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.

2 thoughts on “Don’t call yourself a fan. Don’t you dare!

  1. Obviously asking a writer to write for free is stupid. I mean I know a lot of writers do write freebies all the time and that’s great.

    However, I do question on why people aren’t allowed to comment on pricing. I do that with anything in life. We all do it. For example, I will not pay £10 for a an ebook when I can buy the paperback for less. I have my limits on what I will spend on ebooks.

    Sometimes a 5,000 word short story can cost the same as a plus sized novel from some publishers. As a customer it is mind boggling. Simply put I just won’t buy it. There is nothing wrong with complaining about it. I’m not asking anyone to work for free obviously but buying books is a luxury for me.

  2. Writers get asked to write for free more often than most people realise, if not by readers than by those in the industry. Of course, when you’re starting out sometimes the only way to build up a writing resume is to offer a few freebies. That was the traditional way into publishing — get some short works out there, paid for or otherwise, and then write a novel to show to a publisher or agent who, if you had some experience would be more inclined to read. That was before the internet, though. These days, publishers or agents are more likely to check whether a writer has a following and the market is flooded with freebies making them worth next to nothing.

    Pricing, that’s a difficult one. Some writers have had readers approach them recently saying 99c or $2.99 for a novel is too expensive (I’m using American dollars here as many of the writers are American or work for US publishers). That’s just ridiculous. I used to pay £5.99 for printed paperback 30 odd years ago. When you allow for price increases and inflation I don’t think that or more is an unreasonable price for any type of ‘full-length’ work, digital or print. Shorter works do need pricing accordingly.

    I totally hear what you’re saying. I believe the ebook should always cost less than print but as to the cover price…if it’s a publisher, don’t blame the writer because they have no say. If it’s a self-published writer their expenses can be even greater so they’ve got the difficult balance of any manufacturer, pricing ‘enough’ to make a profit but not to put buyers off. Any business gets increased expenses and they have to feed that onto the customer every year. There may be good reasons for their prices, or maybe not. I’ve been asked why I don’t go it alone and this is partly why. I’m not sure I want to get involved with the business side.

    Unfortunately, with cost writers and publishers are feeling as pinched as many readers. I’m speechless at some of the print prices, but smaller publishers have to use POD to even be able to offer print in many circumstances because they can’t afford warehouse storage. That was supposed to make things cheaper, but it doesn’t. I’ve printed out some things for myself (eg: a collection of my magazine published short works for family and friends) and had I wanted to add any profit on to them it would have made them flinch to pay. That’s the reality. I go into this a bit more on my post Prepare to be Poor http://www.sharonbidwell.co.uk/2016/01/25/prepare-to-be-poor-2/

    I do agree. I just don’t know what the solution is. And by the way, I try not to shop with Amazon these days but even they need watching — I’ve seen their ebooks offered higher than print and they set their prices, not the publishers.

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