Am I a Content Creator or a Writer?

My friend’s dad gave her some advice once that I took to heart.

What your job is called matters more than what your job is.

I always agreed so what I’m about to say seems like a contradiction.

I don’t see the problem with being called, or hired as, a Content Creator if that’s what the job requires.

In a post on ELT buzzwords, I included Content Creator as it was one I sensed was causing resentment among materials writers. It passed without much kerfuffle until someone suggested Content Creators shouldn’t expect royalties because they don’t originate the ideas behind course books anymore. In fact, it mostly echoes what Scott Thornbury wrote in his post about the myth of creativity in course book writing which seemed, at least in part, to have sprung from a post I wrote about the importance of royalties.

I’ve since changed my mind about royalties.

I think they’re a privilege-in-disguise blip that allowed publishers to strip writers of the thing they actually should care about – their copyright. In return for a small percentage of the income generated from sales, you give up all rights to that work.

Ever.

If the publisher fails to make a success of marketing that work, or shelves it completely, or decides to give it away for free or at discounted prices, that carrot dangling in front of you shrinks to nothing. You’ll be lucky to earn out your advance in even the best of cases, so it in effect becomes a fee – one that is too low for the work and hours you put in.

Royalties are like lottery tickets. Out of the hope it could be YOU who gets to live off one huge selling work, or many moderately selling works, you give up all rational perspective on the odds of that happening and all future ability to make money off it in other ways.

What a skilful sleight of hand. Look over there while I make your money disappear over here. The publishers must be thrilled so much energy is being directed by writers into fighting for a system that enslaves them. Not only that, they can get you out on the road promoting for free for them and doing their social media for them because it’s a royalties package. I can’t believe I fell for it!

Typically short form fiction or journalistic pieces (with bylines) have contracts with varying degrees of rights signed over. Perhaps you give away first publication rights only, or the rights to a certain regional market, or exclusive rights forever and so on. Different publications have different rules and reselling work – whether by repurposing the material or selling it elsewhere – is how many writers manage to make a living off their work.

I see fiction and journalism as very clearly Writing. I ask myself, in my relatively short career as a writer, how much of my work has been what I would term Content Creation?

It turns out to be most of it.

I started off as a Content Creator in ELT writing quizzes for the BBC Learning English site. They didn’t have my name on and I’d struggle even now to pick out the ones that were mine even though it took no small amount of skill to come up with topics and create meaningful questions. I felt I was paid a fair amount for the work involved and I never thought about them again.

I started off as a Writer with Time Out Istanbul doing restaurant reviews and articles, mainly but not exclusviely, about food. Apart from two articles that were info gathering and one review that was for a paying advertiser in the magazine and which I had to fake because the food had been so bad, those pieces ring loud and clear with my voice.

Continuing in the Content Creating vein, I’ve done a digital YL thing, some reading texts for course books, study questions in my own Graded Readers and Study Skills book, some Social Science workbook material and a mostly info gathering piece for EL Gazette.

As a Writer, I’ve written two Graded Readers (and a third that has been shelved but I hope sees light one day), the themes and dialogues for the Study Skills book, a novel and a couple of articles for online magazines outside ELT. My biggest outlet for Writing is probably blogs, this one and two others.

Forgetting about how those are paid as they have been a mix of royalties and fees, fair and unfair, the contrast in the nature of the work is obvious.

Writing is freedom, imagination, creative flow, work that “belongs” to me and no-one else could have come up with; the finished product is something I want on display in my house and I’d be upset if someone went and rewrote it without my knowledge. If I have to do rewrites, it’s because the material isn’t living up to the promise of the original concept or idea and I’ll want them doing as much as any editor will and not expect to be paid more for the work.

