And it doesn't even matter if no one is listening, not even the chair. I am saying it. Lately, I have been spending a lot of time building my connections as an author. I need to do this, but even more, I need to write more books and stories. I just decided about 20 minutes ago that I will write a chapter a day for the next two weeks.
As a self-published novelist, I am constantly working to publicize, market, distribute, and sell my book. I am a writer who wants to make money from selling the books that I've written. Recently, when I was discussing my sales endeavors, someone said to me that writers should not expect to make money - for most writers it is enough that people are buying their books and reading them. So, if all the money goes to other people along the chain that gets books into the hands of readers, writers should not mind.
I was discussing this conversation with my husband, who is a TV writer. He said, "There is only one response to the argument that writers should not expect to be paid for their work, and that is FUCK YOU."
Profane? Yes. Harsh? Yes. But it accurately conveys a writer's anger and frustration at the utter disrespect or, worse yet, the deliberate exploitation motivating such an argument.
If you are a writer, then I know that at some point in you career, someone has expected you to write for no money, or to write for just enough money to cover costs, or to write for a great deal less money than the amount received by the entities that help make your books available to readers. Some of you may have even been asked to pay in order for someone else to sell and make money off your work. Where does this idea come from, that writers should write merely for the love of it?!
Okay, the next time someone suggests to you that writers should expect to make no money, you shouldn't curse at them, though you may really want to, because such a response would not further our attempts to achieve recognition as people who do work deserving of compensation.
But you could say something like, "Oh, and should Honda make cars for no money, just for the sheer love of driving?"
"Or what about Coca-Cola? Should Coke forego all profits simply because they love the taste of Coke so much and really want others to enjoy it, too?"
"Should Ivory distribute soap not for money but for the love of cleanliness?"
But, some might argue, these products are not artistic, which is a very different thing.
Okay. Should Josh Groban get a second job to support himself as he funnels all of the profits from his music hobby to marketers, publicists, concert coordinators and record companies? Should he earn no money from his CDs and sing just because he loves it so much?
Should Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson have earned no money for the Twilight movies? After all, they were unknowns when they were cast, and the exposure from the films should have been payment enough. And come on, any actor should feel lucky to be in those movies without getting uppity and demanding payment on top of the privilege of being cast.
You might argue that Josh and Kristen and Robert's products sell A LOT of inventory, thus justifying the money they make. True, the more you sell, the more you earn. But writers should make their fair share, regardless of how little the pot of money earned from a book might be. After all, Kristen and Robert did not play Bella and Edward for free, told they were not going to make a dime until everyone else made a bundle. And that is so often what writers are expected to do - take whatever money might be left over after everyone else is paid in full.
Writers refusing to take egregiously unfair contracts that strip them of almost all rights for very little in return is one step to empowering writers to the shocking point that they earn money for their work. I know this could be very hard indeed for an unpublished writer desperate to cross over into the world of publishing. But keep in mind that today, the writer has options. A writer can self-publish - thus keeping her or his rights and getting a bigger share of the profits for all the hard work a writer does. Many established, published writers are choosing to go self-published. Why? If you are one such writer reading this blog please answer in the comments. I'd love to hear from you! I suspect you may see a better deal for yourselves in self-publishing.
Now, I must urge you to consider this: as a self-published author, do not let anyone tell you what your fair share is. Self-publishing is emerging, nascent, and constantly developing. There is no industry standard. If someone tries to squeeze you into the framework of traditional publishing standards, well, refer them to my husband and he has two words for them. As writers, as we charge into this new era of independence, we have to be ready to look at things honestly, stay wary of exploiters, do our research, stay tough, and pave our own ways into artistic control and solvency.
I am a writer. I create products made of words and white space between the words and numbers. I sell these products to people. As a result, I expect to make money.
What a day! I have spent a great deal of today doing doing necessary work things that make my stomach feel icky and uncomfortable. But then I forgot all about that when I opened an email message tonight that I thought was from my nephew but really it was some sort of awful spam trap that signed me up to some skeevy dating site! Before I even realized what was happening, sixteen guys liked me and one wanted to meet me! It was so - gross! The site had raided my facebook profile and knew all my personal stuff! I was freaking out until my husband finally got my info and picture (Eeeew!) off the site. Yick!!
I feel like I need a shower and a whiskey. But I don't drink and I cannot blog from the shower.
So, I will instead focus on a more pleasant aspect of my day.
