Friday, 16 August 2013

Am I a professional?

If you write Sci-fi or fantasy, or can illustrate those genres, you might be interested in this competition. The prizes are pretty good - starting at $1,000 and going up to $5,000. Sadly I'm not eligible as I'm too professional for them - having sold more than three short stories.

I could enter this one though. They too think three sales mean an author is a professional - but only if the sales are to publications on their qualifying list. I don't count as professional. I rather suspect they wouldn't consider JK Rowling, John Grisham or Alexander McCAll Smith professionals either, so I'm in good company. (Reckon Stephen King is probably barred from entry though) The prize for this one isn't quite so high at £200 but it's not bad.

So the answer to my question is yes ... and no. That proves nothing about me, but does show it's important to read competition rules very carefully.

Here's an old picture of me daydreaming what it would like to be a professional author. I've used it partly as the location makes it relevant, but mainly so I can tell you I've just chucked those jeans out because they're now too baggy!

What would be your definition of a professional writer? I'm not completely sure of mine, but it does involve the person concerned doing some actual writing, so I'm off to do that now.

41 comments:

  1. Ha! You've opened a can o'worms with that question, Patsy. This is something that writers can get very touchy about.

    I consider myself a pro writer, but I don't make a living off it. I think any one who acts professionally can call themselves the same.

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    1. Yes, after I posted I wondered what sort of reaction I'd get, Deborah.

      Acting professionally is very important, especially if we're hoping to earn money with our work.

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  2. Good question! I'd have said if you've been published and paid for the work but now I'm not sure! I agree that it does involve doing some writing - so I'm off too!

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    1. Getting published and being paid are requirements, in my opinion too, Linda.

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  3. Hmm. I've always heard that "professional" just means you get paid for doing something. A professional wrestler gets paid for wrestling, a professional actor gets paid for acting, etc. So, a professional writer gets paid for writing.

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    1. I agree, Linda. Besides, at a pinch, you can live on very little....can't you?

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    2. Yes, that sounds reasonable, Linda. My trusty dictionary agrees with you too, though it does offer an alternative.

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    3. That certainly seems to be the belief of some of those doing the paying, Frances.

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  4. I reckon it depends what hat you are wearing at the time.
    I've been writing since 1979; lots of commissions and loads of books published - so I guess I could call myself a professional writer. But, this writing activity, for a long time, was alongside other 'professional' occupations eg my teaching/examining career so up until 2000, if you'd asked me what I did, I said 'teach'. Now that I don't have even a part-time job in an educational establishment and rarely run workshops - all that is left is my writing. Ask me now and I say 'I write'. Then you ask 'what kinds of things do you write' and that's when my can of worms spills over.

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    1. Well I'm not going to ask what kind of thing you write, Anne a) because I know and b) because you might give an example and my blog doesn't have an adult content warning!

      Sounds as though the answer depends a little on our own attitude, Anne.

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  5. I would say a professional writer earns enough money to contribute to the household budget in some way, even if it's in copy paper and print cartridges. I think the word professional implies money earned. But what is wrong with being A Writer. Amateur or professional, what does it matter?

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    1. Yes, I'm coming round to the idea that I'd define a professional writer as someone who'd earned some money from their writing, Maggie.

      It doesn't matter at all really, I don't think. We can agonise for our deciding if we're professional, published, proper writers, if we can call ourselves authors, but what's important is what we write, not the label we give ourselves.

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  6. I'd say a professional is one who receives most of his income from writing.

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    1. I wouldn't argue such a person wasn't a professional writer, Alex but I'm not sure it's quite so simple as that. A person might have a very lucrative career doing something else, but still be successful enough as a writer to be considered professional I think.

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  7. Agree with the majority here, professional if you earn enough money to call it your job I guess. I don't, therefore I must be an amateur, but then I don't really like the sound of 'amateur writer' might have to ponder this one further...

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    1. I agree amateur writer doesn't sound very good, but I'm not sure why. Many of the Olympic gold medal winners were amateurs, but that doesn't seem to have been held against them.

      Another dictionary definition* of professional is to do the task to a high standard, Suzanne. Many people write to a high standard without earning very much.


