Recently a person approached me to help him with his manuscript. He needed editorial work and wanted to get it in shape for a publisher. I explained what I do and how I work and how thorough I am, and the success I have had with clients. But when I told him my fees (which are way below the market rate, by the way), he had a fit. "Who the hell do you think you are?" he said. "Both my wife and I are appalled! Your fee is what I make per hour!!"

OK, so I was stunned. The message, of course is that what he does is infinitely more important than what I do. And on a secondary level, the message was also that he didn't really care that much about his manuscript, but wanted someone to read it..for next to nothing. (I asked him what he wanted to pay!)

Today, I was reading a piece about a 58-year-old man who had lost his job in the financial world and was stressing about finding another. My heart was shattering for him, right up until he brightly quipped, "But I can use this time to write a novel!"

Sigh. Is being a novelist the catch-all job that anyone can do if we only had the time?

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Comment by Suzan on September 9, 2009 at 11:34am
I've never had anyone react that way to my fees, but I always expect it. Which is dumb, because really, why wouldn't we expect to be paid well for our work? It IS work, after all. But I think maybe we've all internalized some romantic notion of what being a Writer really entails. So, instead of thinking about the hours and attention to detail and organization required for the work, we have this image of Lord Byron in poofy shirts sitting around drinking and scribbling on a notepad.

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