Call Me a Professional, Already

I was reading an article on The Business Rusch when I came across this quote, from another article in Canada’s The Globe and Mail.

Predatory price wars initiated by market behemoth Amazon directly devalue the written word, according to Turow. So does the willingness of young writers to work for nothing in the hope of future rewards. “You can’t be a professional writer unless you get paid for it,” he says…

Say huh? Here’s the part that annoyed me: …the willingness of young writers to work for nothing in the hope of future rewards. “You can’t be a professional writer unless you get paid for it…”

Oh really?

I started labeling myself a “professional” the day I first received an acceptance letter. And you know what? That was from a small, non-paying Christian magazine. I’d been trying to get stuff into paying markets, but no one was interested. I needed the writing credit that the magazine was willing to give me, a newbie at this business.

And yes, as much as I dislike the business end of writing, I’ve been trying to treat it as a (very small) business lately.

I try to stick to a production schedule, I try to keep products going out regularly, I keep up with what’s going on in my profession, and I keep records. Businesses don’t always start out making profits…in fact, if someone builds a business from the ground up, the first couple of years generally don’t show a whole lot of black in the accounts. You have to be willing to spend some money (whether it’s real money or the money you could be getting paid for your time) in order to build it.

Business for this artist is a pain in the butt, and if I’m going to act like writing is a small business, I’d like to be acknowledged as a professional. No one’s going around telling the new start-up screenprinting business that it isn’t “professional”—at least, not until it’s been proved otherwise.

There’s really no industry standard (that I’ve found) for when a writer call herself a “professional”. I personally think, like I said, that it’s when they make their first sale. That proves the writer can stick to their guns and persevere, just like any other professional in any other field.

So there. ;P

What do you think?

About H. A. Titus

H. A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head. Her love affair with fantasy began at age twelve, when her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings after listening to it on tape during a family vacation. Her stories have been published in Digital Dragon Magazine, Residential Aliens Magazine, and four anthologies: Alternative Witness; Avenir Eclectia Volume 1; The Tanist's Wife and Other Stories; and Different Dragons Volume II. In December 2013, her short story "Dragon Dance" won Honorable Mention in a Writers of the Future contest. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young son, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world. When she's not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, skiing, or hanging out at her online home, hatitus.wordpress.com.

4 comments on “Call Me a Professional, Already

  1. I know writers who have done weekly or monthly newspaper columns without getting paid–but the writing is just as professional as the paid articles. And the reader knows no different. So, really, why aren’t we considered professional writers when we “sell” a story for free?

    The fact is, it’s not our fault as writers that there aren’t more paying markets. And the competition for nonpaying markets can be pretty steep. I definitely can see how this part of the journey can be like the investment period for someone with a new business–good analogy!

  2. I think a writer becomes a professional the minute they decide to take their writing seriously–devoting the time/money necessary to become the type of writer they want. Just like a small business, it isn’t the first sale that makes you a business, it’s the formation of the company that makes the business. Now, of course, it’s not going to survive without a sale, but it’s a business before that sale happens.

  3. The monetary aspect only pertains to one of the many distinct definitions of the word ‘professional’. Most of the others speak of how much and/or frequently you engage in a particular activity, or of how skilled you are at it. Emphasis on the latter!

  4. I read the Turow quote a little differently. I heard him say that one can’t be a professional writer in the sense of having it pay your bills, quit your day job, etc. without getting paid for your writing. Which is true.

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