Wednesday, January 7, 2015

You can ask for anything. Nothing says we have to give it to you.

I dusted off this blog after ages.  I gathered the pertinent links.  And then I closed it all down.  "Not my circus, not my monkeys" ran around in my mind and I decided that I didn't really need to weigh in on the current publishing kerfuffle any more than I already had among the small group of people I'd written to/among.

And then an author chimed in with (yet another): It amuses me that people apparently think we spend our advances on nothing but printer paper. Food? Clothing for children? A mortgage? WHO NEEDS THAT???

My head exploded, so here I am.  

Of course, in my seething irritation, I began at the end, so let me backtrack.

A few days ago on Facebook, a buddy of mine posted: 
Interesting discussions about Kickstarters on Twitter. It's common enough for pledgers to fund the production of a book - editing, copyediting, formatting, cover art, design, printing - but would it put you off pledging if the kickstarter asked you to pay their wages, too?

I answered in my mind and kept moving.  My answer, "Nah, I'd pass."  I didn't think any more of it until an author on my feed posted the storyfied version of what happened.  I read it (and you should if you're not already familiar with it) and then I'd foolishly responded to the only comment I'd seen at the time--someone saying that they were confused:
Unless a writer is taking commissions from readers, readers don't pay writers for writing. That can change, like anything else, but it's not surprising that got annoyed. We buy the finished product. In this world that now includes crowd funding, asking for a little charity to pay for a cover or a few other things doesn't sound too outrageous. Asking us--ok, asking me; I don't like speaking for others--to pay for your personal bills is a good way to remind me that other authors aren't asking for anything. They take care of their kids, work their day jobs, write their hearts out in their spare time, then wait a long time for the submission process, and/or self publish--and never ask for anything but the fair price of their book.

Wrong answer.  I didn't mind being told 1. that's like saying I'd pay a painter for the finished painting but not doing the painting, or 2. but this is just like a traditionally published author getting an advance or 3. it's like going to a restaurant and only wanting to pay the price of the food (as opposed to the cooking and everything else that goes into the price of the finished meal).  I didn't mind because it was all part of healthy discussion and because 1. I do pay for the finished painting, and if the artist includes a percent for what he paid for the canvas and supplies and his time, OK, but he doesn't ring up ahead of time and say, "Yo, I wanna paint.  Finance it."  2. But I'm not your publisher and I've never heard of one who gave advances and didn't take that money out of royalties.  3. But it's not going to a restaurant and only paying for the groceries, rather the original KS seemed to me like asking me to pay for your culinary school so I can buy a meal from you.

The thing I thought from the start was that *I* wouldn't pay into this kickstarter, but there wasn't anything inherently wrong with saying, "Look, readers are asking me for this book and if you want it it done in 3 months, this is what I need."  There was no need for the Twitterverse to chime in, but when you do stuff in public, there's a chance people will publicly talk about you.  I'm genuinely sorry that this author felt like she had withdraw not only from Kickstarter but also from her YA writing persona

The thing I was thinking more or more by the time I sat down to write this was, "What the fuck is wrong with you people?!"  If one more author chimes in on this to let us know that artists have a right to be paid for their work and can do whatever they want with their advances....I'm going to do absolutely nothing about it, but I'm going to do it rudely!

Yes, there are assholes out there who want music, movies, and books all to be free.  They suck and that's not what this conversation is about.  Nobody said they didn't want to pay for her books so she should give them away for free, they said they didn't want to fund the writing. She can ask.  They can say no.  In a perfect world, her fans would have said yes and she's be writing the book right now regardless of what others thought.

"But if it were Neil Gaiman, it would have been funded in an hour."

Yeah, well. he used to be just Neil and just Neil wrote kick ass stories and lots of people bought them.  He didn't magically jump from birth to guy-with-huge-fan-base.  Maybe it will happen for you, too.  J.K. Rowling famously went from welfare to being richer than the queen.  Or maybe it won't, and it'll suck, but that's the reality everybody has to face when they want to go into the arts.  And it's not just the arts.  Maybe you want to be a world class lawyer, but your skills keep you in small claims court working for people who don't realize you don't necessarily need a lawyer for small claims.  And you still need to pay your student loans.  And...

....this angry rant is becoming a babble.  Probably became I'm sitting here by myself instead of on Twitter where one person's "huh?  what?" becomes dozens of people piling on.  Maybe we'd have a few less author/reader kerfuffles is more us wrote it all out instead of fueling each other's ire.