Mark Terry

Monday, April 28, 2008

Dis, Dat & De Udder

April 28, 2008
Today I have no theme. Or maybe I have too many themes, so I'm just going to cram them all into one post and say, "To hell wit' it."

I got an e-mail this weekend from a writer friend (Hi, Erica!) asking my opinion on how much I would charge for a certain project. I told her and she came back to tell me she was thinking double that. Well, good for her! It's nice to have somebody confirm for you that you're not charging enough.

As it happened, I had a very unexpected phone call that same day. A couple years ago I was asked if I was interested in ghostwriting/collaborating on a nonfiction book by a couple of people I regularly interviewed for articles I wrote all the time. That project fell through for a number of reasons. Well, this time another guy I regularly interview on the same subject called to tell me he and one of the original people were again interested in this project and this time it was for real. (Debatable, but who knows?) I commented on this to Erica, made mention of what I thought my proposal might be worth and she sort of hollered in my ear (via e-mail, but I saw the exclamation marks) and told me how much she charged. And she didn't even say, "Don't be an ass! Charge more!" She might have been thinking it, but she didn't say it. Okay, she sort of hinted at it.

So when I contacted these guys back I gave them a figure that would make it worth my time. I also thought long and hard about something, which is, although I'm perfectly willing to do this, and I would like to do this (sort of, I'm kind of busy these days), I believe these guys might be able to hook up with a writer with more experience and contacts than me. And I'm probably going to suggest they do. 

Why would I give away the possibility of work and all that? Well, because I'm overly honest, probably. I want to give them the impression--an accurate one, I believe--that although I can do a very good, possibly excellent job for them, that I do, as a matter of fact, have a ton of writing experience on this topic, I do not have experience writing nonfiction books, I do not have a literary agent that handles nonfiction books, and as a result, I have no contacts in the publishing industry that handle these types of books. And they may very well be better off hooking up with an experienced NF book writer who has an agent who handles these types of projects and quite possibly the writer him or herself can say, "I'm sure Jane at XYZ Books would be very interested in this. Let me make a call." (And it should be noted, they'll pay for the privilege, too, undoubtedly making my bid look like a drop in the bucket.)

Anyway, a couple thoughts. I'm not much of a networker, but I was quite delighted to have some back-and-forthing with Erica about the actual business of writing. We work in a vacuum so much that although you may be doing fine, you could be doing better; and you just don't know, because you don't get out among other writers enough. So, note to self: get out and talk to writers more often.

The other thing was, if you do good work, make yourself available and personable and act professionally, job opportunities sometimes come your way without your even having to look for them. This has happened several times to me and you know what? It's great. Even if you don't take the job. It means you're getting a reputation for good work and reliability (and maybe being cheap. Note to self: must do something about this.).

The other thing I want to say is: my wife and I watched Beowulf this weekend and unless you're a 16-year-old male, this movie may sort of leave you unimpressed. And I think it's possible the 16-year-old male will only like it because of Angelina Jolie's nude scenes, which to me were so weirdly animated as to not be erotic at all. Which is how I felt about the whole movie, actually. Just because you can play with computer animation doesn't mean you should. The characters emotions just seemed to not work for me. I thought it worked a little better in "300" although again, I thought it might have been better without the weird/cool look.

Which is another way of saying, if I spent most of the movie going, "Wow, that looks cool!" instead of, "Wow, this IS cool!" then there may be something wrong with the approach to the film. I didn't rent the damn thing to look at the scenery.

Mark Terry


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Well, "Hi" back, Mark.

First, it was great to go back and forth, because the whole point of making writer connections, besides friendship, is to share some insights with each other. I was grateful for the conversation, too.

Second . . . no, I didn't think you were an ass. LOL! BUT . . . I do think it's helpful to know people are out there bidding x or y--and getting those bids.

MORE than that, I think it's helpful to explore a different "psychology" to the bidding game. It's the old adage both of us batted around on our blogs. What is my time worth? And then really "owning" what it's worth and using that as an honest factor in bidding for jobs or ghosting or whatever. I don't overcharge . . . I don't undercharge. And if I get the bid for what I feel it's worth, I then need not worry that I am ripping someone off--or grumble because I know I'm getting screwed. After a while, I start to "own" that this is the way I want to work.

Also, you raise a valuable point. I turn down work all the time. Very often, someone will come to me to edit fiction or nonfiction proposals and I will be honest--"You're not ready." I send them off to places or books to read or classes to take to help them GET ready and say, "Come back to me when you are ready"--I don't want them wasting hard-earned money when I know they just can't get a deal. Won't get a deal. The truth may sting--but very often--at least 75% of the time, they do come back to me, now "wiser" and more polished and say, "You were right. NOW can you edit it?" And because they valued my honesty . . . it's a good relationship.

7:08 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Thanks! Got a lot out of it and like I commented to you, I was thinking Plan A and Plan B and you suggested Plan C, which got me to thinking about my options.

7:22 AM  
OpenID eric-mayer said...

Well Mark, I have little contact with other writers and I appreciate the honest, practical approach you take with your blog. It's helpful to know someone else is in the same boat. Even if its a rowboat. Not everyone's on one of those cruise ships so many writers give the impression of being on.

9:23 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Arrr, matey! Here there be monsters!

9:47 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Beowulf was bizarre. The execution didn't work on so many levels, I don't know where to begin. It was all a good idea. I really wanted to love it.

And you're right, the scenery was cool.

I've found, too, that work always comes calling, somehow. I always forget to trust that.

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