This morning over breakfast I listened to the latest edition (#21) of the Galactic Suburbia podcast. I’m very grateful to the ladies for mentioning my post on paying for non-fiction, but I can’t help feeling that they missed the point a little because they said things like, “why should anyone pay for reviews when so many people are willing to do it for free?”
Well, you know, lots of people put their fiction online for free as well, but we still pay people to write it. Sometimes we pay them quite a lot, because they are good at it.
And possibly my point is that when a magazine doesn’t pay for the reviews it prints then it is saying to its readers that it doesn’t care whether those reviews are any good or not.
But mainly the point is that if you do want to get paid for non-fiction has to be worth reading. If you query me to write something for Salon Futura I won’t just say, “yeah great, the more reviews the merrier,” because I have a budget to stick to. Instead I will ask you questions, like this:
- Why, of all the hundreds of books published recently, should we carry a review of this one?
- What do you have to say about the book that is interesting, exciting, innovative, important?
- Why should other people want to read what you have to say about this book?
And if you can’t answer those questions, or if your answer amounts to, “I read it and I liked it”, then I won’t buy your article.
It comes down to this: there are all sorts of reasons why people write reviews, but if you want someone to pay you to write them then you have to write something that other people are going to want to read.