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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Yog's Law: It's Not Just For Writers

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I've written about Yog's Law before, and it's time to say a few more words. Yog's Law is simple:
Money Flows Toward the Writer.
Fairly simple, wouldn't you say? Some folks have taken Yog's Law on and tried to disprove it and so far they've failed. They've tried narrow exceptions, complex flow charts that only Rube Goldberg could appreciate, and outright calling it a lie. But you know what? It works because it doesn't just work for writers, it works in real life.

Oh, really? 

I guess that means I need to provide an example or two.

Example the first: Let's say you're starting your own business. What's your goal? To make money, presumably. Pay the bills, put the kid through college, whatever. You pinch every penny so you can get returns as soon as possible. That's Yog's Law in action.

Example the second: You have a job. There are certain expenses connected with most jobs: commuting (gas, fares, your bike, whatever), wardrobe (even your blue jeans and sneakers wear out), lunch (even if you take your own, peanut butter costs something), and so on. However, your employer (presumably) pays you enough to cover those expenses and give you something left over to pay for things like housing, food, utilities, and so on. Yog's Law in action. Money flows to you.

Now, if you're a writer, and artist or a freelancer, people will get sneaky with you to try and make you circumvent Yog's Law.

Examples? But of course!

A potential client tells you that there's big money in this! All you've got to do is work your butt off for a few weeks and when the money starts rolling in you'll get paid! It's been my experience that this is rarely the case. The potential client probably isn't out to scam you. It's just that things didn't work out. You've put in several weeks of work for nothing. Money did not flow to you. (Ah, a related story on this below.)

Everyone works on spec! Yes, to a point. Unless that novel you're writing is under contract, you're working on spec. (Speculation. The hope that you'll make money.) Money is tight these days, and spec work may be the only way to get your foot in some doors. But what happens when you spend weeks working on a logo or an ad campaign or whatever, only to find out you didn't make the cut? Hope you have a financial cushion. This isn't to say that you should never work on spec, but it doesn't hurt to try and negotiate some sort of contract that gives you something if they don't accept your work. 

Are you so desperate for sales that you're giving away free samples of your work? You're giving away books?!? This is a variation of the "Yog's Law doesn't work" cry. No, free samples have worked for ages. Give 'em a taste and they'll want more. Not everyone will want more, but even a few sales will more than offset the time it took you to prepare and upload the sample. Generally when an author gives away books, they're giving away a few copies that the publisher gave to them. Legally, they can't sell them (that is written into some contracts), but they can give them away. They can sign a copy and put it in a charity auction. It's a darned cheap way to raise awareness. 

To put that another way, advertising does NOT violate Yog's Law. Companies do it all the time. They wouldn't spend money on advertising or free samples if it didn't work. 

Do advertising campaigns backfire? Sometimes they do. But they're still in line with Yog's Law. 

The bottom line is that you should look at the bottom line before you pay money for any service. Carefully consider the potential return on any money you're asked to pay. 

Ultimately, you have to do what's best for you. What's best for one writer isn't what's best for another. Before you spend money or sign a contract, please take advantage of Writer Beware's extensive list of resources. (Disclaimer, I am a member of the SFWA, which oversees Writer Beware, but I've been recommending them since long before I joined up.)

Oh, I was going to tell you a story about people who tell you that there potential for earning is big, but you do need to work without compensation until the money starts to roll in. This is a job I took when I was young and naive and desperate for work. It was with an ad agency, writing copy. I was desperate for a job and took it on the promise of money down the road. It turned out the guy who was running the business was clueless about how things worked. Well, so was I. I admit it. Notice I said that I was desperate for work. I'd been looking for months and had been out on multiple interviews most weeks without success. 

Desperation will lead people to take those kinds of jobs, just as desperation to get published can lead people to make decisions they might regret later. Please talk things over with a trusted friend. Find a community that caters to writers. Google is your friend, too. Read. Learn. Don't take an offer out of desperation, but take it because it's the right offer for you.

Tags: Writing  Publishing 

Filed under: Writing   Publishing   Yog's Law      
10/8/2011 5:25:14 PM
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