Thursday, June 16, 2016

An Absolute Pleasure

This is going to be my last blog for a couple of weeks because I'm taking a break. I hope to get a work I've been editing through its first re-editing phase before the end of the week. This is more a 'bye for now' than an actual blog, but I have an important date to celebrate that will be an 'absolute pleasure' for me. We all face milestones in our lives and I have one on the way that's something of an achievement.

On that note (forgive the dubious segue), I'm taking a moment to reflect on something else that put a smile on my face in January 2013 (where has the time gone), when my Steampunk adventure -- co-authored with Andy Frankham-Allen -- Mundus Cerialis: Space 1889 & Beyond was called 'an absolute pleasure to read'. You can read the full review by going to The Traveler's Steampunk Blog.

I'll return with news of where I've been and why soon. Stay well, stay happy, and Happy Reading!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Error in Judgement

Just the other week I blogged about someone who contacted a writer suggesting she work for free. I noted how common this is. These proclamations are often met with disbelief. Fortunately, I stumbled across a news item that illustrates my claims.

The ad provoked outrage with posters taking to social media. Artist Conor Collins stated the supermarket should deduct funds from its CEOs so "'starving artist' wouldn't have to be a thing". People asked if they could claim a free food shop, and often referenced the company's multi-billion turnover, lambasting them with the facts of less than 10k yearly salaries for artists.

The supermarket  apologised and declared the advert as an 'error of judgement', but I see it reports they describe it as having occurred following a discussion considering ways to improve the canteen and 'offer an opportunity to the local community'. Being asked to work for free is an 'opportunity' writers and artists are sick of. Yet despite the backlash, I've seen some posters stating they saw nothing wrong with this.

In plain English, it is the equivalent of someone saying toil in our office doing the filing for a month without pay and we'll say thanks, pat you on the back, and send you out into the world with that on your resume. That may sound a reasonable deal if you're a school leaver, if there's a chance of a good reference, maybe even a job at the end of those four weeks.

The catch comes when they can get another school leaver in for the following month and the one after that, and perpetually have their filing done for free.

The catch comes when no one cares what you have on your resume and even views the free work as meaningless -- after all, if you were any good, someone would have been willing to pay you, wouldn't they?

The catch comes when you're no longer eighteen, but ten years have passed, or twenty, and companies are still offering you the same 'opportunities' for exposure rather than pay.

This is feeding into all creative areas. Artists, writers, musicians, photographers... Wait, photographers? Yes. It's an endless list. Watch those news items where the newscasters ask members of the public to send in photographs? Those photos are worth money! A friend of mine is a professional photographer, has worked for local newspapers for years. The highest paid photo earned £200, but that is far from the norm, and the chances are that amount would not be offered now because the paper could put out a call for anyone who had taken a photo on their phone to send it in for free. This friend has had work and payment for remaining employment halved, and most times no longer gets expenses. By the time the cheque has cashed, it hardly covers the cost of petrol to go out and take the shot. All the viewers sending in free photos to newspapers and news channels are making photographers unemployed.

Somehow, it's become the 'norm' to ask for something for nothing. The creative arts is suddenly unimportant, regarded as 'play', not real work, despite many in these enterprises working longer hours than the average office-worker for far less pay. Paintings, books, photos, music...these things are deemed as for leisure and in some bizarre twist have become meaningless. My solution to that is we'll take them away. Imagine the world without these things. Imagine *gasp* no TV, because someone has to 'write' the story. Someone has to design the sets. Someone has to paint the backdrop.

If you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. If you think it's okay to ask anyone to work for free, you are the problem.

Sainsbury's have had many slogans, one being 'Live Well For Less'. I guess that's a typo and they really meant 'Live On Less'. In 2005, apparently its slogan was 'Making Life Taste Better'. Sorry, Sainsbury's. You've left an appalling taste.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Don't call yourself a fan. Don't you dare!

This week I'm passing on this excellent post by Rosalie Stanton.

Read. Seriously. Read this. To anyone who thinks the subject of asking a writer to produce work for free is okay I've news. Anyone complaining about the cost of books needs to reconsider why they're protesting.

Let's compare creating a book with going to the movies. Some people go often, some occasionally. Some think nothing of the cost of a couple of hours of entertainment. Others complain about the charge for the tickets and the food, but most still add popcorn and a drink to the price of entry.
Some of these patrons are aware that the cinema most often makes its money on 'concessions' -- that's the food and drinks. All that popcorn is often the only reason a cinema manages to stay open, and it's why the price is so high even though popcorn costs almost nothing to manufacture.

The ticket price mostly goes to the movie producers and we all know that movie-making, especially the big action blockbusters, is expensive. Look at the credits -- that long list of people employed, all of whom ask for salaries. Some films now even list the number of jobs the project created. Movie-making is an entertainment 'industry'. In other words, a BUSINESS.

Making books is also a BUSINESS.

I don't care if the writer writes for leisure, or hopes to make this a vocation, to the publisher it's BUSINESS, and books often provide several hours, sometimes a lifetime, of pleasure.

Of course, there are self-published writers but it's still a business. They are going it alone and so every step falls to them. Chances are works from a publishing company or 'good' self-published books have undergone a process. This process involves writing the story -- the hours spent by the person creating, researching, plotting, putting the words down on a blank page -- and editing rounds. Edits should be undertaken by an author before the work is ever submitted. The finished manuscript is often considered by a committee. Even accepted, the story is far from complete. Next stop is for the work to land in the hands of an editor. There are copy and line editors, proofreaders, and cover artists...all requiring payment. If there's a marketing department that costs, too. With help or not the author faces fours spent marketing their product. Yes, product. Let's call the book what it really is for the remainder of this blog.

If the PRODUCT goes to print, there are printing charges. If it's an ebook someone has to create the files and try to make sure all formats work. Sometimes both these costs apply. The publisher takes their cut. The writer gets his or hers. If there's an agent to pay that's another share right there, and last but never least taxes.

It's business. Profit needs to be made.

With ebooks, those who read and return or file share are nothing more than thieves. True, people lend print products but it's a greyer area than many realise. It's 'allowed' only because no one likes the idea of printed products being destroyed, because many are sold through charity shops so further good comes of passing products on, and the circulation of some products can gain an author more readers, but in all these instances the purchaser of the PRODUCT gives up their original copy and in the case of a loan risks losing it.

People who share or duplicate work in a criminal act deserve nothing better than a hefty fine if not jail time. What that person is NOT is any friend or fan.

To add to this already insulting state of affairs, Rosalie's post focuses on a writer asked by a 'fan' to work for free. Her response and mine is not author meltdown. This is authors telling you like it is. It's the equivalent Yes, YOU, the one reading this -- it's YOU going into the office, factory, shop, hospital...wherever you work, for free, and then trying to heat your home and put food on your table.

Since when did writing become a joke? Since when did it become a game?

How stupid does someone need to be not to understand writing is a JOB. The majority of writers already work for well below minimum wage. In what universe did a reader think it okay to contact a writer to ask that person to WORK for free? In many cultures, that would be called slavery.

Incidentally, where do you think the story came from so that a movie can be made?

I'll leave Harlan here to speak for writers everywhere.