What I Learned About Money and Writing from Jane Friedman

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Community

Jane Friedman is the web editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, an award-winning national journal, where she leads online and digital content strategy. She also teaches digital publishing at the University of Virginia.

Before joining VQR, Jane was the publisher of Writer’s Digest and an assistant professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati. You can find her online at JaneFriedman.com and on twitter (@JaneFriedman).

After a while being a starving artist gets old.

The art itself never gets old–the writing still makes you feel the way you did when you first picked up pen and paper–but the starving, that you could do without. So many of us accept that we write because we love it, or we write because we’re called to it, or we write because we can’t NOT write. But we often overlook one important fact: the writing life must be sustainable. In order for us to continue making art, we must also  tend to more immediate and pragmatic needs, like paying for health insurance or cutting a rent check.

We don’t write for the money, but we need the money in order to sustain our writing. I’ve discussed the issue of money at DIY MFA before, and the fact remains that the writers who experience the most success are the ones who are aware of money matters. Yes, I know, we write because we love it, but let’s get real: love doesn’t pay the electricity bill. Like it or not, writers have to consider the money as well as the art.

Making Sense of Money

Many writers dream of getting paid to write. After all, who doesn’t want to make money doing what they love? Unfortunately, for many writers that ambition stays firmly planted in dreamland because the steps to take their writing from a private passion to a source of income seem virtually impossible.

More problematic is that sense of taboo around money which leaves many writers uninformed and more likely to undervalue their work. In an internet culture where FREE is the expected standard, it’s hard for writers to know where their work falls on the price-point spectrum.

Because money matters are often kept “hush hush” and behind closed doors, it’s hard for writers (or any artists for that matter) to gauge what financial goals are reasonable, which are the equivalent of giving away the farm, and which are just pie-in-the-sky insane.  I’m not talking about playing the comparison game, here, just giving writers objective information that they can use to make smart choices. After all, how’s a writer supposed to make sense of the business aspects of their job, if nobody talks about the money?

Enter Scratch, a magazine pioneered by Jane Friedman, who I’ll be interviewing at Lit Loft on this very important topic.

Giving Writers the Information They Need

In an industry that’s evolving fast, Jane Friedman always seems to know what’s coming next. She encourages writers to embrace industry shifts as opportunities, and not to be afraid of change. “It drives most people crazy,” she says, “but I love the pace of change in online media, and experimenting with the many new tools, apps, and software that help people write, read, share, communicate, and learn.”

It’s no surprise that Jane is always on the cutting edge of what’s new in our industry, but more impressive is how she manages to keep things human even “at electric speed.” For example, Jane was among the first in our industry to jump on Twitter–a communication tool that most writers now take for granted. Yet even with over 100,000 followers and more than 10,000 tweets to her name, you can tell by following her that there’s a person behind the tweets.

In an online culture where so much of our information is automated and over-polished, it’s refreshing to find someone who keeps things real. Jane is one of my most trusted sources of industry information because she doesn’t just share the next shiny new thing, she cultivates discussion that’s open, honest, and human.

When I learned that Jane was working on the upcoming publication Scratch–a quarterly digital magazine focused on the intersection of writing and money–I knew I had to bring her to speak at Lit Loft on this topic. Money is a touchy subject and in the hands of most people this topic would either fall flat or succumb to the hype.

With Jane at the helm, though, I know Scratch will be an amazing resource for writers. Not only does it fill a niche that has been neglected far too long in our industry, but I am certain that Jane will bring the same open and honest discussion to the subject that she does on her blog and other online outlets. I am so excited to interview her at Lit Loft about money matters in writing and I can’t wait for Scratch to launch later this fall.

In the meantime, here’s a great technique she offered for writers:

“Start a spreadsheet dedicated to your writing-related income and expenses, and carefully categorize each type—e.g., print freelance, online writing, book sales, affiliate income, and so on. This simple task helps you see trends and opportunities you may not have noticed before.” –Jane Friedman


Register for Lit Loft and you’ll hear me interview Jane all about the money-side of writing. Plus, you’ll hear eleven other expert interviews on the craft of writing, creativity, and the state of the publishing industry. Remember, when we’re informed about our craft and our industry, we writers can make wise career choices and, more importantly, create opportunities create opportunities for our work.

I hope you’ll join us at Lit Loft. Sign-ups close next week, but until this Sunday I’m offering 50% savings to anyone on the DIY MFA email list. Not on the list? No problem. Just sign-up here and you’ll automatically get the promo code so you can claim your Lit Loft discount.



Jane Friedman will be speaking at LitLoft 2013
Sign-ups close next week so register today!



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