Content Creation is more of a (creative) problem solving exercise. Briefs are tight, or annoyingly loose, but still parameters are set by someone else or by the requirements of the project itself which may dictate the type of material, and even the idea itself. Editors can do whatever they like to it after I submit it, it probably won’t carry my name and I wouldn’t lay claim to it anywhere other than Linked In. If I have to do rewrites it is because I didn’t meet the brief or the requirements and, where that was not foreseeable, I expect to be paid more for the extra work.

In those jobs above – which ones demanded more actual skills and training?

The Content Creation assignments without a doubt. It’s not even about enjoyment – I am hating writing my second novel but quite enjoyed the quizzes and workbook – nor is it about how difficult the work is.

I think materials writers who don’t want to use the term Content Creator are doing themselves a disservice. In ELT a lot of materials writing is more like copywriting than anything else. Now that’s a skill and has its own qualification. I wonder how well it’s paid. If it’s better than ELT writing, maybe it’s time to start demanding the same rate.

True creative writing is an innate ability. You get it through luck and, though you might work hard to polish and perfect, you can’t learn or train it. The skills needed to create effective content are varied and honed over years and, as such, need to be paid at  a rate that reflects the hours put in and the expertise needed.

Demand that rate and don’t be sucked into taking a gamble on a product you didn’t have the idea for. Let the publisher, whose idea it was, take the fall in the likely event that it doesn’t succeed. When the creative flow and the idea is yours, then consider taking a gamble on it but fight over the copyright.

It matters what you call your job.

Content Creators should be proud to call it Content Creating.

Nicola Prentis has a BA in Philosophy, a lifelong pedantry over the English language, an MA in ELT and a CV that spans about ten different countries. She writes Graded Readers for Language Learners (The Tomorrow Mirror, 2013 & As Others See Us coming in 2014). She has written texts for course books but has her own Self Study book – Speaking Skills with Harper Collins that was published in 2014. She blogs regularly on her site Simply English

Photo Credit: streetwrk.com via Compfight cc.Text added by ELTjam.

33 thoughts on “Am I a Content Creator or a Writer?”

  1. Nicola,

    An enjoyable read. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a content creator. Bill Gates got there a long, long time ago, in 1996: “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

    Quick question… If publishers find royalties so much to their liking, why are they doing everything they can to get rid of them?

    Gavin

    Reply
    • Thanks Gavin!

      Excuse my cynicism but I am coming to think royalties has been a doorway for offering fees that don’t always reflect the amount of work put in. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by my last royalties statement so the gamble can pay off.

      Reply
      • Nicola,

        I get that, but in the post you say publishers love them, due to their slave-like hold over writers. But as far as I can see, publishers are the ones aiming to get rid of royalties, so my question is, how do you square those two things?

        Gavin

        Reply
        • I’d say that publishers who are moving away from authors/royalties have decided they can rely on in-house editors to do the overall planning. Then the content is farmed out to various freelancers in chunks: a different writer per unit, or one writer does all the readings, while another does all vocabulary pages,etc. Then the editors stitch the pieces together and try to hide any seams.

          The problem with this model is that no one person sees the project as a single whole, from top to bottom, page by page, and from start to finish, until the later stages of design and production, when it’s too late for any major rejigging.

          In addition, some editors may not have a very strong teaching/writing background. They aren’t superhuman, after all! As a result, they may need the freelancers to take the pedagogical lead. Of course, this can make for some very inconsistent and disjointed lessons or units, if there isn’t a lot of collaborative writing going on.

          In online materials, those consistency problems aren’t as obvious, since the content is presented bit by bit over time, in a piecemeal fashion, but in a continuous, printed book they’re much easier to spot, even with a simple flick-test.

          To my mind, one of an author’s key roles is to keep an eye on everything, from the first page to the last, knowing exactly what is on which page and why it’s being done that way.

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        • Hello,

          I’m using a bit of guess work here, as I’m not that au fait with this area, but I’m going to guess what the publishers will do is get rid of royalties all together and offer writes a simple fee instead. The writers will be less enslaved then but they will definitely be getting the absolute minimum return on their work.

