More About Writers and Money

Yesterday’s post about writers and money drew Facebook responses that included a few writer-and-money stories:

From Donald Smith:

As articles editor of the Evening Star magazine in the early ’70s, I invited Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas to write an appreciation of the C&O Canal as a hiking venue. When I started talking about his fee, he said he didn’t need one, he just wanted to do it.

I said, well, we should pay you something. He said $100 would be fine.

He had it sent to the Salvation Army. Best money we ever spent.

From Jack Limpert:

My favorite negotiating with a writer story involved Don Regan, once the CEO of Merrill Lynch, then Secretary of the Treasury and White House chief of staff under President Reagan. In 1987, Regan was pushed out of his White House job with Nancy Reagan cast as ringleader of the group that forced him out. In 1989, Nancy Reagan published her autobiography, titled My Turn. Howard Means, one of our senior editors, suggested that we ask Don Regan to review Nancy Reagan’s book.

So I wrote to Regan: “As you are probably aware, Nancy Reagan’s memoir, My Turn, is scheduled for publication by Random House in late October. We would very much like for you to review the book for us. Please note that by ‘review’ I don’t mean a literary analysis; rather, we’d like to give you the space to react to Mrs. Reagan’s memoirs in whatever fashion you think would offer our readers the most insight.”

Regan’s office called to say that he’d be in Washington the following week and he could have lunch with us at the Army-Navy Club near the White House. Howard and I met him there, enjoyed a pleasant lunch, and talked about the kind of review he might write. He seemed willing, and I told him that for a review of about 2,000 words we’d normally pay $1,000 but because of his reputation and name we’d be willing to pay him $2,000.

He took a sip of coffee and said, “Can you add ten percent to that?”

Howard and I looked at one another and I said, “Okay.”

On the way back to the magazine, Howard and I tried to absorb the fact that one of the richest men in America, maybe the richest ever to write for the magazine, got an extra $200 for a magazine story by asking, “Can you add ten percent to that?” Had Regan gone through life trying to get an extra ten percent on any money coming his way? Did he ask the plumber who came to his house if his bill could be reduced by ten percent? Had we stumbled upon a hidden secret to becoming rich?

From Bob Cullen:

The best response I ever got to that pay question came from Robert Gottlieb of The New Yorker. “I will tell you,” he said, “that no one has ever complained.”

From Jack Limpert:

More followup on the Don Regan story:

Regan’s story, titled “His Turn,” appeared in the December 1989 Washingtonian and it got lots of attention. It started this way: “The best-kept secret of the Reagan administration, zealously guarded by all the president’s men with the tacit collaboration of most of the media, was not the existence and pervasive influence of the first lady’s astrologer but the haunting suspicion that not too many people loved and admired Nancy Davis Reagan—and vice versa. Now Mrs. Reagan has published a book that tells the whole world why.”

Don Regan died in 2003. Mrs. Reagan had the last word in a 2009 Vanity Fair story:

“Reagan explains her dustup with her husband’s chief of staff Don Regan, calling him ‘really a terrible man.’ She says Vice President Bush was the one who told her, ‘You’ve really got to do something about Donald Regan,’ and she reluctantly agreed. She enlisted former Democratic National Committee chairman Bob Strauss to help persuade the president. She also says that on one occasion, Regan hung up on her in the middle of a phone conversation. ‘When Ronnie found out about that, that did it,’ she says.”


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