My little sister bought my book today! Now let me tell you about my kid sister Marice. There's too much history and a lot of it involves shouting, frustration, lots of ruined clothes and shoes, lots of good money thrown after bad, arrests, two trips to the hospital, and, once upon a time, a punch. But that history also involves a beautiful woman with a ready laugh and an unbelievable Zen optimism. It also involves some of the funniest stories woven through my life. It involves a beautiful young man, an amazing girl, and an adorable boy who have my sister's life force. It involves shared hurt, tears, and confusion. It involves dreams that never die.
But most importantly, no matter what happens between us or what words are said, I can't help but just plain like her!
And today she bought my book. And my sister and I like to read the same kinds of books. So, I think she will actually read it!! And then - and this is the VERY BEST PART - we can talk about it! I am dying for someone to read my book and talk to me about it - tell me what they think and how they felt. And I KNOW I can trust Marice to be honest. We have never had to take off the gloves with each other because they have simply never been on.
Here's the thing - I love my book. It's, like, one of my favorite books, up there with The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Ender's Game and Touch Not the Cat. I want to talk about the book like I cannot wait to talk to my friend Rebecca as soon as I read an Izzy Spellman book or how I want to talk to Greg after I see a Battlestar Gallactica or Sherlock episode.
So, if you have read any of my books or stories, I would love to hear from you - either as a comment on this blog or send me a note on my website by clicking the "Contact GVR" button at the top of this page.
I'd love to hear from you, because discussing my book with readers is the very best part.
So...why The Avengers? Argo and Zero Dark Thirty might have seemed like a more logical pairing. Do I generally see blockbusters? Not at all. Superhero movies? Nope.
My two best friends, Matt and Greg, really wanted to see it. In fact, as total fanboys, they had been waiting and hoping for this movie for the past 25 years. Sure, they are perfectly capable of attending a movie without me or my husband - which they do all the time. But the four of us thought it would be fun to go see a movie together. The last movie I'd seen with Matt and Greg had been Return of the King. As die-hard Tolkein fans from very young ages, perhaps they got sick of my complaining about that stupid maroon turtleneck Viggo wears in the coronation scene. So, it's been a while since we've proposed all going to see a movie together.
I did not like the movie The Avengers that much. Watching it made me tired with all of its over-the-top action sequences. But I really enjoyed going to the movie, having had the experience of seeing it together, and discussing it with my friends. Who loved it. And you know, disagreeing about the movie makes it all the more fun! Years ago, we all went to see Love, Actually, and I had a radically different opinion than all the guys. (I know. Shocker.) To this day, we still laugh over our responses to that film.
Mostly, we do not enjoy watching the same things, with some notable exceptions: Buffy, Sherlock, Galaxy Quest, almost any Wes Anderson film.
Which is why my friend Greg's review of my short story, "All Summer on a Date," from the Romancing the Pages anthology, delighted me beyond all others:
"I thought I would have trouble getting through it and reading the whole thing, but I didn't. It was actually pretty enjoyable."
A non-romance reader liked my story!!! A guy liked my story! I had crossed genre lines! Victoire! Victoire!
Since it is election day in Los Angeles, I think I will talk about the power of an individual to bring about change - and it is getting easier all the time. These days, it can be done with the click of a mouse. The other day I signed an online petition - it took me about 30 seconds to read through the issue then click the "Sign" box to add my voice. The following recounts the result of that petition, in the words of Derek Nance, the petition's originator:
"What a week. Last Thursday night, I started a petition on Change.org asking Carly Rae Jepsen [singer of the hit song "Call Me Maybe"] and Train not to perform at the Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree this summer unless openly gay scouts and leaders would be welcome to attend.
By Friday morning, 3,000 people had signed. On Friday evening, Train pulled out, saying: "Train strongly opposes any kind of policy that questions the equality of any American citizen."
Now, four days later, more than 60,000 people -- including you -- have signed my petition. And this morning, Carly Rae Jepsen tweeted this:
"As an artist who believes in equality for all people, I will not be participating in the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree this summer."
This is an incredible victory."
And I participated in bringing it about! With the click of a mouse!
I have signed many such online petitions over the past year, and not all of them have succeeded in bringing about any change or provoking any meaningful action. But a lot of them have. I have helped people get re-negotiations with banks about to evict them. I have gotten people re-hired and gotten them back wages after they were unjustly fired. I have saved a number of animals' lives. I have told Congress my opinion on crucial issues.
The opportunities of the internet and the proliferation of social media make getting involved and making a difference so easy. And it feels so good.