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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Being A Writer In A World Of Free

Boy Meets Girl Meets Boy Meets World: Waiting for Topanga's Bra to Fall
Speculating among the stars- none too happy about what I see...

I've been an author for, oh, going on 11 years now... I've never seen anything strike me so hard in my gut as what I found out yesterday.

Let me explain, Yesterday I was alerted to a call to arms by a colleague of mine, fellow author, and social media guru Kristen Lamb in her post: A Culture Addicted to FREE—How FREE is Poisoning the Internet & Killing the Creatives.

Apparently a performer, Revolva, was approached by Oprah's team to perform at an event that they are charging up to $999 dollars per ticket. The kicker... Oprah's team wanted this performer to do her work- FOR FREE. Kristen has checked back in with this performer and although Revolva's post has received thousands of hits, nothing was ever said by Oprah's team. Wil Wheaton, a well known actor, was also approached by Huffington post who asked to repost his blog post on their site for free as well! Will commented on twitter: "If you write something that an editor thinks is worth being published, you are worth being paid for it. Period."

 I'd like to point out that it is not only hurting creatives but also the economy at large!


Think about it. Bookstores (who were once willing to host book signings) are now few and far between. So, in order to reach you, my audience, in person I must pay for my exposure. A lot goes in to being an author.

See that price on the back of the book, preferably above the bar code? If you are buying direct from the author- TWO THIRDS of that cost is money that pays for the printing and shipping of the book, as well as paying the illustrators and the editors! The other third (if the author is lucky) is profit. When you buy the book elsewhere a store like Amazon or Barnes and Noble- that third gets cut into a further half (IF the author is lucky).

By the time an author buys bookmarks or business cards and a table space from which to sell their books. That money is gone. Add in the gas and the hotel to come to the event, the author is now in the red.

BUT in this case at least the author is selling some books.

So they CAN make some of their money back.

 Not only that but the author's money is being funneled back into the economy through the event staff who will likely spend it elsewhere too. The author pays the hotel and the eateries so that helps the economy too.

PLUS If the author has been lucky enough to pay for all of this and STILL have money when they get home? Well then the economy benefits even more- someone's tuition gets paid, the light bill gets paid... Or... the author makes enough money to contribute a few bucks toward the jar saving up to get their roof fixed. (Exposure makes the whole family sick when it is 25 degrees outside and raining!) And now the economy thanks you because a general contractor can be paid too!


This is not always the case at events where you see creatives though. 

Free entertainment in trade for 'exposure' has become an epidemic!


Lately it has become commonplace for events to "hire" creatives to speak or perform at their events on the premise of exposure.  I didn't know this till recently but many of these large Sci Fi conventions do this. Consider many of the panels where you get to spend an hour listening to a creative talk about their job and answering your questions, unless the creative has a table where they are selling their stuff, that creative is there working for FREE with very little chance of making even their lunch money back for the day.

By the way, I don't see them charging an extra fee for those who want to participate in the gaming rooms- which is also entertainment!

Which leaves the author inevitably saying:
Indien: Mumbai
"Sure! I'll work for free! I'll just sell my wares out of my purse for the rest of the weekend."
Because THAT looks completely professional right?

Consider this... If I manage to make $4 in profit off of a book...when you already assume $200 in expenses for the cheapest hotel, gas, and food- I'd have to sell 50 copies in a weekend to break even! This is equivalent to spotting a rainbow- it doesn't happen every day! I've already had to turn down a few myself!

 Not all events treat artists like traveling salesmen either. I've been to some events that have just a small table fee for authors/illustrators who each get a 3 foot space. In return they request that you (the creative) speak at their panels which are pulled together for the benefit of their guests. Sure, you are working but you are also being treated as a professional and given the opportunity to make some money.

Consider what happens if your authors and artists realize they can't afford to show up to your event? Then your event will have dwindling amounts of entertainment, in which case your audience will slowly start to dwindle. What happens then? You will slowly die off... which in turn, further hurts the economy! 

On the flip side of that...


 I have also come across libraries holding book expos that PAY their author speakers. Why? Because you are doing that library and that event a service. You are providing their audience for a REASON to show up and hopefully spend money which in turn supports their event and the economy. KUDOS to you Birmingham Author Expo!

 Even if it is something small... 7$ an hour even! It is something!

HECK I can get paid minimum wage to sort through lose electronics wires and bits at my local Technical College under their work study program!

I submit that taking hours putting words to paper, having them professionally edited and illustrated, and then talking to an audience and allowing them to pick my brain for hours is much more emotionally and physically taxing then sorting electrical bits.

If someone small like a library event can afford to pay their speakers something than YOU CAN TOO (here's looking at you- international scifi conventions! )

The Solution:


Time= money... and all I'm saying is (for our bills sake), We creatives would love to be able to earn even just a little for the time we spend being entertaining!

Those of you who are sending your work out there for free (here's looking at you- amazon authors) all you are doing is shooting yourself in the foot and teaching MORE people that your work is worth so little that every creative SHOULD give their work away for free.

Authors:

-Perhaps offer up a 'sampling', a free chapter or two from the middle of your book to those who sign up for your news letter? (Putting my actions where my mouth is... once I pull the file together I'll be offering this shortly! Stay tuned!)

-Please stop offering to trade your books with others- it doesn't look very professional unless the other person is already a good friend of yours. PLUS- every book that is given away for free eats into the funds required to buy the next shipment of books!

Conventions, events, trade shows..

-Please pause and consider how much your vendor would need to sell in order to make it worth their while - AS WELL AS what you need to be able to afford the space fee, before you set your table fees. (I'm not completely heartless, I know you need money to be able to run the show next year!

-Perhaps consider us paying you a percentage of sales instead?

Consumers- We are consumers too. We know how wary you are to pay top dollar for a performance by an unknown artists, or for a book by an unknown author. But before you give in to the disease that has become the dime store/ free epidemic... please consider asking any of us if we have a small sample that you could try for free before buying. We would be honored that you even asked!


With that in mind... sign up for my newsletter if you'd like a free sample of The Alien Mind! 


Or:

"If you enjoyed my writing, but can't buy a book, would you care to buy me a cup of coffee?"

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*Photo credit 1: Boy Meets Girl Meets Boy Meets World: Waiting for Topanga's Bra to Fall via photopin (license)

*Photo credit 2: Indien: Mumbai via photopin (license)

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