Don’t call yourself a fan. Don’t you dare!

This week I’m passing on this excellent post by Rosalie Stanton.

Read. Seriously. Read this. To anyone who thinks the subject of asking a writer to produce work for free is okay I’ve news. Anyone complaining about the cost of books needs to reconsider why they’re protesting.

Let’s compare creating a book with going to the movies. Some people go often, some occasionally. Some think nothing of the cost of a couple of hours of entertainment. Others complain about the charge for the tickets and the food, but most still add popcorn and a drink to the price of entry.

Some of these patrons are aware that the cinema most often makes its money on ‘concessions’ — that’s the food and drinks. All that popcorn is often the only reason a cinema manages to stay open, and it’s why the price is so high even though popcorn costs almost nothing to manufacture.

The ticket price mostly goes to the movie producers and we all know that movie-making, especially the big action blockbusters, is expensive. Look at the credits — that long list of people employed, all of whom ask for salaries. Some films now even list the number of jobs the project created.

Movie-making is an entertainment ‘industry’. In other words, a BUSINESS.

Making books is also a BUSINESS.

I don’t care if the writer writes for leisure, or hopes to make this a vocation, to the publisher it’s BUSINESS, and books often provide several hours, sometimes a lifetime, of pleasure.

Of course, there are self-published writers but it’s still a business. They are going it alone and so every step falls to them. Chances are works from a publishing company or ‘good’ self-published books have undergone a process. This process involves writing the story — the hours spent by the person creating, researching, plotting, putting the words down on a blank page — and editing rounds. Edits should be undertaken by an author before the work is ever submitted. The finished manuscript is often considered by a committee. Even accepted, the story is far from complete. Next stop is for the work to land in the hands of an editor. There are copy and line editors, proofreaders, and cover artists…all requiring payment. If there’s a marketing department that costs, too. With help or not the author faces fours spent marketing their product. Yes, product. Let’s call the book what it really is for the remainder of this blog.

If the PRODUCT goes to print, there are printing charges. If it’s an ebook someone has to create the files and try to make sure all formats work. Sometimes both these costs apply. The publisher takes their cut. The writer gets his or hers. If there’s an agent to pay that’s another share right there, and last but never least taxes.

It’s business. Profit needs to be made.

With ebooks, those who read and return or file share are nothing more than thieves. True, people lend print products but it’s a greyer area than many realise. It’s ‘allowed’ only because no one likes the idea of printed products being destroyed, because many are sold through charity shops so further good comes of passing products on, and the circulation of some products can gain an author more readers, but in all these instances the purchaser of the PRODUCT gives up their original copy and in the case of a loan risks losing it.

People who share or duplicate work in a criminal act deserve nothing better than a hefty fine if not jail time. What that person is NOT is any friend or fan.

To add to this already insulting state of affairs, Rosalie’s post focuses on a writer asked by a ‘fan’ to work for free. Her response and mine is not author meltdown. This is authors telling you like it is. It’s the
equivalent of…you. Yes, YOU, the one reading this — it’s YOU going into the office, factory, shop, hospital…wherever you work, for free, and then trying to heat your home and put food on your table.

Since when did writing become a joke? Since when did it become a game?

How stupid does someone need to be not to understand writing is a JOB. The majority of writers already work for well below minimum wage. In what universe did a reader think it okay to contact a writer to ask that person to WORK for free? In many cultures, that would be called slavery.

Incidentally, where do you think the story came from so that a movie can be made?

I’ll leave Harlan here to speak for writers everywhere.