Wednesday 22 January 2014

Show me the money - or, rather, don't...

You're all used to me coming on here and ranting about how authors must be properly paid for their work. This isn't one of those rants. This is different.

First, an admission. I'm quite good at saying that the deal is not good enough (when it isn't) and asking for something fair. But I'm very bad at sending out invoices. It's OK with the books that my agent handles, as I don't have to send out invoices. And royalties are OK as they're self-billling. But the other stuff, advances, flat fees - no. I 'forget' or put it off. I rationalise that I can't be bothered to invoice in stages when each stage is a relatively small amount - I'd rather invoice the whole lot at once.

Yesterday I discovered why I do this.

It's not inefficiency - I'm efficient about all other aspects of the business of writing. It's not any difficulty with the process - I know how to do the invoicing and recording; after all, I've been doing it since 1988! I have thought about it before, but couldn't come up with any particularly convincing reason.

I've said many times that just because someone enjoys their work isn't a reason not to pay them properly. We pay surgeons and landscape gardeners and actors. But that's looking at it from the wrong side of the fence. That's challenging the problem of the world not wanting to pay us. This is from the writer's side of the fence, though.

I'm writing an adult book on psychology at the moment - quite a light-hearted book, that poses a series of questions and then anwers them with reference to classic studies in psychology. (That cover image has the wrong title. I know. Don't worry about it. Early days.) Anyway, I was writing up a study by Lepper into how inner motivation is reduced if outer motivation is supplied. Children who like to draw will draw less (spontaneously) if they are once offered a reward for drawing, as later they assume they did drawing for a reward (payment) rather than pleasure. The point is that we associate an external reward (money) with spending our time doing something we'd rather not do. So then we assume we didn't really like doing the thing (I didn't really like writing that book) because otherwise we wouldn't have been rewarded for doing it.

And that's why I don't like invoicing. I know I should be paid, I know I deserve to be paid - but I also know somewhere that I don't want to lose the inner motivation by knowing I'm being paid. And it's why I really like BACS because I don't have to take a cheque to the bank and see I'm being paid for it. It's nothing to do with embarrassment about payment, or feeling of low self-worth, or work-worth. It's about preserving the feeling that I do this job because I want to.

So all I need is an assistant to do my invoicing...


  1. What great insight into reward-based objectives! Thanks for sharing.

  2. You mean I don't really want to be paid because..... :)

  3. I suppose it's 'I'd rather I didn't need to be paid because... (but I do)' And it does depend which books!

  4. Interesting thought. I wonder if that research is true for everyone, though, that things become less fun if you are paid. I don't find that.

    1. It's not quite as straightforward as 'things become less fun it your are paid' - it's more that we are likely to associate reward with something we don't want to do, which isn't quite as strong. It's an attitude and a tendency, not a rule. I still enjoy writing although I'm paid for it, and if I didn't I'd do something else. We also all have different attitudes to work. For some people, it's what they do to get money, and enjoyment doesn't really enter into it - enjoyment comes in the other time, using the money they've earned.