Monday, February 15, 2016

Why Writers Can't Give Away All Their Books For Free

I keep hearing the argument that writers should write for the love of their craft and never expect anything in return. That we shouldn't charge any money and just give our books away for free. That we should be thankful when people read the things we write and that should be enough.

We can't do this.

We're not writing for free when we refuse to charge. We're paying a bunch of people money to get published instead. Writing for free costs money.

Right now, I charge for one out of two of my books. Guess what? I'm in the red. I make less money than I spend right now. I am paying other people money for the privilege to write and I'm not, by any means, giving all my books away for free.

Because the writing industry is a billion dollar industry, especially for a lot of the people who aren't writers. There's a lot of people we have to pay in order to get our book published and read.

In fact, writers have to constantly be careful because there are many people who are predators out there who will ask for a couple thousand dollars to help us get a bestseller or help us write a book and we wind up with nothing but a hole in our pocket instead.

So even if we wanted to break even and not make any money to write, we would still have to charge you to cover our expenses.

You get this when it comes to watching movies. There's film. Actors need to be paid. Sets need to be made. Costumes need to be designed. Directors need to be hired.

You get this when you play video games. People need to test the games. People need to draw the graphics. People need to design the levels.

So why don't you get that writers need to charge money, too, even if all they were to do was break even?

Things Writer's Pay Money For:

1. Editors Cost Money

They cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand a-piece. Ideally, we're supposed to pay three editors that each focus on different things. You can't worry about editing the grammar,until you finish editing the basic story for instance. Because if you edit the grammar first, then you might wind up deleting entire sentences that were edited for grammar and adding new paragraphs that weren't and then you need to edit for grammar again.

I don't have a lot of money, so I use critique partners and one editor at the end. If I had more money, you bet I would go for three editors!

We can't skip having at least one editor. Our readers will stop reading our books if we skip the editor and all books in the future will look stupid because they will be full of mistakes. Even those of us who know a lot of rules mess-up because our eyes auto-correct things on the screen (because our brains know what we meant to say) and we wind up not seeing it.

2. Cover Art Costs Money

You can cut costs for making a cover by doing things like using stock photos, but then you wind up finding out that one of your author friends has a very similar or identical cover to yours because they used the same stock image.

If you want a unique cover that perfectly displays your book, then you need to book a place to shoot a photo, hire models. set designers, and a photographer. Sometimes you can do some of these jobs yourself, but it tends to turn out better if you hire someone else.

You know the fonts on covers? Those cost money, too. People make them and we have to pay them.

Usually authors don't know a lot about graphics. I mean, we try, but we can't do the fancy things that true graphic artists can, so we have to hire those as well to put all the pictures and all the fonts together.

This can add up to a lot of money, depending on which of these things you use.

3. Advertising Costs Money

There's a certain amount of things you can do to advertise for free . You can post on social media for instance.

But generally speaking, to get featured on a lot of mailing lists, blogs, web-sites, and more, you need money.

You also need money if you want book swag. These are things like bookmarks and key chains with pictures of your books on them.

The worst part of all of it is that certain social media sites, like facebook, make it difficult to announce your book release unless you pay them now. They make sure a certain amount of your followers do not see your post unless you pay them.

You may say,"It's not necessary to do all those things to sell books to people."

I gave a $100 Amazon Gift Card away recently. It was for FREE. And entering it could take as little as a couple of seconds and still, getting entries for it was like pulling teeth.

When you have a free book, people don't just jump all over it and try to get three copies of it and tell all their friends, like they do with free samples at the grocery store. Most people still don't notice you or care.

There's so many free books now that people ignore the majority of them. Imagine if ALL books were free and how much money every author would have to pay just to get people to notice their book exists at all.

I'm releasing a free book soon and just to begin, just for my launch, I've spent almost $600 in advertising and I'm thinking about saving money so I can spend more.

Some of that cost was for that $100 Amazon gift card. Because contests cost us money, too.

4. Distribution Costs Money

Printing books cost money. You already know this probably. The paper and ink are expensive and we can't just give you physical copies of books without asking for some money.

