They come in like sunny yellow smiley faces, hopeful, optimistic, ready (they think). Dozens of them every day. They rattle my phone with the tone I’ve chosen – a horn blast that reminds me of Sherwood and Arthur. Or they dance into my inbox with a James Brown flourish.
They almost never come to anything.
I get dozens of requests to edit books every day. Dozens of calls for quotes. Dozens of hopeful faces that fall when I give them a price.
Somehow, writers – especially first-time book writers – have come to believe that editing should be very inexpensive or, better, free. Somehow, $1,000 to read and give feedback on an entire book – a task that will take dozens of hours – is too much.
I’m not sure the idea of “too much” comes because the writers don’t value their book enough or because they don’t value my work enough. Probably some of both.
I get it. We all have limited resources. We all have to weigh our priorities and needs. And yet . . .
As my friend points out, we don’t challenge the plumber when she charges $200 for three hours work. We don’t quibble with a $35 co-pay when we have a 15 minute doctor’s visit. We don’t skip having an oil change because it costs us $50.
But when it comes to art – buying books, paying editors, purchasing paintings, taking music lessons – we balk. We want a bargain. We want the cost of these things to reflect some real price – as if art comes just from the time and materials involved. The way we are willing to pay for things reflects our culture’s and our own personal values about art and artistic endeavor.
Of course, there are true cost concerns here. Most of us do not have unlimited financial resources to buy art or even to perfect our own work. But we have to ask ourselves the question – what is art worth? what is MY art worth?
Is editing expensive? Oh yes. Is owning a Calder mobile expensive? Oh my yes. Is it expensive to train a child in piano lessons for 13 years? Indeed. And yet, my mother – a piano teacher herself – knew that it was worth it for me to learn from someone else. We pay for what we value.
My idealistic artist’s heart hopes that we will learn to value art and artistic endeavor more. My heart hopes that people will value my training, my skills, and my experience enough to pay for my work. My heart hopes that people will value their own art more.
My hope, my prayer, is that art will flourish.
Have you been told that your work is too expensive? That you charge too much? Or have you found that you can’t pay for the artistic things you love? Tell me about that.
I’m very excited about the wonderful Jane Friedman’s newest venture, Scratch, a new magazine about “the intersection of writing and money.” Yesterday, I subscribed because I could use the wisdom the writers will share but also because I believe in Jane and her work. I hope you’ll take a look and consider subscribing, too.