If you know Nancy Oliver, you love Nancy Oliver.
I met Nancy about four years ago through LinkedIn. We got to talking and pretty soon, we were sharing funny, wicked little emails that only the two of us would understand.
We became fast friends. And whenever an email comes in from her, I stop what I’m doing and read it immediately. She’s that kind of fun.
She’s also been around the freelance writing block a few times. Nancy is one of those people who can spot bullshit miles out without a telescope. In this post, she uncovers the mother lode of bullshit, and her shovel has some pretty sharp edges.
Favors, Barters, and Worth
by Nancy Oliver
writing/editing sweat – can be calculated. It depends, however, on where you get
your evaluation. To your parents or to your partner, you are beyond price
(let’s hope). In the real world, however, you should always have a fixed
minimum in your mind. This number will come in handy when you hear from the
friend who has written “a little something” she wants you to “just look over.”
favor. A good friend had just begun one of those accelerated master’s degree
programs. She’d had her first paper bounced back to her with the instructor
commenting that her footnotes/endnotes were not in the proper American
Psychological Association format and to redo the paper with the 55 of them
corrected. I got a text: “Would you look over/format all of my papers in the
APA style for me for the rest of my time in this program?” Uh, no. Although my
stand is considered controversial on many a LinkedIn forum, I do not believe in
editing (in whatever capacity) any document where the writer is receiving a
grade for the work.
barter. These questions always present something amusing … and seldom in my
favor. It is sad to hear the offer, and sometimes I spend longer than I should
dwelling on the ridiculousness of it. There is a part of me that wants to say
to them – “How insulting!” and “Are you kidding me?” – and then run, run, run
since 1979 found me on LinkedIn. When last we chatted, I was a college senior and
she was a secretary in the Journalism Department who was taking classes at
night. We had limited associations then (did we ever even socialize together,
though?), but “something compelled” her (her words) to “reach out” to me. It
didn’t take long for her to begin the barter banter.
would like to get your thoughts on. One is non-fiction; the second is a romance
novel I’ve written. You know I’ve become a nutritionist, right?”
private clients. They’ve been impressed with how much I’ve helped them. So, I’ve
written a book on nutrition. It’s a bit under 40,000 words. I know it’s a mess
grammatically. Would you be willing to do whatever it needs to be polished up
for publication? Here’s what I’m offering you. My usual hourly consultation fee
is $90 an hour, and I am willing to offer you 30 minutes of free nutrition counseling
in exchange for your editing. We can talk about the novel later, I think. If
you don’t think that’s enough, what about if I sweeten it with 10 percent of
I picked up the manuscript and started to flip through it. Her footnotes and
endnotes were not even completed and were in no real format. Example: Bivins, page 53. Hmm. She’d neglected to
mention the footnotes and endnotes not being completed. Grammatically, the
manuscript was beyond nightmare. I
could see that it would take more than two readings to catch all the errors.
Meanwhile, in my ear, she was endlessly buzzing about what a seller it would be
when it got polished and published.
work into this book.” Remember, Nancy, no
negative words, I thought.
get me! I did put a lot of work into
it. We are going to be great together!”
hectic that I don’t anticipate that I’ll be able to get to this for, say,
eighteen months or so.”
squeeze in this little book?”
just be part of the barter… or come from the profits?”
longer than what a 30-minute nutrition consultation would pay for. And – unless
you are dramatically different from any other writer – there won’t be many, if
any, profits from a first book. Now, if you were going to offer something more
equitable, I might have to reconsider. You did mention there’s a romance novel,
exterior of my house?”
By the way, it needs scraping and sanding, too.”
waste of your money unless the painters were also willing to do a first-rate
prep job of scraping and sanding. Not all of them are. Some just want to
pressure wash before they paint.”
manuscript. You have to scrape off what you don’t need before you can put on
the final touches. I have been getting some estimates on the sanding and
painting. I can just pass those over to you now.”
barter. When you barter, it is like for like. Thirty minutes of your
consultation time comes to $45. Just the nutrition book alone could take ten
hours of editing time. I can’t work ten hours for $4.50 an hour, so I’ve
offered up a fairer barter!”
Pay to paint your house! That’s just crazy talk.”
manuscript while he was resting his recently broken foot. She called recently to
tell me that her manuscript had been “accepted” to be self-published.
every single day, start. It’s good for clearing the head and strengthening the physical
and the emotional heart. When you feel better physically and psychologically,
you are less apt to second-guess yourself.
your smartphone (not my preferred
device for listening, but you may prefer it).
Brené Brown has said on courage, vulnerability, and shame. If you’re a writer
first and foremost (and even though I make most of my serious money editing, I
still consider myself, primarily, a writer), hook yourself up with Elizabeth
Gilbert’s TED talks and podcast sessions on her 2015 Big Magic. The podcasts and TED talks are free.
these fascinating women talk about you and your creative self. You will learn
that each one of us has deep doubts about our own value and a serious case of
“who do I think I am?” In fact, Gilbert
has said so many things that resonate with me so personally that I told a poet
friend of mine recently that I think of her as “Liz.”
tell others that you are worth more than $4.50 an hour. Heck, say $45 or $145. Brown
says, “Choose discomfort over resentment.” It just takes a belief in yourself
and your abilities. Don’t act so surprised! You might be a better partner to
yourself than you thought would be. Just give yourself the chance to believe
Nancy Oliver sometimes writes and sometimes edits. Even though most of her “folding money” (as her granny would have said) comes from editing these days, she will always think of herself first as a writer. She has been renovating her family homeplace since time began.