Well, guess what? It costs money to distribute e-books, too! Amazon, Barnes and Noble, all those places, they take money out of our pockets for every sale we get.

Sure, if we don't charge, it is free and they get nothing.

But if no one charged....

Ebooks would go away. Because, you see, it costs money to have a web-site. The domain name, the bandwidth, all that costs money. Every time someone accesses your site and downloads your books, it costs someone, somewhere out there, money. So every book can't be free or there won't be enough money to sustain the web-sites that host them. 

5. Formatting Costs Money

I can format my own books, luckily, but most authors can't. It's actually very difficult at times and time consuming. In fact, as of right now, I've been working on formatting my books, many hours every day, for the past five days.

So most authors have to hire someone to format their books.

6. Copyrights Cost Money

The government doesn't give you copyrights for free. They charge you.

But a free book doesn't need a copyright, right?


Copyrights aren't there just to protect money. They also protect your name. When you have a copyright on a free book, then no one can steal the book and put it under their name and claim they wrote it.

7. Software Costs Money

When you want to write, you need Microsoft Word at the very least. There were times when I couldn't afford a copy or didn't have a copy available to me. I had to use free software. This has been a mistake for me.

One time, when I was using Open Office, I submitted a story to someone and somehow half the names were changed to a totally different name. I still don't know how this was possible. My copy looked fine, but on the other person's end, it was a mess. I didn't have the right software and that likely had a lot to do with it.

Even if authors don't make their own book covers, they sometimes have to make their own graphics and need software to do so. See my banner on this blog? Made by me. What did I need to make it? Software.

8. Our Computers Cost Money

Well, everyone has a computer. Surely, this one doesn't count.

Yes, it does.

I don't have a computer right now. Luckily, my husband does. Mine broke months ago. I backed up my stories, so I didn't lose anything, but I've been forced to borrow his to write whenever he can spare it. I can't just go out and buy myself a computer without money. Without a computer, I can't write.

Let's hope my husband's computer doesn't break, right?

9. Classes Cost Money

I admit that I did a lot of my learning on my own, using the internet and critique partners.

But writing is actually a very difficult job and if you want to learn certain things that took me years to learn in less time, then you might want to take a class.

Education costs money.

10. Conferences Cost Money

While conferences aren't a necessity, they can teach you a lot and get authors socializing with certain people in the publishing industry. These connections are helpful when it comes to getting our work in front of publishers.

11. Submissions Can Cost Money

Some agents take e-mail submissions of your stories. Others require you to spend money on all the paper and ink it takes to print out your query, synopsis, and manuscript, and then mail that heavy package to them.

You also have to provide the self-adressed stamped envelope yourself. Because agents don't want to pay anything to write back. Authors have to absorb that cost.

This is fine if it's one person you submit to, but authors often submit to many agents. When you have to print out your two hundred page manuscript twenty times, cover the cost of mailing something heavy like that, include a SASE, it adds up over time.

12. Book Tours And Appearances Cost Money

I already covered some of this in the advertisement section. I mostly want to talk about authors making physical appearances to book stores.

First, is the money they have to pay for travel.

Then possibly for food and a hotel stay.

There's also the cost of buying or renting a table and chairs.

There's the cost of ordering a bunch of your books to sell and possibly some swag to give away.

Publishers don't cover the costs of these things almost ever. Even if they did, they'd stop doing so if they had to give all books away for free.

 13. Websites Costs Money

The domain name costs us money. We have to renew it every year or two as well, which costs more money.

Separately, we need someone to host our domain name and pages. We have to pay for bandwidth.

Personal Reasons Why We Need Money:

1. We Ignore Our Families For You

So far, this year alone (it's only February), I didn't do my husband's laundry for two weeks in order to write and I didn't pack his lunch for three weeks.

I've also had to tell my Mom and Husband several times to stop speaking to me because I have to write instead of socializing with them.

I suppose I could just treat writing like a hobby and stop taking it so seriously, but if all writers did that then we'd release one book every five to ten years. If you're willing to wait, that's fine.