          Reply
        • OK, then let’s say publishers loved them but now perhaps see more advantages in a shorter, fixed term relationship with authors than they might have done in the past. In many industries contract work is now the norm. And, if the fees aren’t high enough, royalties might well have paved the way for continuing that.

          Reply
          • I don’t think there’s a clear yes/no or good/bad answer to the royalties issue. A lot depends on your ‘nose’ for projects that will sell well, and your ability to strike a good deal. I’ve worked for fees, for royalties, and combinations of the two. I’m not sure what you mean when you say that royalties have paved the way for lower fees.

            If I understand correctly, you are annoyed about earning meagre royalties because a project hasn’t sold well as you’d hoped, and wish you’d taken a fee instead. At the same time, you’d like those fees to be more substantial. That sounds like wanting to eat your fee-cake and then have your royalty-cake too. Of course, that option is also possible: getting a (smaller) fee up-front and then a (smaller) royalty afterwards, if you like to hedge your wagers. When it comes right down to it, the choice between the two payment options is exactly that: a wager (or business venture, as I said before). As my grandfather would have said, if you don’t like losing any bets, you shouldn’t play the ponies.

  2. Very interesting and thought-provoking. In general I mostly just care about the work itself and I don’t care what people call it. But at the same time I do think all of us who do this kind of work need to be careful about what “content” can mean to some people.

    As you know, tech companies are often structured in three parts: product, engineering, and content. At a lot of these places, content is a very restrictive box. You will meet tech people who believe that content is just the stuffing that goes in the product and ought to be produced for free by users, or for close to free by hungry and desperate taskrabbits.

    This type of person also doesn’t tend to care what you, as a mere content person, happen to think about the pedagogical effectiveness of the site or app because that is a product issue, and at many places the wall between content and product is very high and very well-fortified.

    That’s a shame because as we all know, ELT materials writers are not simply producing mere stuffing like individual test items or word lists (although we sometimes do that). When you come up with a cool activity idea for your book, you are in fact designing an interaction: interactions between teacher and student, among learners, between learners and various text types, etc. In other words: you are making product! And I hope I won’t be seen as a luddite for saying that in some ways, writers and teacher-writers working with PDFs, handouts, print books etc. have a lot more flexibility and imagination in designing these interactions than some product and engineering folks.

    So, to sum up, I don’t mind “content creator” in general but have become a lot more mindful of certain situations when it is not good to let people think that you are just a content person. We have to remember that many edtech companies are led by people who do not fully understand what we offer, and it is important for us to help them appreciate that our roles are about so much more than making stuffing.

    Reply
  3. In materials development, I’ve played various roles, including course consultant, manuscript reviewer and freelance writer. I’ve also been an author for major ELT publishers.

    When I work as a freelancer, I expect an air-tight brief, or I help write it and then charge for consulting. If they change the brief later on, and major rewrites are needed, then I charge extra. I always make that clear from the get-go, and so far, so good.

    When I accept work as an author, it’s entirely different. I’ve never been given an airtight brief. Quite the opposite. At best, there’s been a long shopping list of ‘features’ to include. I’ve always had to hammer out the ‘real’ project brief with editors and consultants, along with a sample for (endless) discussion.

    After that, the writing stages involve constant (re)thinking, with draft after draft being written and rewritten. Somewhere down the line, there might be a nice royalty cheque, and in some cases, you might get an advance, but if you averaged it out as an hourly wage, you’d cry. In short, if the book flops, you’re out of luck.

    Knowing that, who would anyone want to be royalty-earning (or non-earning) author? Writers who (1) enjoy being at the heart of a project from start to finish (2) like the thrill of seeing ‘their baby’ in print. (2) are willing to wager on their material.

    Choosing royalties isn’t like buying a lottery ticket. It’s like opening a new business, and in this case, your backer and never-silent partner is the publisher.

