Today, for as part of Legend‘s release plans, I am participating in a Facebook multi-author event. Pretty standard stuff right? Not exactly. The event is called Our Books Are Not Free.
Yep, you read that right.
I’m one of over one hundred participating authors not giving away a book or awarding any prizes during the event. Expectations are exactly the opposite, so it seems a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it? An after effect of the “atmosphere of resentment and entitlement that caused the growth of peer-to-peer that plagued the music industry” predicted back in 2010 by a TeleRead article, I’m surprised someone didn’t come up with this idea sooner.
Experts advise authors to treat their writing like a business for tax purposes and sanity reason. The first thing any savvy business person learns to watch is their bottom line, or return on investment (ROI). ROI is defined by the resources put into a product or endeavor (eg time and money) and the benefit that is produced by it.
Businesses fail because of negative ROI. Why should authors suffer the same fate?
Freelance writers are paid a wide variety of rates for their efforts. According to an interactive Venngage article, I’d have to write MacBeth (or 15,738 words) every month to survive as a freelancer in my metropolitian area. To put the figure in perspective that’s roughly 19% of Legend per month.
Creative writing is structured differently. Authors don’t get paid unless someone buys their work.
Like freelancers, story writers still make a huge up front investment in their time and effort to write. The story writers then either go the indie route and invest in the materials they need for their work (cover design, editing, etc.) or the additional time and effort to pursue a publisher or an agent. Both have to worry about marketing. Traditionals less than indies, sure, but it’s still a consideration.
There are successful authors out there. Stephen King, Jim Butcher, and JK Rowling come to mind, but they too had to struggle before their big break. For most writers, passion must drive the creative process. Money can’t be counted on to do much more than provide a few extra perks. That simple fact is the reason authors balk when asked to give their work away for free.
Rose Montague, the driving force behind the Our Books Are Not Free event, put it this way in her August 2016 post:
The problem is that when just about every Indie author is doing it [giving their stuff away for free], it lessens the chances of actually selling books because there are so many freebies out there. It devalues our work, in my opinion. I would actually like to get to the point where I can afford to write full time. In order to do that, I need to sell some books rather than give them away.
In her October 2016 article, CG Blade, a fellow SF writer, urges readers to consider that:
You cannot expect anyone to continue to give you great material if they do not get paid for it. It costs me approximately $500.00 to $1000.00 to put out a 70K novel. I cannot imagine what cost it takes to produce eleven songs, go out on tour, and keep writing great material.
So yes, it might go against the grain, but I’m proud to be part of this protest.