Monday, July 4, 2011

A Question for Writers

Alrighty, I have a question for you writers and aspiring writers out there or indeed anyone who knows how to make sense out of nonsense. (Not me obviously.)

Why is it, when I look around the web, that poets seem to be paid more than prose writers? For example, I just looked at one website where the fee for a poem is £25 and a prose writer is £15 per thousand words. Now I don't want to dispute the fact that any piece of writing poetry or prose takes some creativity and any numbers of hours to write. However, a poem might only be three lines, is probably likely to a "filler" and not likely to be a key feature unless it is written specifically for a poetry magazine. Further, I would suggest poetry requires little or no research as it usually contains emotional sentiments rather than facts and figures whereas the research for some articles can take ages. Or, in my case, a whole sitting on the lavatory.

So how do you balance the worthiness, financial or otherwise, of one form of writing over another?

Now I've tried my hand at poetry. It is not easy to be succinct in a few words. However, I wrote this one in about 20 mins ( I know, the quality is debatable... but then again so is a lot of published poetry!) Whereas, the majority of my for articles for The View From Here have required extensive research -for example for my Damon Galgut article I read all six of his novels! Now that might be overdoing the research somewhat - but whilst I'm quite happy to talk out my backside on my blog I wouldn't dream of talking out of it elsewhere. (Well most of the time anyway.)

Of course, it pretty much goes without saying that all writers are underpaid. Unless you get to be as successful as Dan Brown or J K Rowling you'd better get used to bread and dripping. I'm just grateful Mr T has a job and I can flirt with writing - if I actually had to make a living at it I would probably have stuffed my head in the cooker by now or died a dramatic death by first cutting off my ears, then shaving my head and finally jumping off London Bridge reciting The Ancient Mariner.

So any thoughts anyone?

Oh, out of interest one of my popular posts is my short story Caught Short. I leave it to your imagination the phrases input into Google that have made that one so popular! Let's just say that should my recent literary endeavours fall short, I have a future in "contemporary" literature.


  1. Well, I'm not a writer. And I've never come close to persuading anybody to part with the folding stuff for anything I've written, but for what it's worth, here goes.
    Are poets rarer? Does this mean the whole thing is subject to 'market forces'?
    I'd already read 'Caught Short'. And I can imagine what Mr Google picked up on. What's wrong with 'contemporary' literature anyway? Jackie Collins does all right at it. Or were you thinking more *cough* contemporary than that?

  2. Maybe we are still hanging onto the idea that poetry is a more 'prestigious' form than prose, which has always been so. I think that's where the word 'prosaic' comes from, which basically means 'everyday' or 'boring'.

  3. Well unless it's some piece of doggerel I would assume that a three line poem has taken a helluva lot of thought and polishing, quite probably more so the shorter it is, as every word counts and has to be weighed against layers of meaning, whereas an article is not meant to be a piece of art.

  4. Well I think there must be a measure of the rules of supply and demand in it, Martin. I'm not sure your average pundit would recognise quality poetry though so just how much of the stuff is actually decent writing is difficult to say...

    I haven't ruled anything yet even *cough* very contemporary writing! I think I am still in the early stages of development as a writer - some people know exactly what and how they want to write - I am very much interested in lots of styles and subjects - to stick to one particular genre/style is difficult for me and yet, ultimately, probably what I need to do to succeed.

  5. Fran - I suspect you're right. There's nothing, of course, intrinsically wrong with hanging on to that concept but it probably doesn't do justice to the many prose writers out there who feel devalued as a result.

  6. True E, an article is not meant to be a work of art and historically and culturally it is the "art" that will be remembered - on the other hand I think it is a little demeaning to some prose writers-many of whom no doubt craft their articles with as much thought and care as a poet. And with space at a premium in any magazine/paper that can be a difficult to task.

  7. I really doubt prose writers feel demeaned. It's a completely different form of writing. I can't believe any journalist would feel that poetry should be paid by the word. It would be unworkable.

  8. Well I'm not suggesting that poets should be paid less E (after all it's a pittance anyway)- only that prose writers should be paid on a more equal footing. I'm sure journalists at the top of their game get paid far more than poets but at the level I'm talking about I'm not sure that the skill of the poet is any greater than that of a talented prose writer. I guess it depends on how much one value the traditional forms of art.

    Anyway, I'm thinking of taking up poetry!!!

  9. Personally, with all the literary journals that are out there, getting a poem published is pretty damn easy, simply because an ungodly amount of journals concentrate on poetry.

    Having said that, I don't write poetry and I give props to people who can.

    But to make money at it, I think not. Most of the poetry books out there are either self-pubbed or pubbed through a university/college press, which makes it the ultimate niche market.

  10. I agree with you G - I think it would pretty easy to get some poetry published - I can't connect with a lot of the poetry I've read (which could be for any number of reasons which might include my own stupidity!)but I suspect a major part of this is the current fashion of moving away from traditional forms of poetry - perhaps this means there is less skill in writing it than there was before, particularly at amateur level.

    Not many writers make money. Fact:))It's just as well most writers write for the love of it rather than anything else otherwise we'd be a culturally deprived world. Of course, in the old days talented novelists and poets had wealthy sponsors - you don't hear of that these days- the odd scholarship or award but really they are so few and far between as to have very little effect.


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