Rant Alert! Authors should work for free??

Note: This rant is about a comment to the article referenced!

M.J. Rose recently argued that publishers should consider altering the current payment scheme for authors, given that authors are now expected to promote on their own dime. She has an interesting idea and I see some merit to it. But it’s the Galley Gat comments here that have me all worked up.

Marvin11 writes this:

Sorry lljm, but I have to disagree. Writers should in no way make more money. Sure, I get that they work hard to produce their art, but if its something they love, they should get satisfaction simply out of it getting published and put out to the public. In addition, in my personal opinion, I think that writer make MORE than enough money. Yes, publishers do make money off of the writer’s creation, but they do their fair share as well. All and all, I would have to be against an increase in author royalties and advances.

Marvin11, you do not understand how little authors make. Last I heard, the average author makes $5,000 a year. Yet, you think writers make more than enough money. In what universe is that? Because 97% of writers can’t support themselves on their writing. I can’t. Like most authors, I have a day job. So, wow, I just can’t figure why you think authors make more than enough money. How much is enough to you? And FYI, advances are trending down.

And PeterKing, why the heck should I write for free just because I love writing? Are you saying that if I hated writing, it’s OK to pay me? Because, actually, a lot of times I feel like I hate writing. It’s hard work. Really really hard work.

As another commenter pointed out, there’s a disconnect there. Are you suggesting that anyone who loves their job should work for free — and, of course, have to take a day job to support themselves while they’re doing medicine, say, for free? Or is it only writers who should labor for pure love of art?

Let me assure you, PeterKing, that writing a book IS a full time job. We give up a lot in order to produce books others love to read. And we do it while working full time and raising families. We have, in effect, two full time jobs. (And if we’re women, as most authors are, we have three full time jobs.) How many jobs do you hold down?

Those of us lucky enough not to need the day job work at writing full time. Have you stopped to think that if authors didn’t get paid for their hard work there would be nothing you’d care to read? Because I think a lot of us would go back to deadline-free writing— just think of the reduction in stress! —that does not require promotion money out of our own pockets. The work would be shared only with a few friends and family. Or maybe no one at all. And you, as you note, would be stuck with the self-published POD you seem to hate.

You know, at my day job, I am not expected to provide my own computer or help subsidize the cost of the office space and supplies. My employer bears that cost. Some of you may recall the days when huge companies charged employees for their living space so that at every payday, their workers owed them money. That was recognized for the slavery that it was and companies can’t do that anymore.

I’m not a serf just because I’m a writer good enough to get published.

And, frankly, publishers are well aware of this. No publisher that I know of expects their authors to hand over their work for no compensation. Because then they wouldn’t have any authors to publish and their business model becomes non-existent.

Publishers take on the cost of printing and distributing the books they buy from authors. There’s a lot involved in that, believe me, authors know. But authors also know that without our stories, there’s nothing to publish. It’s not a bad relationship, to be honest. We need their distribution, editing and lovely covers. And marketing when we can get it.

But let’s not take the current challenges facing traditional publishers and blame it all on greedy authors. Please.

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6 Responses to “Rant Alert! Authors should work for free??”

  1. Inez Kelley says:

    Perhaps all workers should do their "jobs" for zero compensation. Fair is fair, right? I mean, you should take pride and enjoy the work you do, why dirty all that fuzzy good feeling with dirty old money.

    So when they do their job, 8-10 hours a day, every day, every week, and have people criticize them for the sheer pleasure of it, then they can talk.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As a reader and seller new and used books.. I feel the author does not get payed enough.. for all the work they do.. I love meeting and greeting them at stores. This takes time away from their famiies.. They are on facebook and twitter.. This helps them get known.. I personally meet 12 authors in person because of one authors comments about a book signing.. out of these 12 I found 9 authors that I know read.. So you see authors are always permoting and this is on their dime.. I know I work hard to permote my online store… As they do to permote their books… Thanks to all of them for the many ours of pleasure I get out of reading..

  3. SheilaMonique says:

    *applause* For Carolyn

  4. Loretta says:

    It's a lack of information, the public is not aware of the percentage the writer makes per copy (not much folks) most of the compensation comes from the advance and royalties.

    Where the misconception lies, is that we're all compensated like Stephen King, or one of the other well known author's. New and mid-range author's aren't. And the bulk of marketing by publisher's goes to well established author's, not new or mid-range author's.

    So, as has been stated, most of us are not making significant money at all. I would say how much, but frankly, it's a little embarassing:)

    We keep crafting, and writing, and hoping that one day we'll be well known and can make a living from the thing we love.

    So, for God's sake NO! Don't cut our compensation,and if you don't believe me, buy Stephen King's book "On Writing" and see how he lived before he made it. Pay close attention to the years before he became a professor. (that earned by blood,sweat and tears also)

    It's rough out here people and many who would be your "new" discovery drop by the wayside before they make it.

  5. AliceAnderson says:

    I'm all for making the publishing industry more efficient. But I also think that authors should earn a fair wage and if they spend a majority of their time on their writing business, it should be self supporting. Not to the tune of $5,000 or less a year.

    Those who enjoy their jobs are blessed. End of story. It doesn't mean they should do it for free. Most writers are not Stephen King or Nora Roberts. And we would expect Stephen or Nora to write for free, now would we?

  6. Anonymous says:

    As a reader and a fan, I can only say that I am only too happy to pay. I can only imagine all of the hard work that it takes to write, publish and market a book. Anyone who believes that authors should work for free is an idiot. Please continue writing- I'll continue paying.