We all give on occasion. Sometimes we recognize an unexpected opportunity and we give joyously. Other times, we feel uncomfortably coerced into giving up some of our time or belongings.
This has been a period of â€œgivingâ€ opportunities for me. In some instances, Iâ€™ve felt pressured to give and in others, Iâ€™ve felt moved to do so.
I learned the joy of giving very early in life. It is still a high for me when I offer something from the heart and it brings a smile to someoneâ€™s face. The simple phrase, â€œthank youâ€ is music to my ears. But I have also discovered, with time, that one must establish a balance between giving and withholding. During the first few months of this year, maintaining this balance has been a challenge.
Because Iâ€™m constantly putting myself out there, freelance writers and authors have no trouble finding me. Some email me through the SPAWN Web site and others locate me through my Web site, my writing-related books or as a result of one of my workshops or articles. Most of them want my help. Some of them want a resource recommendation, others want information or guidance and still others are seeking financial help. I respond to them all.
Just as I canâ€™t â€œnot write,â€ I canâ€™t seem to avoid responding to freelance writers and hopeful authors. Sometimes I get a â€œthanksâ€ in return and sometimes not. Sometimes, the author wants to argue with me or pick my brain beyond what I believe is a fair limit. Occasionally, they seem to feel that I donâ€™t give enough. I guess itâ€™s all relative.
A friend of mine experienced a disturbing incident in a local yarn shop this week. Marilyn walked in with her knitting project and asked for a little help. The owner said, â€œI can see that you bought your materials elsewhere, so that will cost you $8.00.â€
While it is certainly important for professionals to set limits, they must be realistic. In my opinion, this proprietor turned down a wonderful opportunity. She chose quick money instead of a chance to develop a happy new customer. And she lost all the way around. My friend did not pay for her services and she will not be back.
And then there is the other end of the spectrumâ€”this is where balance comes in. When do you stop giving? Iâ€™ve learned to speak up when a particularly needy writer, after four or five detailed emails back and forth, wants even more from me. Some of these folks, when I say that I have given all that I can and that I will have to charge for additional time, leave in a huff. Some promise never to bother me again! Itâ€™s no bother, people. Itâ€™s just that this is how I make my livingâ€”and I can do only so much work for free.
These past few weeks, Iâ€™ve had a real variety of emails to answer and decisions to make. One gentleman wants me to read his 75,000-word manuscript out of the goodness of my heart because his book is that good and I will surely want to become a publishing partner. I spent about 30 minutes discussing publishing options with him and trying to steer him in a direction that would likely benefit his project.
Another man contacted me about a book that is â€œso unique that it will sell itself.â€ All he needs is financial backing. When I found out that he knew nothing about the publishing industry, I spent nearly an hour with him attempting to educate him and help him to engage in further educational opportunities.
A woman emailed me to ask a whole list of questions, only some of which I could answer off the top of my head. I responded to those that I could and provided resources for the others.
Another woman called me asking for help in writing a memoir. If I go along with what she wants, I could make around $100,000. But, when we meet next week, I will advise her that this is not a viable project. If she really wants the book written, I will suggest that she write it just for family and friends. I can help her with the organization and editing of the book, if she wants. Sheâ€™ll have her book and she will have saved about $99,000.
I met with a lovely trio of women this week who hired me to help them promote a local history book which they spent eight years producing from an old manuscript that a husband wrote before his death. Iâ€™m convinced that I can save them the money that they planned to spend on advertising while helping them to focus on promotional efforts that will actually result in sales. And so I hired on.
I also met recently with a mentally handicapped poet Iâ€™ve known for years. She teaches poetry at a mental health facility and takes her teaching and her poetry very seriously. Every once in a while she talks to me about publishing her poetry. The closest she has come to this on her own is to type up copies of her poetry (yes on a typewriter) and put them in manila folders. She sells these as books.
Recently, she spent a few months saving up money until she could afford a consulting session with me. (Of course, I gave her a discount.) Again, she discussed someday having her poetry published in a real book. When I got home, I decided to publish her book of poetry. I will ask her if she would like to give $25 toward the project and then I will do the rest. Iâ€™ll prepare the pages, create a cover (hopefully from her own artwork) and have 25 or 30 books comb-bound for her. I hope she is as thrilled as I am to be able to offer her this gift.
While the reason that I work with clients is to earn a living doing something I enjoy, I certainly do some giving along the way, as well. My clients may not even know it, but I will sometimes go off the clock to discuss something with them or respond to a question. My clients are a gift to me and I often find ways to give back.
Of course, this blog is also one of my giftsâ€”itâ€™s free for anyone who wants to take the time to learn and to grow as a writer or an author. Some of my most valuable altruistic efforts come in book form. Be sure to order your copy of The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. Check out all of my other books at my Web site. http://www.matilijapress.com Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org