    And why do publishers want/need authors (AKA head writers) on projects? Aside from an author’s knowledge, skill, reputation, etc. the publisher benefits from having a business partner who’s also making a bold investment in the project, and will do what needs to be done, like writing 70+ hours/week, for starters.

    Of course, there are dedicated freelancers and editors out there who also work very long, hard hours. However, they receive their fee or salary, and aren’t affected as directly or seriously if the project turns out to be a commercial flop. By the time your book starts selling, they might even be working for the competition.

    As for “creativity”, we first need to define the term in a way that isn’t so vague as to include almost anything, or so specific (and loaded) as to exclude everything except some guru’s pet approach.

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  4. Great read Nicola!

    To me, it seems like you’ve come to that light-bulb moment, in which you’ve realised you are the means of production: you’re producing the stuff the few little men at the top are making money off. It’s unfair: it’s capitalism.

    You’ll need to find an employer who takes what could be described as a more socialist approach to work i.e. who will give you a fairer cut of the fruits of your work. Does such a publishing house exist? I have no idea – maybe someone else out there can let us know.

    Reply
    • If I were a publisher who was making an effort to pay writers more fairly (whatever that means) I would sure hate it if I were branded as being a socialist. I am curious, is there some law in England that states that capitalists can’t also be fair?

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      • Well, a fairer pay would be more representative of the workers production. For example, I once worked at a school (not in the UK) where they recognised that without the great teachers there, the school wouldn’t be making any where near as much money. So, it talked with the teachers and agreed on a 50/50 split – if you taught a class, you would get 50% of what the student a paid.

        That was very much in a capitalist system and fair. I think your comment might reveal more about the negative connotations the word “socialism” might have in the country where you’re from (I am assuming here that you’re not from the UK and I know assumptions can be wrong).

        Anyway, the point is fair pay and fair conditions can be achieved in a capitalist system, although I think many would argue that it’s not in capitalisn’s favour to make things fair for the workers (but this is something a little beyond my knowledge of economical systems so I couldn’t go any further than that).

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  5. “I’ve since changed my mind about royalties.

    I think they’re a privilege-in-disguise blip that allowed publishers to strip writers of the thing they actually should care about – their copyright. In return for a small percentage of the income generated from sales, you give up all rights to that work.”

    But you don’t keep the copyright on your work-for-hire … your “content.” That belongs to the publisher.

    At least with a royalty-bearing project, you have the possibility, if you fight hard enough, to get a reversion-of-rights clause put in to specify under what conditions the rights would revert to you. With fee-based writing, that stuff is gone forever.

    I don’t mind writing for fees if the fees are adequate. But I have less investment in the project. It’s a “one and done” affair. I put more effort and emotion into the royalty-bearing projects, and I follow up with them year after year. They each have their place, but they definitely feel different.

    Reply
    • It’s only because that’s the way it’s always been that writing for fees and for royalties signs away all copyright. In the things I’ve written for magazines, contracts have things like “First internet rights” or “exclusive for 12 months” etc. That model could, it seems to me, easily be applied to for all content produced for publishers. How to make it happen, I don’t quite know.

      I applaud the renewable 5 year model from Wayzgoose too.

      Reply
  6. Hi Nicola
    I enjoyed reading your post and it certainly got me thinking. So much so, that I felt I needed to take a break from my ‘writing’ – yes, I’m still calling myself a ‘writer’ – to respond.

    I have worked on projects where ‘content creation’ was involved. Adapting coursbooks for a different market, where the author’s input (content, creativity, etc.) is relatively limited, could quite easily be described as ‘content creation’. And other examples have already been cited in previous comments to this post.

    However, I’d like to take ESP as a case in point, not just because it’s my area, but also because I think it’s probably the antithesis of what you are describing.

