Re: Shareware Documentation

Subject: Re: Shareware Documentation
From: Killer of Trees <lemay -at- LNE -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 9 Jan 1995 13:54:00 EST

I didn't see the original message, but I saw Richard Lippincott's
response, so my apologies if I'm missing the point.

>>I'm all for developers hiring writers, but I'm thinking about the shareware
>>developer selling a product for $15 - 30. Can this person afford a writer?

>Not at our usual rates. Perhaps, though, there are two groups of tech writers
>that would be interested in writing shareware documentation for a lower fee:

>1) Hardware tech writers looking to make a transition to software docs, and
>trying to build a writing sample.
>2) Tech writing students, also looking to build a writing sample.

The most important thing to realize about shareware authors is that they
make almost no money from the endeavor. Its been estimated that less
than 5% of the people who actually use shareware pay for it. Which
is unfortunate, since there is an awful lot of extrmemly good shareware
out there. Also, shareware authors are often students, often writing
software in thier spare time, and not willing to spend a lot for what are
considered "extras."

I was in the second group that Richard mentions, above, when I was a
tech writing student seven years ago. I approached several shareware
authors about writing thier documentation or revising what they had.
I ended up doing short documents for five or six authors for about $30
each. Total.

Now admittedly I was young and naive and I probably could have asked more.
But I'm not at all convinced I would have been able to write what I did
if I had asked for much more than that. I looked on writing shareware docs
as an opportunity for me to get real professional writing samples for my
portfolio, and to be able to claim that I did real documentation on my
resume. In return, the author got a reasonably well done manual (or just
a readme file, most often) for a bargain price.

Shareware docs are great if you're looking for experience and portfolio
fodder and you're willing to work for almost nothing. There's a wealth
of software out there and if the price is right its not difficult to
talking an author into letting you do it. But other than that, I can't
see writing for shareware as being a viable market for a "real" writer.

Laura
lemay -at- lne -dot- com


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