Support Your Writers. And Musicians. And All Artists. Seriously.

So I decided to, in an effort to boost some promo, get my work out to Smashwords and host a “get them free for the month of July” sale. It’s an excellent way to promo the books, considering that the e-books right now are a hell of a lot more popular than print books.

I put the sale up yesterday. Just today, I got more notifications for sales of all three of my books than I would get in a month for any one of three.

This, ladies and gents, actually pisses me off a fair bit.

My musician readers – this one actually concerns you too, in this day and age. You may want to sound off on this post.

There is another, very foul expectation among self-published artists, and that is that independent somehow equals to free. It’s definitely par for the course to give away some copies as a promo; I do it once in a while for reviews and promo. But when it comes down to it, people still ask, “Where’s my copy?” and are offended when the writer asks, “Where’s my money?”

People fail to understand that to produce a piece of artistic product – writing, music, painting, photograph – it takes a metric ton of work. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you have borne witness to the travails that I had in getting each of my books prepped for publication. Book 1 is a perfect example, because I have done it on my own, top to bottom. I spent about 5 months just adjusting the proofs. This was after a three-year-long rewrite. It’s a metric ton of work.

Gayle’s interview has it best, but I will say it again: there is no one backing you but yourself if you’re a self-published author. I have no agent. I ask if I need help, and pay for it, taking a financial loss. I put the books on sale, hoping that I’ll break even on the cost. If I were to say that my books are best-sellers, I would be lying like a dog. But know this: I didn’t put them on sale to make the big bucks. I put them on sale because I love to write, I have written what I believe is a kickass story, and I want other people to enjoy that story.

I also don’t believe that I should be doing it for free. That’s my motto in life: nothing in the world is free. If I do a free blogging service for someone, believe me when I say there’s a tradeoff involved. You just don’t see it.

The same can be said for indie musicians. They may give away some of their CDs, they may promo themselves doing so, but there will always be so many people who will expect music to be free. It’s a dollar for a song at iTunes, and some people would still rather Limewire their music. Think about what it says to the artist. That one dollar from the iTunes download is one more dollar that could pay for the artist’s tour to your town. That’s one dollar that can offset studio costs.  That one dollar can pay for the photoshoot needed for the artist to do more promo, so he or she could earn sales and continue to make music.

Nothing in life is free.

And the same goes for an indie author. I need to pay my editor. I pay for proof copies of my books, unless I have a promo code for a free one – and I’d pay for shipping, too. I pay for my editor, who volunteers her precious time and effort to gut through my books and catch what I miss after I had spent months writing it, and some more months rewriting. I pay for my cover art, whether by barter or cash, and I would love for Jenna to be paid the percentage that we had settled on. But my books do not sell well. Not through lack of trying; I’m on every single self-pub and indie-writing hashtag on Twitter that you can think of. It’s still the nature of the writing business that self-published, or independent, somehow means “less than great.”

But I digress. The bottom line is that it costs money for me to produce the books. And I’m a little pissed off that people expect things to come to them for free, without giving a thought that if they do not give some support, then the person behind the books, or the music, will simply not produce anymore. Why would they continue, if at every bit people expect things for free, and get offended when they don’t get it? It is severely demoralizing and discouraging for someone to know that their work only has some acclaim, worth, or popularity only when it’s not paid for. That and if it’s something as involving as music, why would the artist continue if he or she hadn’t broken anywhere close to even when it comes to their albums? Studio time costs money. Promo costs money. Mixing and finishing costs money. And all those costs add up, and reimbursement has to come from somewhere.

It’s certainly discouraging to me. It won’t make me stop the series, or stop writing in general, but it is making me speak up.

In short:

People, support your independent artist. Whether or not that artist is a musician, a writer, a painter, a photographer, or a graphic designer, pay for their work. Why? You’re making it possible to continue their work.

Above that, you’re boosting their spirits. Nothing makes an independent feel better than to know that their book is bringing them at least enough to pay their bills.

Or, in my case, a nice meal.



6 thoughts on “Support Your Writers. And Musicians. And All Artists. Seriously.

  1. I could not agree more. I’ve been a musician for over twenty years and I’ve stopped recording music simply because everyone is literally offended when you ask for money in exchange for artistic services. I play in a cover band now and not just bar owners, but huge event directors act put out when you expect to get paid. We’ve done huge events where everyone else but the band got paid. Seriously? You made the event around the fact that you would had a band. I stopped doing stand up comedy because of the amount of free gigs I was simply unwilling to do. So now I write (as I have, off and on, since I was little). What does that say about me that I am only attracted to, and put 100% in to, endeavors I have no hope of making a living, or money, in general off of… it really depresses me all the time, actually. 300 years ago I’d have been a renaissance man. In 2011 I’m simply a loser who constantly let’s himself and others down.

    1. I work as a promoter for jazz, especially smooth/contemporary. I will make no bones of it: those guys will get the raw end of the deal. I charge little for my promo now, hoping that one day, the business will evolve to where even the small bills will stack up. But this is just a dream. Per gig, the guys do NOT make that much.

      Same with writing. I know the story is great, but as an indie, I have little to no hope of making a steady income out of it. And people think they’re entitled to free books, or free music! Nothing is free. There’s always cost involved.

      It’s the precise reason why I insist on paying for my show tickets. Through the nose for me, yes, but my guys need to have their bread and butter too.

  2. Katherine, great blog post. I was glad to see a little ire about people insisting that indie work be free. I have friends who are indie artists, writers and musicians. I support them all as best I can. I will admit that when I saw that your books were free that I thought about getting them. Not because they aren’t worth paying for but I am on a fixed income so I do enjoy freebies BUT I don’t EXPECT them. I think that is the difference.

    Again, it was a wonderful post and I appreciated hearing your point of view.



    1. Thanks, Ardee-Ann! Welcome to my blog.

      I understand that, believe me. I hyper-manage my own income, and buy my music only when I get iTunes gift cards. This is actually pretty frequently (credit/debit rewards rack up), and I have no problem paying for music, or books. Or e-books. I wouldn’t think to ask to get on someone’s guest list unless I were doing something in return. Promo, and barter for promo, is par for the course. But I would never, ever expect to be on someone’s guest list.

      Hell, I remember when someone asked me if I paid for my ticket yet (he wanted to put me on so I wouldn’t pay for admission), and I told him to NEVER do that for me. He needs to make his bread-and-butter too.

  3. Katherine, you know I agree with you 100% – your post is RIGHT on point, regardless of WHICH creative muse drives the individual: art. music, literature, whatever.

    1. Thanks, Bruce. It just gets me when people ask why someone’s creative product isn’t free. Well, it’s not free to produce it, now is it?

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