    One of the main reasons publishers call on authors for ESP is their KNOWLEDGE. Knowledge about the target audience (both the learners and the trainers) as well as their mindset, knowledge about appropriate methodologies, core content, sources of ‘genuinely’ authentic materials, etc. ESP writers will spend a significant amount of time researching their area and/or working with practitioners from the field BEFORE they can even decide which lexical/structural/functional points to include in the course, let alone decide which activities to design to present those points. ESP writers even advise publishers on how to access the target market.
    Having worked as an ESP editor for a major ELT publisher, I am fully aware the added-value the ESP writer brings to the table, which goes way beyond the content writing. As Mike Boyle suggests, ESP writers are not simply providing ‘stuffing’ – far from it.

    I strongly believe that materials writers do exist and that their role is very different from that of the content creator. There is definitely room for both, but terms of reference and certainly rates of pay, whether they be fees or royalties, should reflect that difference.

    Back to me writing ….

    Reply
    • Thanks for commenting. I admit I don’t know much about ESP but I think we basically agree that where knowledge is needed to do the job, the pay should reflect that.
      I feel research and creativity are different things but often both can have their part to play in the same work, I guess was part of my point.

      Reply
  7. I’m not going to weigh in today, but I just wanted to say what a thought-provoking post and I’m loving some of the really insightful comments too.

    And for what it’s worth, my email signature has said ‘ELT Materials Developer’ for many years and I don’t feel the need to change it just yet …

    Reply
  8. @ Nicola,

    I respect the wisdom in what your friend’s father said but I wonder if the world wouldn’t be better off if people didn’t actually live the reverse:

    What your job is matters infinitely more than what your job is called.

    Reply
    • I think he meant in the context of getting subsequent jobs and for your CV and business card, pay terms etc. rather than the intrinsic and extrinsic worth put on it but I know what you mean.

      It’s interesting how “teacher” has such a high worth in some cultures and yet I often hear in ours the phrase “those that can’t do, teach” as if it doesn’t deserve it.

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  9. Templeton, “having your cake and eating it”? I don’t think being paid fairly for the work you put into something is that and the fact it can be described as such is exactly why this sort of low fee vs royalty gamble is able to exist!
    1. I have never been offered the choice.
    2. If I were to be, then for certain types of writing that I now know do not sell, I would take a fee and I would also now know how to estimate what would be a fair fee for the amount of work.
    3. If a royalty deal is on the table, I’d want to know what their projected sales figures were for it so I was doing more than just crossing my fingers. This will never happen.
    4. Therefore it’s not like opening a new business unless that business is one which your partner won’t let you see 90% of the information you’d need to decide whether to go in or not.
    5. Most writers never earn out their advance. Those that do are the minority and might make it to very big profits on their original bet. Often the factors behind that success or lack of it are out of their control. Also not like any business I’d want to partner in.

    Reply
    • Hi Nicola.

      Perhaps my own experiences have been different from yours, but I look at royalty agreements as calculated bets. If I want to know exactly what and (hopefully) when I’ll be paid, I opt for fee-based work and try to negotiate fair conditions, considering the time, effort and skills that I bring to the table.

      If I don’t like the offer, I have to choose between accepting it (while holding my nose) or turning it down. Of course, publishers have got the upper hand because there are lots of talented writers out there who may accept because they need the money, or perhaps because they’re starting out and want to get a foot in the door.

      As for royalties, they are always gambles. Compared to my ‘bird in the hand’ fee jobs, royalty projects offer the promise of ‘two in the bush’, or more than two, if things go well. For some projects, I’ve been offered a choice between the two, or have asked for one rather than the other. In some cases, I’ve received a blend of the two. In any of those cases, it takes tiresome negotiation.

      When it comes to estimating decent fees, I have to rely on my own experience and/or advice from colleagues. I’ve made bad estimates over the years, but have tried to learn from those mistakes, and I’ve had to walk away from some offers that screamed “unfair”.

