I Do Not Work for Free

If you pardon me for a moment, I am going to put my frowny ranty face mask on…

This is a topic I have seen circulate a great many times through various author and writing blogs, and every time I think it is something that is really important that readers need to read.

Recently, this topic surfaced again from the author Sarah Madison. Here piece is excellent, and I think her point is spot on. Let me summarize this as briefly as I can. As an author;

I DO NOT WORK FOR FREE.

The story Madison tells is a heartbreaking one for an author, and one that happens far too commonly. Someone is going on about how they got such and such a book for free from somethingorother pirate site. Someone else speaks up about how “free books” from pirate sites are stealing from the author. And more horrifying, others come to the pirate’s defense.

Seriously folks, go read Madison’s article, just the first few paragraphs. Author and readers both often get eviscerated on the internet for daring suggest an author get paid for their labor. In various disguises, I have seen small time authors such as myself utterly destroyed because of those kind of people. Bad comments on facebook are only the beginning. Next thing you know, there are spammed bad reviews of their books and…

An author has their entire life’s WORK destroyed because of some thief. Their reputation left in tatters. I am not going to mince words here;

PIRACY IS THEFT.

I think Madison lays out a good case for piracy being a bad sense of entitlement (as well as theft), and if I may I would like to add a few points to her own, as a self published author. She outlines three basic arguments you here from “piracy” folks.

1) I’m broke and I can’t afford to pay for my entertainment.

I think Madison does a great job dismantling this argument, mostly on the premise that most authors understand what it is like to be broke. I certainly understand. I don’t like to talk about my personal past here, but let’s just say I have been broke. Really broke. I get it, I do. I know what it is like to go without.

However, that is no excuse for theft. These days, I work a full time job to pay the bills, and I write on the side. Reread that sentence again carefully. I have a full time job to make ends meet. I cannot afford to write for a living, because I would be broke and homeless if I did.

Author’s generally don’t make enough to live on. The Stephen King’s and R.R. Martins of the world are the exception not the rule. The rule being, most authors can’t even pay all the bills with their writing. So we are forced to work day jobs, when we would much rather be writing.

She also points out this great thing for the low income reader, THE PUBLIC LIBRARY. They even have things like movies….

But even Madison is straight forward on this point;

“Oh. You want stories in your favorite genres by your favorite authors and you want them today, without having to pay for them, regardless of their listed price. Yeah, that’s entitlement. And when you download them illegally from a pirate site or torrent, that’s stealing. Let’s just get the terms right, okay?”

 

  1. Creative Works should be free…

Oh yes, and the world should be full of ice cream and unicorns shitting rainbows. There is no free lunch folks. Let me tell you something, writing and other forms of art are LABOR. In other words, work. If you think that work shouldn’t be paid, might I ask for the number of your boss?

I want to suggest the same thing to him/her, and see what he thinks. I am sure you could put in a few hours without pay.

In addition, art is often one of the lowest paying kinds of labor, which often means it is a labor of love. Honestly, minimum wage for the time I put into writing would be fantastic! If you don’t think writing is labor?

WRITE A BOOK.

I am going to break this down for you. I am self published because I am too small of fish for most publishers to even consider, and I don’t have a lot of money to put up front, so I turned to self publishing. There are pros and cons to this. I get to retain most of the creative control, but at the same time I end doing a lot of the work myself. Work like marketing and networking, and actual trying to sell books, in addition to actually writing them. You want to talk about work? Okay, let’s talk.

(Note, these numbers are inspired by actual numbers.)

Average amount of time spent on a 80,000 word book: 100 hours. 1 day at a time, one hour at a time. (Writing only.)

Time spent editing: Varies, but at least 20 hours. (Back and forth, multiple times. My time only.)

That is 120 hours right there folks, and that is MY time. I also have a small team around me, artists, graphic designers, an amazing friend who doubles as my editor. They are all putting in their time too.

Remember that adage about time being money? Yeah, there is plenty of that too. I have to put in time making money, so that I can pay the various helpers so they can put in their time. More labor folks, and money out of my own pocket. More of my time. Time I would rather spend writing.

Madison hits this one home;

“Forget about the effort it takes to write a story. Let’s ignore the author’s contribution to this endeavor and deny them any right to be paid for their creativity. This ‘art should be free’ argument completely discounts the fact someone has to pay the editors, cover artists, formatters, distributors, book promotions teams, buy a dealer’s table and so on. I guess entitled readers expect that investment to come out of my own pocket with no hope of return. And if authors didn’t pay someone to for these services, we’d have to do them ourselves, taking time away from writing to do so. Not to mention a shabby editing job or poorly executed cover is one of the first things readers will complain about.”

 

  1. Writers already make enough money

I am right in line with Madison. This one makes me want to laugh hysterically, or curl into a ball and cry. I have already pointed out that authors that make a butt-ton of money are the exception, rather than the rule. Madison herself points to an article in the Guardian, that the average earning of an author is less that $10k a year.

I for one would be much happier to make even $10k off my writing a year.

Madison goes on to point out how ONE torrent site alone had over 16K downloads of one of her books. An estimated lost to her of about $13,500. From one site.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Now, I want you to go look at my publications tab real quick. Just look, and see the prices.

For printed books, my average is about $10. Now realize there is markup and printing costs rolled into that.

So guess how much I make, on average, per book?

Between $1.50 and $3. That’s right folks, sitting on a measly 15% – 30%.

To break even I have to get books to sell. Which you guessed it, means more time, upfront cost to me, and more hours at my day job to cover those costs.

And if we circle back, at $1.50 – $3 per book, every time a book like mine gets torrented, it’s pretty much the same as stealing $1.50 – $3 worth in change out of someone’s pocket.

That’s called mugging, another form of theft.

In summary, piracy is theft folks. In addition, it just contributes more to the devaluation of our author’s and artists. Remember where I said getting paid minimum wage for my writing time was laughable and really sad? Yeah, that is what I was talking about. Authors and artists generally are really underpaid to begin with.

And stealing doesn’t help.

Sources/References;

Sarah Madison “Dear Broke Reader: Your Sense of Entitlement is Killing Me” Part 1

And she now has a second part up.

Sarah Madison “Dear Broke Reader: Your Sense of Entitlement is Killing Me” Part 2

Advertisements

About Nicholas Haney

I am a writer, author, hunter, craftsman, and student of anthropology/archaeology. View all posts by Nicholas Haney

One response to “I Do Not Work for Free

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: