Get paid for your articles!

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This is the fun part of writing and publishing. Not only can readers see what a genius and literary giant you are by what you wrote—you get paid to do that writing!

The not-so-fun part is that it’s usually not very much, and sometimes it also takes its time reaching you. Even worse, sometimes you don’t get paid at all.

(This is segment #12 of 16 of “How to Sell 75% of Your Freelance Writing.” #13 will follow at this blog. There is also more about writing and publishing at our free, monthly newsletter, plus three free reports!)

First, how do editors pay? By check. I can’t remember being paid any other way, though once in a while I wrote for fame (they said, no payment; usually association newsletters) or copies (of the publication where my article appeared. Academia).

And when do they pay? At acceptance or upon publication (if they don’t fold first, or forget, or remember and fade).

Most professionals (you are one when you say so, frankly) only write for editors who pay on acceptance, because they are the only editors they or you will query. When you send the ready-to-go manuscript and the editor informs you that the piece is accepted, either the check is in the same envelope or it is en route. Some pay when the publisher’s checks are churned, within 30 days of the acceptance. (I’ve only been stiffed three times by “on acceptance” editors in many decades. I contacted the Better Business Bureau and two eventually paid. The third publication closed and disappeared.)

Newspapers pay on publication, as do most reprint buyers. They are honorable too, but pokey. The checks arrive, but you have to provide more wind for a few of them. Keep your eye on the publications paying by publication so you can see when your words appear in print. Then 45 days later, if no payment has appeared, write the editor and say how proud you are to be on his/her pages, but the check must have gone astray. Give your address, a bit more praise—and wait. In the very rare times the money still hasn’t arrived a month later, write again, but start talking about the payment and end with tepid praise. Then send a note a week to the owner of the publication. You will get paid.

How much do they pay? Check the write-up in the current Writer’s Market or their guideline for writers information, usually at their website. Magazines usually pay from $200-850 or more, plus photos, and newspapers, $75-350, but most pay $100-150, plus photos.

How do you get paid more for subsequent articles? Wait until you’ve sold to them twice, then query without mention of payment for the third article. If accepted, that’s the time to drop the editor a note asking if they might pick up some of the expenses or increase the pay rate. A bit of humor helps too. “Winter’s coming and the kids need shoes” well woven into the request.

The hardest expenses to get editors to pay? Almost any expense at the outset, but travel is always the biggest rub. The editors usually think that if you’re going “there” anyway, why should they chip in? The best cure I’ve found is to bunch a lot of articles at distant sites and divide up the airfare and hotel and ask your steady buyers to pick up a portion, in addition to their payment for the article (and photos). That usually works. New editors get a free ride the first time or two. And I only go to destinations I want to visit anyway, so if I hit a knot of tightwads it was so enjoyable I don’t care all that much. (But I don’t tell them!)

Do you have to pay taxes on your writing income? For some reason, that is one of most asked questions when I speak about freelancing. Duh. Yes. True, we don’t have debtors’ prison anymore, even for the IRS, and sometimes you might get only $10 for a short item, but keep a list of all the queries or manuscripts you send out, the replies, the sales, and when the payments come in. Tally the income at the end of the year and report it on Schedule C of your 1040. Offset it, of course, with a tally of the related expenses. But pay on all you earned. Who wants an audit just to slip in $100 off the books? Rest assured that the publishers accounted for every dime they sent you!

Payment? Those checks are a big second kiss. You can write for love in the beginning, but you quickly get addicted to cashing in the payments! And, of course, the kids do need shoes.

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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3 Comments to “Get paid for your articles!”

  1. By anya, November 2, 2011 @ 9:25 am

    Hi
    The article was quiet informative. I just got my article published in November 2011 issue in a monthly magazine; but I have not been asked anything about the payment. For how much time should I wait more for reply from their side?

    • By Admin, November 8, 2011 @ 8:59 am

      I wait a month until after it’s in print, then kindly ask how/when they make payments for articles in print, and that you had “XXX” on their pages in “YY” date.

      Congratulations!

      Gordon Burgett

    • By Admin, February 1, 2012 @ 11:29 pm

      wait a maximum of two months, then just ask if the payment has been sent?

      best wishes,

      Gordon Burgett