      As for your third and fourth points, perhaps I’ve been lucky, but I’ve always asked for and received rough projections of sales or target market-share. I wouldn’t sign a royalty contract without at least a rough idea of their hopes for the project (or I’d want a heftier advance, just in case). That said, I take projections with a grain of salt, since they’re usually too optimistic or ambitious. If they happen to meet or even surpass their rosy target, then I get a nice surprise, but I never count on it. It’s too risky.

      As for your last point, it’s only fair to say that the publisher makes a much larger up-front investment, at least for coursebooks with umpteen print and digital components: overhead and salaries, design, printing, distribution, advertising and promotion, etc.

      If the project flops, you won’t cover your advance, which really hurts, but if the publisher doesn’t recoup its initial investment (and make a profit) that doesn’t bode well for the company or for its employees. Launching a coursebook is a huge risk, compared to publishing a print-only activity book, or a text-only title with less expense on artwork, such as a teacher’s resource book.

      By the way, thanks for opening up this discussion. I think it helps to talk about these issues.

      Reply
  10. I think the royalties angle is not really where I meant the focus of this article to be so a note on where I was going with it.
    Last night I met a copywriter for a major clothing brand at my Creative Writing group. She gave as her reason for coming to our group this “I’m a bilingual copywriter so I don’t get to do any creative writing.”
    I asked her later just to make sure she really meant what I thought she meant and she explained that since it was marketing and very tightly controlled contentwise, she didn’t see it as creative. She wasn’t complaining and she likes her job.
    I asked her if it was well paid in the UK where she had been prior to Spain and she said yes. She also gets a 50% discount on the designer brand she works for. That’s why she’s not hung up on the creativity aspect. She’s paid fairly, her qualifications and knowledge are rewarded and there is respect for what she does.
    Educational copywriting is what many of us are doing on some projects. I don’t know why we don’t claim that term and seek fair compensation on the same terms as copywriters. It would make for a better deal than either royalties (in most cases) or a low fee.

    Reply
    • I think your comparison is interesting and provokes some good head-scratching.

      My concern is that devising new labels for certain types of writing (as per the importance of job titles) might actually make it easier for publishers to pay more writers even less money. For example, they might tell you that ‘educational copy-writers’ will be paid less than ‘content-creators’, who earn less than ‘materials-writers’, who earn less than ‘Writers’.

      I wonder if inventing a new ‘lower-rung’ would lead to more tasks being arbitrarily labelled ‘educational copy-writing’ to justify a lower fee. If that were the case, the new title would acquire negative connotations, and most likely be avoided on CVs.

      I also think the debate about ‘creativity’ (meaning innovation and inventiveness) may be something of a red herring. Is it really the sine qua non of any and all good ELT materials?

      To use a metaphor, one of my favourite restaurants is a trattoria that serves traditional Italian food. There is nothing innovative about the menu – just delicious, familiar favourites prepared by experienced cooks following traditional recipes.

      The restaurant has been successful for years, not because its food is ‘creative’ in the sense of ‘innovative’ or ‘inventive’. Instead, their strengths are a mix of tradition, experience, skill, and a long-standing reputation for great food. They’ve also outlived many more creative (e.g. innovative/trendy) restaurants that have come and gone over the years, so they must be doing something right.

      Reply
      • Maybe. But then copywriter is the fairest term and I can’t see why any of the others would be needed for work with tight briefs, no personal creative input etc etc. Since copywriters are paid well, problem solved. Is there a union for them or a payscale? Even better! Have not looked into this.

        Also, we agree here I think since I am not saying all ELT materials need creativity in my meaning of the word. I am saying claiming they all involve that is a misperception. Those workbooks I enjoyed so much (to my utter mystification but there you go – I even liked writing the tests) didn’t need the creativity I apply to other stuff at all and I wouldn’t dream of saying they did. In that way your restaurant analogy is apt but then, I suppose the sous chef/veg prep person would describe himself and his job differently than the one who cooks the dishes?

