The writing life (part two): Be part of the solution, not the problem

keith campbell

Guest blogger: Keith Campbell 

See part one of this series here.

What does it mean to be part of the solution and not part of the problem? I firmly believe that taking no action is being part of the problem. Now is not the time for keeping your head down and sticking to yourself. Stand up for yourself and what is right. Stand up for your fellow struggling writer because, if you’re not struggling now, chances are you were at one time. Supporting your fellow writers is being part of the solution.

There wouldn’t be anyone posting ads that pay five dollars per article if no one was willing to write those articles for five dollars. There is a market for that kind of thing only because we allow it to happen and have become part of the problem. Writers must value their craft. No one else will. If you take on work that ultimately pays below minimum wage, that’s no one else’s fault but your own.

Writing is a skill that not everyone possesses. Maybe you’ve gone to college or maybe you’re self taught like myself. Either way, you have to place a value on what you do so that others value your skills.

You don’t spend four plus years going to college to make what the fry cook at Burger King makes so why would you make the exception when it comes to getting paid for writing? It’s a job, and a job should always pay at least minimum wage. If you’re experienced, college educated or not, you should not be making less than that. There are thousands of uneducated people working at jobs that require no specific skill set and they’re making more than you do writing.

In the United States, the average wage for an unskilled laborer is $29,703., which equates to around twenty dollars an hour. Craigslist is filled with people trying to get you to work for less than half that amount. Still a great many more uneducated, unskilled people are making upwards of thirty an hour, while writers are struggling to make up to ten.

Value your craft!

Having said that, how can I fault the guy who just needs the work? The guy who has a family to feed and is out of work. Should we blame him for taking a gig that pays five dollars an hour? There’s a solution here somewhere, I know it. We just have to put our heads together to find it.

I was asked recently if I thought I could actually make a difference in pressuring Craigslist to kick out the scammers and clean up their act. In truth, I don’t know. But here’s what I believe.

We can make a difference for each other; emphasis on WE. If we do nothing, by our complacency, we’re part of the problem. Let’s be part of the solution instead.

Not long ago, a company was advertising its ghostwriting services on Craigslist Writing Gigs section. They were looking to add ghostwriters to their very qualified team of writers. So I went to their website and checked them out. They professed to have New York Times bestselling authors ghostwriting for them. A bold claim I thought, so I looked further.

A giant red flag popped up when I saw what they were charging clients to get their stories written.

Less than a penny a word.

That got me thinking. If they’re only charging their clients less than one cent a word, how much can they be paying their ghostwriters without taking a loss?

The answer: a penny a word.

They had New York Times bestselling authors writing novels for their clients and they were paying those writers a penny a word for novels up to one hundred thousand words long. Now I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a bestselling author of any caliber working for a penny a word. If they really had that skilled of writers on the payroll, I figured I would order ten novels, shop them to different publishers, and live the rest of my days opening royalty checks.

In the interest of due diligence, I went through a number of samples posted by their ghostwriters. I saw nothing there that indicated any real creativity or skill. Just a lot of canned garbage that anyone could write, fresh out of high school. Exactly what you would expect from someone writing a fifty-thousand word novel for five hundred dollars. There was nothing there that would come close to suggesting that the author was a bestselling caliber wordsmith.

So I took to Craigslist Writing Gigs section and began posting ads calling them out. I included their website address so people could see for themselves. That website is the very reason I sometimes have a difficult time convincing prospective clients to actually pay what I am worth for my services. People see sites like those and they think they’re legitimate. Or that the fees there are the norm and they don’t bother to look any further.

However, there’s a happy ending coming!

Several weeks later after complaining to a friend about the site, I decided to have another look. To my amazement they closed it down, then reopened under new ownership. They now pay ten times what the former owners were paying and they no longer claim to have New York Times bestselling authors on staff writing for them. Sure, they’re still paying a ridiculously low amount but it’s a far cry from a penny a word!

So to answer the question–do I think I can get Craigslist to clean up their site? Maybe not, but I do believe WE can make a difference, but only if we work together and have each other’s backs. I believe we have a responsibility to one another to warn each other of scams or disreputable employers. At the same time, we need to reach out to our fellow writers and tell them about the good jobs out there. Speak up for one another and help your fellow writer get that next good gig.

In that way, we stop being part of the problem and we become part of the solution. For those interested in supporting your fellow writer please follow the link below and sign it. It’s time to stand together and make your voice count. Write well, live well, and change the world around you.

Keith Campbell is a prolific, self-taught writer and artist with a diverse background in finance and investing, martial arts, firefighting, and emergency medicine. All of which he has been known to use as fodder for writing. 

Keith is a founding member of the online writing community and has authored eighteen novels and hundreds of articles for clients on such diverse subjects as finance and investing, self-defense and handgun safety, to real estate, motorcycles, and healthcare. Keith has written monologues for comedians, TV commercials and web series, as well as ghostwriting novels for clients. Taking a page from the life of his favorite artist, Pablo Picasso, Keith sleeps little and writes obsessively. 

Today Keith continues to ghostwrite for various clients while working on his latest darkly comedic love story about a non-traditional family unit with two gender switching parents and a teenage daughter who hates them both. 

Keith lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his two boys and his cat.

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