“Pay the Writer”

Holly Jahangiri
2 min readJan 13, 2023

Real writers don’t pay to publish; they get paid to write.

Photo by Andraz Lazic on Unsplash

Never pay for “exposure.” If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to Harlan Ellison:

Giving good content away for free is your right, but no one has the right to expect or demand it from you.

If you’re not profiting from your writing, no one else should be, either. Let me repeat that: If you are not profiting from your writing, no one else should be, either.

You do not have to be a writer. We all write; we write grocery lists, emails, instructions, notes for our kids’ lunch boxes. That does not make us all writers, nor does it it have to. If you hate writing, don’t do it. Yes, communication in all its forms is a vital part of being human and you may be called upon to write, now and then. But you do not have to be a writer. If writing’s not your thing, find something else to be.

Writing is not a way to get rich in your sleep.

Most writers never earn six figures, let alone six-figure book advances.

Writers who earn six-figure book advances have paid their dues. Either they are famous in another field (and probably hired a ghost writer who is earning far less), or they’ve been working at being writers — at improving their skills and developing their “voice” as writers — for a long time. Those six-figure advances (“advance against royalties” — which is just a small percentage of anticipated sales revenues!) are the tip of a very large iceberg made of work.

There are easier ways to make a living. You won’t do it just by writing whatever you feel like writing, over breakfast, and hitting “Publish” over lunch.

Try never to waste the reader’s time. Your writing won’t be universally loved, but be mindful of the reader. If you feel excited when you are engaged in the act of writing, the reader will know. If you are bored, frustrated, just “phoning it in,” the reader will know. If you are writing purely for your own pleasure and amusement, do it in private. If you are publishing your work, you have an audience — respect them.

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle ; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; and A New Leaf for Lyle. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young at heart. Visit her website at jahangiri.us and subscribe to her newsletter at https://hollyjahangiri.substack.com/