So, a few days ago, an author shared an alarming message she received from someone who claimed to be a reader and a fan. This person praised the author’s work, but said she had to return each of the books (ranging from $0.99 and $2.99) because they were too expensive. Furthermore, she would very much appreciate it if the author could make her books free from this point on.
When the author shared this message, the person lost her shit and followed up by stating that no one should have to pay for the stories that are in the author’s head.
There are several problems with this, and many people have commented. I remain floored on several counts, but all come back to the following:
- In what world is $0.99 - $2.99 for a book is considered too steep?
- What kind of delusion makes anyone think that this message would be well-received?
- Who the fuck are you? Seriously?
I have said it before, and smart money’s on the bet I’ll say it again, but I am fortunate in that I don’t write for a living. Unlike many of my colleagues, I do not live and die by sales numbers. I do not worry about Amazon affecting my ability to make this month’s mortgage payment, cover medication expenses, or put food on the table. I have a steady job that keeps me busy, often overworked, but also ensures that my livelihood doesn’t depend on my next release being a big seller.
You know what else? It means I don’t have much of a following. This is just a fact. And it’s directly reflective of the choice I’ve made to not write for a living. As a result, my release schedule is sporadic, and even though my work is mostly well received, I don’t release enough to be on the auto-buy list of many.
Again, that’s my choice.
The authors you see out there who are able to produce new material in a flash are career authors. These are authors who have taken their passion and made it their career, which in itself is awe-inspiring. They spend time cultivating their brand, building an audience, learning how to market, investing in quality cover art, editing, and formatting, meeting and interacting with readers, attending conferences, and many other things I am forgetting.
Oh, yeah, and in between all that, they write.
In other words: this is their job. Their schedules aren’t stagnant. They sacrifice time, energy, and yes, money to make sure the books they put out are in the best possible shape. If they are independently published, the author starts each book in a financial hole, meaning they have a number of sales they have to reach before they turn a profit. If they don’t make that number, or if the number isn’t enough to sustain them, guess what happens?
That’s right, they don’t get to be career authors anymore. Maybe not immediately, but one underperforming book can be a damn deep hole to crawl out of. After all, if your paycheck was cut in half one month unexpectedly, you’d likely not just let that roll off you. There’d be discussions to have, decisions to make, and yes, our old friend panic.
For books released with a publisher, the work isn’t less. Sure, edits, cover, formatting, and distribution are handled, but marketing is something that still falls on the backs of authors. This has been made even more difficult recently with the fact that Amazon has become the place to go for ebooks, and since Amazon is a publisher itself, guess which books it chooses to display most prominently? Unless you have name recognition or a hefty marketing firm at your back with nothing to do but throw money at opportunities, odds are you’re going to be lost in the shuffle.
Bottom-line: yes, you have to pay for books. No, you’re not entitled to them for free.
Yes, piracy happens. Yes, buys-and-returns happen. This is something every author knows and has experience with, even small fish like me.
What doesn’t happen often is someone being so oblivious to their own entitlement that they contact the author and ask them to provide their book for free.
What doesn’t happen often is that someone thinking they’re paying the author a compliment by admitting they steal their work.
What doesn’t happen often is that someone stating that no author should be paid for the stories they create.
Sure, some people might think these things, but most are smart enough to keep it to themselves.
If you have these views and decide to share this with someone whose livelihood depends on the work they produce? Yes, be prepared to be dressed down. You deserve it. You wouldn’t work for free, would you? Why in the hell should anyone else?
And I say this, again, as a passion writer, not a career writer. If I tried to live on what I make, I’d be homeless. That’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact. But even we passion writers aren’t willing to make everything free, nor should we. I am still paying for editing and cover art and formatting software, so you can bet your ass I’ll put a price-tag next to any book I put out independently. It’ll take forever and a day to earn out what I paid in, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do it. It also doesn’t mean I shouldn’t.
To the many, many, many wonderful readers out there—authors everywhere thank you. They thank you for keeping them writing. For keeping their roofs overhead, their children fed, and their bills paid. Writers like me thank you for helping us fulfill a dream, for leaving reviews and talking to us at conventions, and showing your support. You make a difference to these authors—career authors and passion authors alike. Without you, their stories would not be told. Every single book you buy matters to them. To us.
So thank you. You guys rock.