Between a Rock and a Hard Place

jakob-owens-152236

(Photo by Jacob Owens)

I love to write. I love to create. Most of my writing as of lately has ended up here on this blog in the form of poetry.  Sometimes – like today – I’ll write the occasional ‘think piece’ so forgive me for interrupting your evening.

But I wanted to talk about my other writing. Books.  I am a five time published author.

I recently read a thread (I can’t stop rhyming apparently) where a wonderful young woman I know asked about the expenses of writing a novel. And people began to list them. Editors, formatting, proofreading, cover art, website, word processor programs, fees for organizations, travel expenses, and so forth and that was all self published folks.

Those who had gone the traditional route, while not having the cost of editors etc. brought up contractual pay. A certain percentage for physical books and a certain percentage of ebooks is given to the author in the form of royalties and so on.

And then both mentioned piracy. The theft of e books and the sharing of them on Facebook pages and websites as well as on those Piratebay download thingy.

There is one thing that keeps me writing – and it sure isn’t the money.

It’s love.

I love connecting with my readers whether on here or through a book review for my work.

But an author needs to be paid for their time and effort.

There are those out there who insist that work should be free. I have been posting images off a website called Unsplash.com that offers them for free as long as you cite the photographer who took the photo. Their work is stunning and when I finish a poem I go to that site to hunt for a picture that seems to fit or comes close to fitting what I just finished working on. – and then I share that poem for free.

Even this blog costs me money. Now, I’m not saying I want you to start paying me for this – that’s silly. I chose to share my poetry with the world. Mostly, because I want to grow to be a better poet but also because I feel like someone should try and spark or reignite the love for the written word.

However, a friend of mine and fellow author who read the same thread commented with this:

“I’ve spent three years, off and on, working on a sci-fi novel. Of course, most of my novels don’t take that long, but they do take two or three months. Even if I made a few thousand on one of them (which is pretty good in this genre), I shudder to think what that would work out to as an hourly wage. When I worked in Tech Support, I earned that in a month. Authors don’t get paid enough. Certainly, we don’t get paid enough to keep doing it, if they only reason we were writing is for the money. I can’t really fault readers for grabbing whatever is cheapest on Amazon, but don’t blame the authors if we can’t give all of that work away for next to nothing.”

I agree with that. And I don’t see why other people don’t or won’t.

Art has value. Even in this day an age where technology is king and the market is saturated- content SHOULD always be king. Always.

With Huffpost and online publishers offering ‘exposure’ to writers – that’s the same as piracy and it’s in the same vein of those who complain about the cost of a book.

Another commenter and author stated the reasoning for all of this, perfectly:

I’ve often thought the balking over book pricing stems from the fact that, not only are the arts in general devalued as a matter of course, but people tend to think writing is easy. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “Yeah, maybe someday when I have time I’ll write a book,” and I want to say, “Okay, you have fun with that, let me know how far you get.” Because it isn’t easy. People just think it is. Right up until they try it. Just because a labor doesn’t require a lot of *physical* labor does not mean it isn’t difficult and doesn’t take a ton of skill.

A good author will have decades of writing and learning and honing and reading behind every word that makes it onto the page, and people seem to think that just… I dunno, materializes in the writer’s brain or something. That they didn’t have to *work* at it.

The general atmosphere of today doesn’t help much. Bloggers are expected to hand a piece over to a major website for free because they’ll get exposure. Book pirates think their thefts are justified because they think every author makes Stephen King-King-level royalties. A work of art posted on the Internet is up for grabs.

Historically, we (authors) were the bards and the poets who were offered a seat beside the fire, sometimes right next to the king, and a hot meal and some gold coins in exchange for a story, because those stories were valued, and so were the ways in which they were told. I think that skill is taken for granted today, and so the value of a good yarn told by a talented storyteller is just… not quite where it should be anymore.

Love is a powerful emotion. But should things get bad – love does fade. And I am afraid that until we’ve learned to start appreciating art again we’re going to lose artists to the necessity of having to put food on their table.

You don’t work for free. Neither should we.

 

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