We can treat it like a hobby and have no author ever live long enough to complete their ten book series because six books took them sixty years of hobby time to complete.

Or we could get money for writing and be motivated to ignore everything else in our lives in order to get more books out to everyone.

2. We Lose Friendships For You

I haven't talked to my friends in forever. That's because I have a book launch coming up. At the end of this, I will have to pick up the pieces and see who wants to speak to me anymore. Because I didn't even tell them why I was busy. I just dropped off the face of the earth.

One of my friends called me back on January 15th and it's February 15th now and I still haven't called her back. It's going to be really awkward once I do.

3. We Accept All Your Criticism With A Smile On Our Face

Remember that job where you worked at for McDonald's when you were a young adult and you had to deal with those customers that hated you and thought you were an idiot? Well, writers have to deal with that, too. Except the people who hate us and the jobs we do get to post their opinions on the internet forever, so we and everyone else can keep reliving it.

It's fine. It doesn't bother me. I can handle it and I want people to post their real opinions, but to get to this point...yea, there were tears at times.

Not just tears from readers' opinions, but from publishers and agents who rejected my work. We aren't allowed to talk back to any of these people and that's fine.

But I feel that it's fair for me to say that I deserve to be paid for it. The money helps the sting some and it gives us something to strive for. Because we're never going to get universal praise, so if that's what we are after, then we will give up after our first book.

Money is something realistic we can get as a reward for finishing a book. Praise and acceptance is not.

So working really hard and then getting a bunch of criticism and no money is just going to make the majority of us quit.

4. We Write Even When We're Ill

I've done this many times. I know writing is a fun activity, but it's not fun when you have a horrible cold or are worried about your blood test results when you go to the doctor the next day.

5. We Constantly Study

Writers are never done learning. We ask people to critique us. We study and discuss grammar.

Do you know the different between "into" and "in to"?

Do you know the difference between "awhile" and "a while"?

What is an em dash?

An author needs to know the answers to all those questions and many more.

We need to be able to word sentences a hundred different ways in our head and know synonyms for every word, so we can word each sentence perfectly.

It's not about having poetic prose, it's about knowing how to communicate. You might say,"Amanda peeled a piece of fruit" or you might say "Amanda peeled an orange." The second sentence is short, but portrays a more vivid image.

Authors need to know how to work things in a bunch of different ways, so we are able to communicate with you as effectively as possible.

6. We Don't Want To Be Homeless Or Go Hungry

Writing takes up a lot of time. If you think it doesn't, that's because you've never done it.

We're creating things. We're giving you a product. You pay for other products. Pay for ours, so writers don't become the homeless guy on the street with a long beard scribbling on a napkin and talking to himself.

7. It Gives Us Time To Write When We'd Have To Be Working Somewhere else

Books are released faster when we have more time to spend on them. It allows us to give you more entertainment.

8. Other Writers Get Paid

Would you expect people who reported on the news to work for free?

What about people who write the instruction manuals that come with cars?

What about the writer who writes speeches for the President?

Then why expect fiction writers to work for free?

9. We Have Hard Deadlines

When people get a doctorate degree, they get years to research and write their dissertations.

Authors are expected to write three hundred and fifty pages every three months. There are many articles out there about how authors who write any slower than that will never make an income.

It is very, very difficult. I've been writing for ten years and I'm still working up to the point where I can complete a novel that fast.

None of that includes all the blog posts, facebook posts, articles, or whatever else an author writers. Those are just bonuses that we are also obligated to do.

10. We Write When We Don't Want To

We take writing more seriously than anyone you will ever meet. It's our job, it's our life. We literally fight about it all the time. If you go on social media and you follow enough writers, you are going to see them arguing over this or that. Sometimes it's something as silly as commas and sometimes it's big things, like how much writers should be paid.

We don't fight because we hate each other and writing. Just the opposite. We fight about our thoughts and opinions on writing because we care about it so much, to the point where a lot of us are workaholics.

We've worked years, training ourselves to write even when we hated it, to push forward even when it's a struggle. Because this is our job and we take it seriously.

Shouldn't there be some respect for that?