nice at all :-(

    Thanks for your supportive words and advice. Best of luck to you.