Mundie Moms

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cassandra Clare: On Writers Getting Paid to Write

Cassie posted a great post earlier today talking about ebook prices, writers getting paid, and the Bane Chronicles, in response to a question from a fan who thought these books were going to be free. I'm posting Cassie's entire post, because I feel like she mentions a lot of important things when it comes to authors, and their making a living. I, like some of you, in the begin wondered why a book that's less than 100 pages wasn't free, but I didn't take into consideration that those 100 pages or so didn't just write themselves. That an author spent a lot of time writing those pages. Writing is their livelihood and it doesn't matter if it's five or five hundred pages, time went into writing the book, and they, like the rest of us, have to make a living.

Hey Cassie, I love your books so much and I was looking forward to the Bane Chronicles. I was under the impression when you first posted about them that they would be a series of free e-books, however when I looked at them on Amazon today they were $2.99. I can’t afford that. Especially if there are going to be more and they are only little tiny novelles or small collections of short stories. I love you and your work especially Magnus’s character but I am really disappointed that it is so short and so expensive when it sounded like they would be free e-stories.
Heya. Well, I certainly sympathize with not having the money to purchase the books you want to buy. That sucks, no doubt about it. I’ve been there.
I went back through all the Bane Chronicles entries on my tumblr to try to figure out where the confusion over the Bane Chronicles being free might have come up, but I couldn’t find anything. Here’s an entry two months old that gives the release dates, titles and the price. When the installments appeared on Amazon, they had the prices attached.Here’s the first ever article about the Bane Chronicles. It says they’re ebooks, but — it doesn’t say they’re free. Most ebooks are not free.
I guess — just because something is published online before it’s published in print, doesn’t mean it’s free. I do write a lot of stuff for my readers for free. Everything here was written for free. Sarah’s written extras for free, and so has Maureen. 
But the thing is, the Bane Chronicles are not short. Each of them is about 12,000 words, which is longer than a short chapter book like one of The Spiderwick Chronicleswhich retails on Amazon for twice what one of the Bane Chronicles costs. And there are ten Bane Chronicles. That adds up to between 130,000 and 150,000 words, which is the length of Clockwork Prince. So what you’re essentially suggesting is that we put the amount of work and time into something that I put into Clockwork Prince — a year and a half of my life — for free.
Writers don’t generally write whole books for free. John Scalzi has a very strongly worded post on this topic. :) Maureen, Sarah and I have all done promotional writing for free — outtakes from our existing stories, etc — to make our readers happy, to give people a glimpse of our work who aren’t sure about it, sometimes just for our own enjoyment. At various points in time City of Bones has been given away on the internet for free for promotion. But “work being given away for free” is not the same as “writer is not paid” which is what you’re talking about. Work being given away for free is generally utilized at least for promotion — but The Bane Chronicles is a co-written project. It was dreamed up by me and Maureen and Sarah and it belongs to them as well as me. While, if I had the time (which I don’t; the only reason TBC can exist is because I’m sharing the workload) I might not mind doing a free ebook serial to promote my books, I have no idea what would motivate Sarah and Maureen to give up months of their lives, unpaid, to promote my books. We are very good friends, but that is asking far too much of your friends. 
We all live on the money we make writing. We all pay our health insurance and feed our families and house ourselves with the money we make writing. We take care of sick family members with the money we make writing. We don’t have weekends or days off. I’m not complaining — I love my job! — but you don’t ask your friends to do months of work for free, months they could otherwise fill with work that would feed their families and keep a roof over their heads.
The Bane Chronicles is not a self-published operation. It is published by Simon and Schuster. Making books, even ebooks, is not free. The stories must be edited, covers designed, digital files managed, marketing done … there are dozens of people who work in the background of any book project, and if these were being published for free, those people would also be working for free. And in fact, there would be no motivation for S and S to publish them at all, because publishers don’t have their authors, editors, tech people, designers, and artists work on projects for which none of them will ever be recompensed. If they were free, Simon and Schuster simply wouldn’t publish them. (I’ve been working on producing a charity book through them for almost a year now and it’s been unbelievably complicated and taken a huge amount of time even to produce one small e-book that won’t be for profit, because the system isn’t set up to do that. And they’re doing that for me as a favor, and the book isn’t free — the money just goes to charity.) I’d be left to publish them myself, which can certainly be done, but when you self-publish (as many people I know do) you’re working not just as a writer but as a publisher, with all the investment of time and money that that means. It’s so time-consuming and so initially expensive that I just couldn’t do it: I couldn’t handle the loss of time most specifically, but those I know who self-publish don’t give their work away for free. They charge for it, and recoup their investment of money that way. Giving it away for free when you’re self-publishing is basically just spending a huge amount of your own cash on – well, I don’t know what exactly. But I do know that if the Bane Chronicles didn’t cost money, there’d be no Bane Chronicles.
If you’re broke and you can’t afford them, I get that. Fortunately lots of libraries have ebook lending programs and have the Bane Chronicles. Alternately you can wait until it comes out as a print book next year, and pay for it what you would pay for any print book, or take it out of the library for nothing. (When I had no money, I lived at the Brooklyn Public Library — that’s why it’s in City of Fallen Angels.)
The Bane Chronicles are priced as low as they can be priced and still allow the publisher to afford to publish them, pay the salaries of the employees who worked on them, and pay royalties to the authors. We writers don’t charge because we are greedy, but because we live on that income, and we work very hard to make something of value that we hope you enjoy. (And that is the case for any artist — those tarot cards of Cassandra Jean’s I’ve been posting? I paid her to draw those. Of course I did. She’s a working artist. It’s a huge project and her work, her time, has value. Sometimes she draws fanart for kicks, just like sometimes I post excerpts or scenes from other POVs for kicks, and that’s free, but that’s all her choice and her ideas and her use of her time!)
I hope I don’t sound grumpy: I’m not, but I do think artists should be paid for the work they do. The intersection of art and commerce is complicated, and there are many crashes at that intersection, but in the end, I believe that if you don’t pay artists, they’ll stop making art, because they can’t afford to, except for the privileged few who can do without the money or are supported by someone else — in which case you are greatly restricting artistic expression to the voices of only the very privileged and no one wants that.
Maureen and Sarah and I have put lots of research and time and work into the Bane Chronicles. It’s my hope that the stories are a fun reading experience, and I hope if you do read them, you enjoy doing so, and consider it a 2.99 well spent. If you think it’s too much money, then you don’t have to buy them. That’s your right as a consumer, not to buy stuff you don’t think is worth it. :)

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