Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Writers as Artists + Compensation for Work

I am so shocked and saddened by what's happened to YA writer Stacey Jay these last few days. Google it if you want the details, but the long story short is that she set up a Kickstarter to fund the sequel of her latest young adult novel--a novel her traditional publisher wasn't interested in pursuing.

She didn't ask for an outrageous amount of money, and it was going to take her about three months to write the book. Backers were going to get copies, etc.

And then the haters arrived.

Stacey has since retreated and pulled both the KS page and her online pages.

I feel absolutely horrible. I've known Stacey as part of the online YA community for about six years. She is one of the kindest, most hardworking authors I know, and she genuinely didn't mean any harm.

What I find most saddening, though, is this idea that writers shouldn't be paid for the time and resources it takes to create their work. The work is not just the end product, or what you get when you hit "Buy Now" when you select your latest book purchase.

No. That single book represents hundreds of hours of work--writing and revising and editing. TIME. For the Indie that also means paying for outside help, like editors and cover designers and formatters.

Confession: I work full time. I teach college writing and literature. 

Do I like it?


Would I rather be a full-time author? 


But I can't quit my day job. 

I wrestled with this during the "gold rush" era of digital publishing. I got in early enough where I wrote a book (Cross My Heart) that happened to resonate with people. I was honest with my sales numbers back then, and did what I could to encourage other writers to get their works out there.

But that was then.

Yes, I could have quit my job. I didn't, because I wasn't sure how this whole online publishing thing was going to work out. I had three strong years where writing would have paid my bills.

Things change.

This year, I could not have afforded to write full time. I have a mortgage and student loans. My family needs groceries. I have two kids who need things. . . .

I have to get paid, and that's where my day job comes in. I can't predict sales, so it's too risky for me to step outside the 9 to 5 world (with a family to support).

Unfortunately, the day job steals my writing time. I get MAYBE an hour a day to work on my projects. Because I can't put out projects as regularly as I'd like, it's hard to build momentum. You have no idea how frustrating this is (or maybe you're a writer with a family and day job, too. In this case, you know exactly how frustrating this is).

Even though I have more books published today, I made much, much less this year than I have in previous years. In fact, if you crunch the numbers, 

I made less than minimum wage this year from my writing.

I feel horrible for Stacey for thinking she offended so many people, when it was really just a few who took offense and vocalized. If they weren't interested in the Kickstarter, they didn't have to fund it. It's really that simple. 

Ultimately, we write for the love of stories and books and the joy (sometimes pain) of creating. We do it because we become better people for telling our stories. We do it because we hope that the world is somehow just a little better because of these stories. Writing is a calling. It requires passion. It's an art. The best writers are true artists. They make it look easy. And . . . 

I know I'm not alone. For every one author you see hitting the bestseller lists and raking in money and releasing book after book after book, there are hundreds of us waking up early or staying up late, writing in the dark, trying to get that next piece written. We take our royalty payments when (and if) they come, and we are eternally grateful to our readers and those who enjoy our works and spread the news.

My hope is that Stacey will take the short rest she so rightfully deserves, even if I hate the reason for it. I hope she emerges stronger on the other side, and that she's back in our company (and writing again!) soon.

That is all.