Writing always costs you something

Jun 21, 2013Work Uncaged, Write!


As a former book mentor and a published author, I receive requests (like this made up one) weekly, sometimes daily. I’m sure that some of you, in your profession, also receive similar correspondence.

Dear Mary,

I have an amazing, outstanding story. And I know that once it’s in book form, it will sell millions. Would you please consider writing the book for free? I will let you share in the royalties when it hits the big time.


Lori with the Story

I used to spend a lot of effort replying to these folks with long tutorials about the publishing process, but now I simply don’t have time. So I have a form response that ends with my write-for-hire rate (It’s high). Oddly, no one has emailed back! I also wrote a book that covers everything I know about publishing. Here it is:


My point: There’s no such thing as something for nothing in the writing business. Writers can’t afford to write other people’s books for free. We simply don’t have time. We have families to support, bills to pay—just like you. We need to make an income at what we do. Plus, it’s up to future writers to learn enough about the publishing industry that they wouldn’t write an email like this in the first place.

The truth: Writing costs you something. You’ll either spend time or money to realize your dream.

If you’re not willing to walk through the years-long process of becoming a stellar writer, then you won’t be traditionally published.

If you’d like to be published in this manner but you don’t want to improve your skills, then you’ll need to hire someone who has the ability to write professionally.

I don’t mean to sound curmudgeonly. I spend a lot of time mentoring writers (in various ways, various forms). I love giving back. What is truly exciting is when I meet a writer who gets it. The hallmark of a would-be successful author are these five traits:

  1. The author understands the journey will be long. (This costs TIME).
  2. The author is interested in learning. (This costs STUDY).
  3. The author takes (and actually welcomes) criticism. (This costs HUMILITY.)
  4. The author is willing to start small. (This costs PERSEVERANCE.)
  5. The author makes a supreme effort to understand the publishing industry. (This costs INVESTIGATION.)

These are the folks who understand the precious nature of putting words on a page. While I no longer have charged mentoring services, I do offer free critique face to face at the Rockwall Christian Writers Group every month.

But beyond that, I simply don’t have time to write other people’s books. Which is why I respond briskly (yet kindly) to folks who ask for something precious for free.