In the midst of all the ebook and self-publishing price debates, there is a lot of discussion about the value of words—how much people are willing to pay, how much they should be willing to pay, and where the numbers actually sit. Right now, the majority consensus seems to be:
Words on Paper > Words on Internet
Whether this is because we place more value on the phsyical binding of a book or because of the ready availablility of ebooks and information online, the sad truth is that most people will pay more for words they can hold in their hands.
This isn’t unique to the publishing world. As a freelance writer whose work predates the ebook brouhaha, I can tell you that the value of words has been viewed this way for a long time.
Case in point: When I tell most people that I’m a freelance writer, they want to know where they can read me. They want to know about the magazines, journals, newspapers, and even company brochures that I might have worked on. They want to purchase the magazine and see my byline and hold the article in their hands and feel the paper sliding through their fingers.
I always have to disappoint them. With the exception of a few small written-for-print jobs, most of my words are online, ghostwritten, and completely free to the public.
Which leads to most people’s next question, which is, “You really make a living doing that?”
Yes, I do.
My words have value, even if you can’t touch them. I give them a value every time I offer a client a quote for services. The clients give them a value every time they sign a check with my name on it. The world gives them a value every time those words convert to a sale, or draw traffic through a search engine, or provide the answer to a question you may not have even known you had.
My words have value because I have given them a price tag, and because I have a pool of loyal clients who are willing to pay it—even if they never hold those words in their hands.
I firmly believe that fiction works the same way. As a writer, you have to give your words a value and find a pool of readers who are willing to pay for it. I don’t think it’s easy (neither is freelancing!), and it takes time to strike that perfect balance of what you want to earn and what people are willing to pay.
But book pirates and Kindle freebies notwithstanding, people do pay for good writing. Maybe you won’t make six figures, and maybe people won’t ever offer you as much as they’ll pay for physical books. But once you learn where your value lies, I think it will become easier to determine how to price the books and stories and hard work you do every day.
Tamara is a freelance writer and romance novelist. She splits her writing time between fun, flirty fiction and SEO web content. Every once in a while, she’ll land a gig that combines the two. (Hint: those are the BEST ones.)
Follow Tamara on Twitter at @Tamara_Morgan or drop her an email at TamaraMorganWrites (at) gmail.com.