      *and it's not even Wednesday!

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  8. This is a tricky one. Writing is my only employment and I earn from it -but not enough to live on if I was single. Not sure whether that makes me professional or not.

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    1. By most of the definitions above you're a professional writer, Wendy. I'm in a similar situation myself, currently most of what I earn comes from writing, but I'm not earning much.

      Seems I can't blame competition organisers for not agreeing on a definition!

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  9. I think Alex is right in the strictest of terms - a professional writer makes his income writing. That writing is often broad-based in order to bring home the bacon, but all money is made by writing. That is a professional writer. A successful writer would be someone who makes some money for their writing, and is striving toward becoming financially independent due wholly to their writing. I think the road of a successful writer can be a long one. However, the scenery is always what makes the trip interesting!

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    1. I like the idea of a long and interesting trip, Robin.

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  10. In other areas - e.g. music - people are sometimes referred to as semi-professional, i.e. they combine a day job with occasional professional engagements or gigs which pay but not enough to live on. If you're paid any kind of fee, I don't think you can be considered an amateur.

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    1. Semi-professional sounds a good term for those making some money from writing, but who also have day jobs, Kath.

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  11. A very controversial topic!

    I earn some money from writing, but I have a full time job too. Therefore, as Kath suggests, I could be termed 'semi-professional'.

    But then I don't have the luxury of being able to give up my other work to concentrate on my writing whilst being 'kept' or subsidised by a partner (or trust fund :-) !). Therefore I find it unfair that people who do have that freedom call themselves professional writers but look on me as not being, even though they may earn no more from their writing than I do!

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    1. Miss McFish if someone looks down on you just because they have unearned income and you don't then I'm not sure their opinion is worth anything.

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  12. The heck with that snotty publication. My definition is you're a professional writer as soon as someone pays you for a story/article. YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL!! :-)

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    1. I'm a professional whilst actually writing a story which sells, Lexa. Maybe intermittent professional is the term I should use.

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  13. As far as I understand being 'professinal' means getting paid in some way for your published work. If that it the case, then I've been a professional writer since I was a 4-year-old. If professional means making a living from writing, then I, like many others, am probably f*cked.

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    1. There's a huge difference between earning some money and getting enough to live on, Jacula. I don't think the majority of writers achieve the latter.

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  14. And spelling professional properly in my first sentence would probably be a good start.

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  16. Sorry - had to delete that last one as my fingers had gone dyslexic! I said you might not win the 200 but you get a medal for chucking out the jeans. It wasn't that funny the first time round really!

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    1. Thanks, Lizy. Don't you hate it when you notice your typos just a split second after posting the comment, sending the email etc?

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  17. Hmmm - it's a difficult one indeed, Patsy. I don't call myself a writer, even though I write every day and have had some success in terms of publication. Because I work in a nursery school on a part time basis, that is what I consider to be my 'profession' at present because it pays (some of!) the bills.

    However, although I don't get paid to write, so don't consider myself a professional writer, I would say that I 'write professionally', ie, my work is of professional quality because, as I probably told you before, I used to produce non-fiction articles for the trade press and write copy for a technical and research organisation.

    So I consider myself sort of and sort of not a professional writer! :)

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    1. Interesting that you consider you write professionally (and I agree with your reasoning) but don't call yourself a writer. There's obviously no one answer to this which suits everyone's perceptions.

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  18. In my mind, a professional writer is someone who writes for a living :)

    Xx

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    1. That's what I'd say about any other profession, Vikki. Writing seems different somehow - maybe because there are so many good writers who're not likely to ever earn their living solely from writing?

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  19. Hi Patsy, well done on throwing out your jeans. I've finished week 5 of my new sitting down at the computer and phone job, so am podging up a bit. Off for a swim in the morning. I agree with Vikki above, if you can live off your writing gains, you're professional. Hardly anyone does that though in the real world do they? I'm glad to have a job with wages, but I'll always write, and hopefully get paid now and again.

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    1. Since being made redundant I've made a real effort to stay active, Suzy. If I hadn't I probably wouldn't be able to get behind my desk now!

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Thanks so much for commenting!