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        • This is a tricky issue, but I don’t think we disagree that much. I think what makes me squirm is the idea of labelling people (e.g., as copywriters or content-creators) rather than the work they do on a particular project (e.g., copywriting or content-creating). I suppose some people might want to specialise and try to make that clear with a specific title, but I wouldn’t.

          Personally, I like writing a variety of things, even drills and tests, so you’re not alone! The projects that are more ‘open-ended’ (I don’t like the term ‘creative’) can be quite tiring, so I alternate them with more ‘bounded’ tasks like made-to-order worksheets, which are also tiring, but in a different way, like doing advanced-level crossword puzzles. It’s like I’m giving the right side of my brain a rest, and letting the more analytical left side take over for a while.

          Maybe that’s the issue for me. I think I can value my day-dreaming, inventive, ‘off-the-wall’ right hemisphere, as well as the cool, analytical ‘puzzle-solving’ left side that helps me to sort through an insanely tight brief and find the way to write something I’m proud to submit.

          The ideal project would let me use both sides of my noggin in equal measure, of course. But for those tasks that are more analytical or bounded, should I really expect to be paid less? Is pure, unbridled creativity the be-all and the end-all when it comes to writing good materials for the classroom? I don’t really think so … but maybe I’m alone on that issue.

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  11. Hi Nicola, this is something I’ve thought a lot about recently as I’ve seen the nature of my work change radically. I’ll write something more fitting when my brain is in gear – but thanks for getting the discussion going because it affects us all. There is a place for Royalties and a place for fees. I think that an ideal situation for me to be in as a writer would be a 50/50 ‘work-type’ situation with publishers paying good fees for content and with the other half of the work/income coming from very high royalties on self-published books (in the absence of virtually any royalties from publishers these days). Of course, this implies a lot of hard work and self promotion – but with more and more collaborative efforts and like-minded people getting together to share skills and work on joint projects … even that part is getting a bit more manageable. And on the point of fees for content writing – stuff like your beautifully-coined ‘Assimilation Time’ should also be paid for.

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  12. Very interesting question here, and from my (limited) experience, here’s my 2 cents: “writer” and “content creator” are both valid job titles, even if my interpretation of them differ slightly. “Writer” for me involves more personal initiative in terms of ideas, flow, word choice, turn of phrase, etc. When I pen articles for the language-learning magazines I write for, I consider myself a writer. The specs I get often include the subject, the word count, the magazine department it goes in and the level. After that, it’s up to me to decide what goes in, how I word it, and how I pull the article together.

    As for the bit of materials writing I’ve done (again, very limited, especially compared to the experience of most of you here), I feel it’s more “content creation.” The specs are a lot more specific, the task is laid out and I’m paid to complete it. While of course there is a degree of creativity involved in the work as well, it doesn’t feel the same.

    As for the fee vs royalty debate, like I said, my experience in this is limited (for now ;-), and I prefer to read and learn from you guys on that subject!

    Reply
  13. Just as a note on personal feelings on the matter. When I tell non-writer, non-teacher friends that my textbook is out or that I’m writing a textbook, they tend to assume that the textbook is my own personal idea and creation and there’s always that bit of a letdown on their part when I explain the actual situation. I’ve taken to saying, “It was a commissioned book” or “I ‘m on the author team of this series of books.” And hey, would I rather be producing my own little baby book that came out of my own head? Yes, but there’s nothing wrong with being on an author team or helping someone else’s vision come to light. I was lucky enough to have been very well-compensated and to be working on a book with an exciting new approach, which helped.

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  14. What’s in a name? Well, that really depends on how you see what you do. I’d certainly say that most of the time I’m a writer, although there have been a few times when I’ve simply supplied ‘content.’ Of course, different types of writing require differing skills – but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer. Having recently completed a Creative Writing course, written lots of different materials for ELT and currently writing a series of mainstream picture books they are all very different – but all required creativity and the ability to ‘put myself into the shoes of the reader / user.’

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