Should I write this chapter for free?
September 29, 2008 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I've been asked to contribute to a collection of op-ed/essays/creative nonfiction type stories, to be published together as a book. I have no idea how this stuff works, but I know the release form says I won't get paid. Anybody have any experience with this kind of thing? Is this a normal clause for a first-time author who barely even counts as an author?

I'm okay with not getting an advance obviously, and it's cool to have my name on an actual book, etc. But what happens when/if it's actually published? What if it's on Oprah's freaking book club and sells seventy zillion copies? I'm willing to write for free, I just want to make sure that's my only option, and I'm not just being screwed over.

Is it unreasonable to expect to see any money from something like this? Is this just how you get a tiny bit of a foot in the door? What would a smarter person do in this situation?
posted by ultraultraboomerang to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's very rare for anyone to get more than a token payment for being in an anthology. $100 to $500 is the norm, and it's probably just as frequent to get paid in a few authors' copies.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:01 PM on September 29, 2008

Who have you been asked by? How did they find you? Have you published before? Are they asking for a piece you've already written or asking you to write one?

All of these questions are critical - there are plenty of scams out there revolving around getting you work in an 'anthology' that turns out to be 300 other one-page poems from people persuaded to get involved that sells no copies, except to contributors.

However, the language in your question is ambiguous, and it sounds more on the level than that. What is this anthology and how did you come to be contacted?
posted by Happy Dave at 12:08 PM on September 29, 2008

In anthologies I've been published in, I have been paid: nothing; $25 and two copies of the book; $500 - this was for an anthology from a major house, with some pretty heavy-hitters in it.

In other words, your terms are normal. If the book becomes an Oprah book, you'll get boast that you're in it. That's it.
posted by rtha at 12:18 PM on September 29, 2008

I did a McSweeny's list and it was chosen for one of their anthologies. I got $25 and a copy of the book.
posted by MsMolly at 12:31 PM on September 29, 2008

Thanks, everybody. I figured there would be some writers lurking around here who could confirm that yes, this is just the kind of thing you do if you like to write and you're lucky enough to get asked. I can live with that.

Happy Dave, I write for a TV blog and the editor is one of the other writers, so he's somewhere between a colleague and a stranger. I'm pretty sure it's legit.

(MsMolly, I am almost starstruck. McSweeneys is a reliable barometer of awesome.)
posted by ultraultraboomerang at 1:24 PM on September 29, 2008

(MsMolly, thanks for posting what you got. I was in a McSweeneys book, too, but they didn't have a valid email address for me so when they printed my list they couldn't contact me. I always wondered how much they paid.)
posted by sugarfish at 3:32 PM on September 29, 2008

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