Chump Change

An article on self-publishing entitled “Spare Change” might just as well have been headlined: Chump Change.

Nicola Pring reports on “Crunching the Numbers on Self-Publishing” in the July/August issue of “Columbia Journalism Review” (p. 15): http://www.cjr.org/currents/spare_change.php

The experiences of four writers who self-published long form reports (ranging from 6,565 words to 25,000 words) on four different online platforms reveals compensation for original reporting that ranged from three to 27 cents a word.

In perhaps more meaningful and easy-to-grasp currency, the writers earned $270 to $3,878 for their work.

Pring echoes what has been said elsewhere: “But while it’s easier than ever to get your work seen, it’s not necessarily easy to make real money.”

In his column entitled “The Art of Marketing,” Al Kenney urged his readers to “Write That Book!” (Maine Antique Digest, or “M.A.D.”, April 2014): http://www.maineantiquedigest.com/stories/write-that-book/4412

There, Kenney identifies the virtues of self-publication while cautioning “Don’t think you are going to get rich by writing.” Most writers, published or not, will eagerly concur.

In the pre-digital age, all but the most famous and highly regarded freelance writers earned pennies for their efforts. Today, at a time when anyone can be a publisher, the compensation for writing remains dismally low.

The August issue of M.A.D. carries my letter to the editor where I respond to Kenney’s encouraging, if somewhat misleading, essay and advocate that authors consider university presses as their first choice for publishing and self-pubs as the last resort.

(I was unable to locate the link to M.A.D.’s online letters.)

Given my current employment status as Director at RIT Press, my comments were, of course, self-serving.

But such a motivation makes my comments no less genuine and, in the letter, I do reference the 134 members of AAUP: Association of American University Presses.

It’s not that greater compensation for one’s writing efforts can be expected by availing oneself of AAUP’s members. Instead, there’s a greater likelihood of finding quality through a publisher than through the self-pub option now so easily available.

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