Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Note: Rachelle Gardner was called out of the office unexpectedly today and was unable to offer us her regular Wednesday wisdom. Michelle will pinch hit for her next week, and then Rachelle will be back. In the meantime, we can continue to chew on the idea of mentors for a second day. 🙂
A member of our blog community recently took a trip to Europe and was able to attend a writing event at the same time. Here’s what she wrote:
“One class was with a well-known writer who has written over 30 books along with screenplays and has filmed numerous documentaries and was nominated for an Academy Award. I didn’t know that this would be a writing seminar. I thought it would be a creativity seminar. Long story short, this author loved my writings that I was doing in class plus my background and told me that he/she would like to extend an offer to mentor me. This author’s rate is very reasonable to say the least. People we both have in common wanted this author to meet and talk wth me so this is a legitimate offer. I was shocked and amazed to say the least. I don’t know where this author will have the time but I still have doubts. I am not sure what questions I should be asking.”
What an interesting opportunity. Often when we hear about someone charging for mentoring warning bells go off. We usually think of the writing mentor relationship as one in which money does not change hands, but let’s look at this more closely. (I’ve chosen to use the masculine pronoun for the mentor even though the writer did not specify gender.)
This author has the experience and critical chops to claim writing mentor status. He is well-known and well-respected. Too often the type of author offering mentoring or coaching is the one who may have only a couple published books under his or her belt and needs to find a way to monetize a fledgling career. You need a writing mentor who has the kind of career of which you dream.
The mentor identified one writer in his class whose writing intrigued him and privately approached her. He did not offer a “mentoring package” to everyone in the class. You don’t want to pay for some kind of mentor-mill.
The author’s rates are reasonable. Is there anything wrong with putting a monetary value on one’s time? It certainly weeds out the freeloaders. I’ve always suggested a quid pro quo for those seeking a writing mentor. If a young writer wanted to approach an experienced well-known writer, I’ve often advised that they think of a way to make it a win-win situation, say, helping the author with marketing efforts (like stuffing envelopes for a mailing campaign) or even helping maintain the author database in exchange for the guidance and wisdom of a writing mentor relationship. So why not just money? It’s probably not a traditional mentor relationship– which usually does not involve money. It’s more like a coaching relationship but that’s just semantics, right?
It works as long as the expectations are discussed and agreed upon in advance. Here are some of the questions I’d ask:
- What would this look like?
- How often would we meet? (Or talk on the phone?)
- Would I work with you, directly, and not with a colleague?
- What would the meetings cover?
- Would there be certain work milestones I must complete? (Homework)
- How long might the relationship continue?
- Does the arrangement include manuscript analysis? Manuscript publishing placement help?
- Would the mentor make introductions to appropriate networks or industry experts?
- Would the mentor lend his name to the project for possible endorsement when and if he thinks it is ready?
- How many other writers does he mentor? Would he be willing to let me talk to one or two?
Without knowing more I’d recommend proceeding cautiously and making sure that everything is understood in advance. The trick is to get expectations spelled out without insulting the mentor’s offer or looking like you are too high maintenance. But, if nothing else, what a wonderful compliment.
So what kind of questions would you ask if this opportunity were offered to you? Is it wrong to charge for what has always been considered a gift? Do you have mentor? What does that relationship look like?
Is it appropriate for a writing mentor to charge for his time? Click to Tweet
What questions should a writer ask of his potential mentor? Click to Tweet