Controversial post incoming!
(Image copyright Kent Zonestar. Go check out his other works!)
I recently came across Sarah Madison’s “Dear Broke Reader, Your Sense of Entitlement is Killing Me”, an article articulating the myriad frustrations as an author and art-maker when it comes to monetary value in their art as perceived by the general public, along with piracy and entitlement regarding the same. She writes:
Now, I’ve been reading a lot about entitlement lately. Entitlement from fans demanding that showrunners give them certain storylines or fans contacting authors and demanding they receive free stories. Fans putting pressure on creators by bullying them online, by threatening their pets, by wishing dire things would happen to those same people who brought them the thing they love so much. I have some theories about why we are so angry these days. I think in part it’s because we’re all so hungry. We’re emotionally, financially, and in some cases, physically starving. We work our asses off at our jobs to barely make ends meet and at the end of the day, we want our reward, damn it. Be it our favorite television show, or that bottle of wine, or that tub of Rocky Road ice cream, or the latest release from our favorite authors.
I get that. I really do. I live that. Overworked, underpaid, under-appreciated–hey, join the club. It’s part of the reason I write. I tell stories because it helps me put aside the cares and worries of today. I jokingly say it’s cheaper than therapy. I share stories because I want to make someone else’s day a bit brighter.
But I don’t give them away for free. I can’t.
She goes on to list the three excuses she hears for pirating new book releases and the like:
I’m broke and I can’t afford to pay for my entertainment.
Creative works should be free–the purpose of creativity is to tell stories and share them, and there shouldn’t be a monetary component to the process.
Writers already make enough money.
Sarah also addresses these excuses head on, breaking down the frustrations and yes, entitlement, of being able to think such a thing. This article has drawn crowds of all sorts, rallying both for and against the author’s thinking. It really struck a chord with me. Let me explain:
I recently ran a promotion to have Godeater: The Second World down to only .99 cents for a week. I sold more e-books than ever before– which, unfortunately, did not mean I gained any more money than ever before. I had so many people say to me, “man, this book is so good! It should really be free so more people can read it.” I replied, “well, the library has a copy of it, they’re more than welcome to check it out!”
This was apparently not the correct answer.
I was being selfish. I was making them go to the library to check out a book– what if they didn’t have a library card?!— so that they could be entertained. I should just give it to them now, and be thankful.
Erhm… yeah. Okay.
I absolutely adore my readers. I’m so glad that Naika, Noah and Sirus have resonated with people, and that people have found refuge in my story. But, as Sarah Madison said, “I don’t give them away for free. I can’t.”
Now, this is not solely a reader-fueled phenomenon. Authors, especially Indie authors like myself, are currently being groomed into “Give them this for free! Give them that! Give them ALL THE THINGS!” All in hopes of adding readers to our love pile.
And yes, for many of us, free is awesome! But we also created a snowball that turned into an avalanche. Nowadays, it’s not a deal to get an e-book for .99 cents. It’s “supposed to be that way.” Books are “supposed to be free.” You can “get all sorts of books without paying a dime, and if you don’t give it to me free, I’ll find someone else to read.”
Which is a bummer. And now, many authors are feeling the fire for the market. Even the traditional publishing market is scratching its collective head going, “what the hell do we do with this?”
TL;DR: Broke? Me too.
Why don’t we all work for free, since it’s a “higher calling?”
Writers make enough money? In the words of George R.R. Martin, “oh, you sweet Summer child.”
It isn’t my hope or intention to make anyone feel alienated. I just want to give and take feedback on the topic, and see what everyone really thinks of the current e-book climate. As readers, as authors: what are your thoughts on what Sarah Madison has to say?