Folks, does anyone actually take these offers? This is an addendum to my June post on the ad I found for Amish romance plot writers. A number of you chimed in explaining how bad their deal was. Here’s what some of you with professional writing experience had to say then:

Boyce Rensberger:

The fees offered are absurdly low. This must be some kind of rip-off. I was a professional writer (staff and freelance for newspapers, magazines and four books), and even a generation ago those fees would have been considered way low.


Earning just a Penny per word is ludicrous and I would never want to support a company that thinks so little of the writer that they would pay such insulting wages. There should at the very least be an advance and a percentage offered on the book sales!

Frank Comstock:

I’m a mostly retired freelance writer for newspapers and magazines. I’ve also written and published many short stories in literary journals and I’ve published two novels. My last check for about a three thousand word article in a fairly major online magazine was more than twice as much as what this company is offering for a 20,000 word novella.

Thirty dollars for a plot? Absolutely ridiculous. Should be several hundred dollars, at least.

I used to receive requests for freelance work from people in various overseas countries where the pay rate would run from a tenth of a cent to about a penny a word.

That offer I shared in June was from a foreign source, and came out to be a little over a penny per word.

Well, a new offer just appeared on Upwork, and looks like things are getting worse. Have a look at what they are asking for in this ad:

Each story will be 15,000 words of high quality, entertaining content devoid of fluff and filler. Include the words “I’m ready” when bidding to reassure us that you can follow directions. The finished project will meet the following criteria:

-Well-researched to rightly represent the Amish way of life at Christmas
NB: Bear in mind that Amish romance differs from standard romance stories. Write to the audience’s sensibilities and expectations.

-Written in Times New Roman in 12-point font


-Have a hyper-linked Table of Contents and other formatting for e-readers (e.g., Kindle)

-Include a summary of the story along with 12-15 bullet points of its content

-Each story will be episodic (meaning that there is a conclusion at the end of each story, but it entices the readers to want to read more, and the next story flows nicely from the previous)

-Submitted in .docx

-Transfer all rights to us once you have been paid.

Fulfill all those criteria, and the lucky writer will get a check for $150. I shudder to think what the hourly rate comes to.

Maybe they will find what they’re looking for. I’m not sure that it would be a story I’d want to read, however. I’d be inclined to file this one under “disconnect between expectations and reality”. Confusingly, the ad also lists a “Fixed-price” rate of $450 – an improvement if that’s the actual offer, but not a ton better.

After I came across this ad, another one appeared. This one is from a publishing house based in the UK, which is also odd in itself (the ad I linked in the first post was an Israeli offer – as Frank suggests above, this might be a business model that thrives for whatever reason overseas). They are offering about the same kind of money – 1 to 1.4 cents/word.

I do wonder where exactly these offers are coming from. Are these companies who act as middlemen for better-known writers? Could some of them be ads from writers themselves?

Doesn’t a fiction writer achieve success by developing a following on their own, through a style which their readers come to appreciate enough to make repeated purchases of books? I would doubt any Amish fiction writers you’ve heard of are involved in this.

Furthermore, I did not find any reference to ghostwritten novels in Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s extensive 2013 look at the Amish fiction industry, Thrill of the Chaste. At the same time, I did find an article in Forbes from last autumn titled “Fiction Ghostwriting Is Bigger Than Ever.”

I can believe that – I’m just not seeing what either side hopes to achieve at these rates. The only thing I can come up with is the companies making the offer are trying to find some at least mediocre-quality writing from a first-timer trying to break into the writing industry, and thus willing to work for a smidgen above “free”.

Amish-made cheese

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