Wednesday, 15 February 2012

My friend the Stroppy Author

has a blog post up people really need to read, well two blog posts - one on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure and the other on Stroppy Author's Guide to Publishing. (Prowl into the sites on the right hand side of this page. Both sites make good reading.) The posts are about piracy.
I sympathise with what she has to say. I would sympathise at any time but I sympathise even more after yesterday. A rather senior public servant from a rather important department contacted me and asked if I would do "a little job" for them.  My answer was no.
I am well qualified, perhaps uniquely qualified, to do the job but my answer was still no. Why? They were not intending to pay me.
It is not the first time this has happened and, I have no doubt, it will not be the last. The conversation went something like this:
         "But Cat you don't go to work. You have plenty of time to help."
         "But I work from home. I put in almost seventy hours last week. That does not include the time I put in caring for my father which is the primary reason I do not work elsewhere."
         "But you don't get paid for that work..."
         "No and that is all the more reason why you should pay me. The people I help are volunteering their services. You get paid. Everyone in the department gets paid. I should be employed as a consultant like anyone else."
         "But there's no money..."
         "If you want me, find the money."
         "And they get paid..."
         "Not for giving up their annual leave, paying their own airfares and accommodation and taking their own supplies..."
It is an old argument. I will help people who are genuinely volunteering help for other people. That was the agreement from the start. Yes, they may earn a good sum in their paid employment but giving up 20-30% of your income and your time and expertise to help others is something I am prepared to help you do.
I will not help a well funded government department that wastes money in all sorts of ways, which has the resources within its own boundaries but fails to use them effectively. I will not help people who expect to obtain my expertise and knowledge for nothing. I worked hard, very hard, to develop those skills. I should not be expected to pass them on for nothing to those who are being paid and can afford to pay.
Writers are the same. They should not be expected to work for nothing. If their work is worth publishing then they should be paid a proper sum for it. If their work is worth copying for use in schools or anywhere else then they should be paid a proper sum for it. If it is borrowed from libraries then they should be paid. They should be paid well. Teachers get paid. Librarians get paid. Why do writers not get paid?
We have to value all forms of creativity. My nephews get paid more for doing an evening's gig than some writers get as an advance for months of work - that the money goes straight to charity is beside the point. They expect people to pay. Writers expect people to pay too - but people do not expect to have to pay them.
Modern technology has made it easy to "steal" from writers. Yes, it is theft just as asking me to work for nothing is like asking me, "We would like to steal from you. Will you let us?"  The answer is no.
If you read this please go and tell Stroppy Author and friends that you will support them.


Nicole MacDonald said...

I just posted about piracy last week after discovering my books on a couple of torrent sites. It's so freaking irritating. Especially because I'm often, generously, giving copies to people. But both my books = 30 months of hard work while working a normal 9-5 job too. It's hard to believe those that steal my work are fans of it.

Rachel Fenton said...

You have a right to be paid, Cat. Everyone does, even writers.

Frances said...

Hear, hear.

Anonymous said...

But writing isn't work. It's fun! Ros

JO said...

I so agree that we should be paid for the work we do.

Yes, Ros - writing is fun. So is being a clown, and they get paid. Writing is not something we do just to fill in time - we sweat and swear over it, want it to be the best if can possibly be.

And we have a right to have that work appropriately rewarded.

widdershins said...


Stroppy Author said...

Sorry, Cat - only just seen this. You shd have told me it was up. Google alert fail....

You are, of course, totally right to refuse to work for people who have a budget and won't use it. I don't understand why people find it so hard to realise that writers need and deserve to be paid. They wouldn't expect a plumber to fix their sink for free - what's the difference?

When people claim something is 'in a good cause' I ask if they are going to pay for the electricity, the printing, the paper, the office rent... Of course they are. They think they can get writers for free because lots of people want to be writers. But even that isn't logical. Lots of people want to be rock stars and TV presenters, but the people who do those jobs still get paid.

And, anonymous, yes writing is fun. But checking proofs and arguing with publishers and negotiating contracts is not so much fun. And *everyone* tries to do a job they like, so why treat writers differently? And although people might continue writing novels for fun and no money (witness all those self-published novels on Kindle), how many people are going to write well-researched non-fiction or even school textbooks if they're not paid?

If I'm going to write for free, it will be things I want to write - such as blog posts - not necessarily things publishers want to publish. And if someone expects to write for free I shall say that I would rather spend the time talking to my daughters or watching a film or going for a walk, thank you.