Thursday, May 12, 2011

Are There Grants for New Writers?

I cringe when I receive this question, and it arrives in my FundsforWriters email several times a week. It's not always written exactly like that, but it smells strongly similar. And I hate answering it.

No, I don't hold it against someone to ask for funds. And I often forget that the basics I know from my grant experience are alien to others, so I try to put myself in the other person's shoes. But all too often my response is not received well. Sometimes I wonder if it's my wording or the message, but in the end I rarely come out of the conversation as much of a good gal. See if you can understand why:

1. Grants usually require that an applicant demonstrate the ability to write, which often means publishing credits. How can you have publishing credits when you are a new writer, you may ask? What a grant applicant has to understand is that a grantor/grant provider has a goal as well. The funds he is in charge of have to meet a specific purpose...and prove successful. If you've not proven yourself in the writing world, even in some small ways, how can the grantor trust you know what you are doing? The answer is to write, submit and earn credits (outside of writing mills like Suite101, eHow, Demand, Associated Content, etc.). The alternative to credits might be education such as an MFA.

2. Most of the time the request is for money to self-publish. I've yet to find a grant that pays for a first-time book to be self-published. Refer back to number 1. Also, I ask the person asking for that self-publishing grant if he has considered traditional, and if he understands the differences amongst vanity, self, and traditional. Nine times out of ten, they don't know those differences.

3. A grant is instant money. Many times, a request for a grant to self-publish a book is interpretted as a quick way to start making money as a writer. Anyone who has ever published a book in any format realizes it's not that simple.

4. There's an emergency, and the requestor needs money now. I refer them to my website page that posts emergency funding, but in all cases, they request proof of being a writer, proof of accomplishments.

I believe many writers confuse landing a grant with needing an income. A grant is a one-shot deal, and when it's gone, you're back at square one in most cases. Learning how to write for mags, enter contests and accept freelance copywriting gigs in addition to penning that novel, will most likely start an income momentum that has more potential long term than a one-time grant.

So when you think you might need a grant, and you don't have too many credentials under your belt, ask the following:

What is your project - it's budget - it's benchmarks - it's goal?
What is your career goal as a writer?
What qualifies you as a writer?
If you were writing the check, would you fund your request?
What exactly would a grant accomplish that would make the grant provider satisfied you were indeed successful with your grant?
And especially this one...do you need a grant or an income?

Taking grip of your career choice is important. Choosing to earn an income rather than bank on grants in the early stages of your career, shows initiative and takes you further in the long-run. Soon you have clips, credits and credentials. Then grants become more possible. They become the tool in your toolbox, as they should be. Not the lifeline that decides whether you proceed.

1 comment:

Sioux said...

Okay...Let's see if I understand...

Hope---

I need a grant because:

1) My gas and phone have been turned off. It's a real emergency.

2)I knead the money right now! Could you send it to me "next day" delivery?

3) I want to pay a company to publish my book. I figger that getting a grant like yours would be the best way to get it published.

4) I've never written anything before. But hey! You're giving money to people who want to write, and I want to right.

How about it? Did I get everything correct?