Friday, March 8, 2013

There Is Only One Response

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.

GVR Corcillo

author of

Queen of the Universe coming this Fall


  1. I love your examples, they made me laugh! Coke making soft drinks without expecting to make a profit, just because they believe it's the best drink out there - LOL!

    I love to write stories, and I love to hear the responses from people who have read and enjoyed them. But I couldn't continue if my writing earned me no income. Not unless I could trade my books for an apartment and clothes and food. This isn't a new problem, but I do believe there are answers out there that are fair and equitable for everyone. We just have to keep looking.

    It's a great time to be a writer, no matter who you are. :)

  2. Kitty, Indeed it is a great time to be a writer! We have choices thanks to other people who did THEIR work. Do you think Amazon is making any money or just basking in the joyous feelings of offering so many opportunities to writers?

  3. Great post - Completely agree with you. Writers should be paid for their work.

    But this nonsense isn't just a problem in the Publishing world. Back in another lifetime I was an actress and I had friends who actually believed that you were not an artist if you got money for a part. That somehow starving for your art was more noble than getting a living wage. I haven't seen most of those people in years but I assume most of them are still waiting tables or doing some other low paying job to pay the rent so they can do their art. What a load of hogwash.

    One other point that should be added to this discussion of bad contracts is the egregious instance that writers royalties should be taken out of NET proceeds. It amounts to the same thing as charging them all the costs. I hope writers wake up to that one too. And soon.

  4. Claire, what a GREAT point you make about the royalties. Writers really have to start getting persnickety about what they are willing to give up when they sign a contract. Because nowadays, with self-publishing, we are not so bound by doing it their way or not getting published. With so many choices available to us now, the ball is bouncing into our court like never before, so we have to pick it up and play with gusto!

  5. This comment is from fellow writer Alina K. Fields at

    "Wow, I have to agree with your husband! (And btw he sounds like the guy I'm married to.) I salute you and Kitty for taking the plunge into self-publishing, though I know it wasn't really a plunge but a carefully planned venture. Best of luck to both of you!

    Alina K. Field"

  6. Self-publishing sure is a a venture involving a lot of work and planning. And learning as you go :) But the control you get in return is well worth it. Thanks for weighing in, Alina!