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Will You Write Better for More Money?

Asked to write blogs for other sites, some with much larger audiences, I chose to stay with the New York Review, partly out of an old loyalty and partly because they pay me better. Would I write worse if I wrote for a more popular site for less money? Or would I write better because I was excited by the larger number of people following the site? And would this larger public then lead to my making more money some other way, say, when I sold a book to an American publisher? And if that book did make more money further down the line, having used the blog as a loss leader, does that mean the next book would be better written? Or do I always write as well or as badly as I anyway do regardless of payment, so that these monetary transactions and the decisions that go with them affect my bank balance and anxiety levels, but not the quality of what I do?

Tim Parks wants to know whether or not writers will produce better writing if they’re paid more. I’m under the impression that if you’re a good writer, you’ll produce good work regardless of how much money you’re earning for your writing, although, money’s great, and yes, we’d all love to one day get rich by the words we produce (get at me, sponsors!).


10 Comments / Post A Comment

selenana (#673)

Maybe you won’t write better because you’re motivated by money, but knowing that you’re being paid adequately means not having to hustle as much at side jobs/main jobs/temp jobs/whathaveyou, and being able to actual concentrate more on the work.

@selenana Also, if you are still hustling at other jobs, getting paid better at least makes you feel a bit more valued by whomever you’re writing for. When I sit down to write at my home computer after 9-10hrs of commuting and working at a computer, I want to feel like that time has value. And that does affect the quality of my writing.

Megano! (#124)

I am of the same opinion Mike Dang. But writers should get paid better.

I smell a microeconomics experiment! We just need to find some prolific authors who have written for a number of different outlets with known per-word rates and have their work analyzed by a panel of judges (grad students). Get at me, grantmaking institutions!

jfruh (#161)

Money doesn’t buy good writing. It buys time, since many professional writers are freelancers. I got into a minor argument with a friend of mine over my novel that I’m kickstarting when I said that more pre-orders would mean a better written book. She was horrified, saying that it made me sound like I was holding my good writing for ransom. I changed the wording — I suppose it did look bad — but what I meant was that the book would be better the more non-book work I could turn down to spend time on the book. She claimed that a good writer always does his or her best no matter what. This just seems wildly at variance with the reality of everyday life to me.

Mike Dang (#2)

@jfruh Pal! Let us know when you’re doing this sort of thing (that goes for all you guys). I just pledged, with minutes to go! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1416562474/the-enthusiast-a-novel-by-josh-fruhlinger

jfruh (#161)

@Mike Dang Haha, thanks Mike! Once the process is over, I would actually love to write an epic “What it’s like to Kickstart a novel” article for you guys, with lots of math and numbers and charts! (Also I still want to write those other articles I pitched to you, later this summer, when my schedule is freed up a bit!)

Well, it’s much easier to concentrate on writing well when you’re not distracted by the wolves at your door! It’s also easier to focus on a full stomach than on a growly, starvation-budget stomach.

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