Creators Unite! The Industry Needs Us, Not Vice Versa

Author: notafish - Delphine Ménard Source: sel...

Author: notafish – Delphine Ménard Source: self drawn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning, I ran across this little listing in a writer’s group I belong to on Facebook:

OMNIDAWN is currently reading for the BEST AMERICAN EXPERIMENTAL WRITING anthology (“BAX”). DEADLINE: November 15, 2013. READING FEE: “$9 for three pieces of writing or nine pages (whichever is fewer).”

This enraged me so much, I simply have to call BS. What’s the reading fee for, if not to pay for overhead, which includes paying the actual talent…you know, the writers?

I swear, there is a whole strata of publishers–and I don’t mean the big kids, they have their problems, but at least they understand they need to pay for the product they want to sell–that seem to think THEY are the important part of the industry. To these I have a message:

We DON’T need YOU. Not anymore, and to a degree we never did, we just got slowly conditioned to believe that US making YOU money while you scammed and screwed us was YOU doing US a favor. But that’s changing, and more and more of us are realizing WE DON’T NEED YOU.

And to my fellow actual creators:

STOP subbing to these markets. Exposure does not pay bills and costs the person making money off of our work NOTHING. If a market says they are a “for the love” market, those people don’t know what love is. Love is not exploitation. These publishers are making money on these publications, and asking us to do the most important work for free. THIS IS THEFT. THIS IS EXPLOITATION. STOP going along with it. Accept nothing less than at least a token payment or hard author’s copy (no ebooks), and do that ONLY for small markets who feasibly can’t afford pro rates. Be reasonable, sure…but don’t accept the lie that you need to let yourself be exploited in order to be a “real” writer.

If you’re just starting out, self-publish or post work on your own blog, with your own advertising and/or tipping/donation setup to make SOMETHING off of it and get “exposure” as well. REAL publishers and editors care about the quality of the work, and are looking for good writers, not writers who convinced someone else to put up a story on someone else’s website, or that someone other than yourself put it out on iTunes and Amazon. Please understand: in a world where one person can pretend to run any amount of ezines or electronic publishing houses with little cost to them, it doesn’t matter if you’re the one putting it out there to someone who actually CARES about finding new, good writers. It could always just be the same person, trying their own scam, so all that can matter is the WRITING.

Ignore those who say “any credit is a good credit when starting out”. That made sense in the print days, when you knew that if someone got published anywhere that meant real money was spent. Then the technology changed, and xeroxed/mimeographed zines undermined that basic premise. And from Charles Bukowski to Thomas Ligotti, without that new, even smaller press created by cheap printing/copying, some amazing writers would never have gotten their start. The “gatekeepers”, granted their status by virtue of their operating capital, wouldn’t have LET us read them.

Now, even better technology has made it FREE to “publish” a book or story. The “publishers” of digital markets have very little (if any) overhead, which means your “for the exposure/love” hard work is pure profit for them. From Huffington Post to some random ezine, if you’re writing/creating  for free, you’re getting screwed.

This is why so many tiny publishers and online magazines have popped up into existence, perfectly willing to use the underlying emotional belief that someone “giving us a job” is somehow doing us a favor, rather than making money off of US and therefore needing to pay their bill for services rendered. It’s almost free to “start a magazine” or “electronic publishing house”, and just like the exploitative corporations and bosses who purposely created this implication, these publishers are using us and wanting us to be grateful for the privilege of making them money. THIS IS WRONG. They are not only NOT doing you any favors, they are willfully exploiting you on all levels…emotionally/mentally, physically/temporally, and financially. Some will even go so low as to attack your status as a “true artist” for daring to even mention or expect payment…and they will then laugh all the way to the bank.

And since they aren’t paying you, you also have nothing to lose by saying “no” and submitting with someone who takes the work seriously. No credit with anyone who won’t pay for your work is worth having. The more writers and creators who realize this, who realize that “content”, aka stories and narratives in all media, is the only American industry left, the better for ALL of us. Whether it’s movies, books, video games, or hypertextual interactive media experiences, THEY NEED US. They can’t do what we do. They can’t even figure out what will “work” or be a “hit” versus a “flop”; that’s why they are so obsessed with remakes, franchises, and remixes, because all their bean-counting brains can parse is “what made money last time”. We NEED to start exploiting this powerful position. Nothing the modern economy creates makes real money anymore except entertainment, and the various publishers, producers, and corporations can’t produce that without US.

So stop acting like they are doing you a favor by condescending to make money off of your hard work. They aren’t. The last barriers to entry are slipping away; if you want to write, it makes increasing sense to self-publish. If you want to make movies, it makes increasing sense to stay indie and avoid the Hollywood “system”. The same is true of games, interactive stories, etc. Look at the indie scenes in any field and you find the exciting, interesting, good work. Sure, there are stinkers in there, too; but there is also a greater possibility of unique visions and original creative work, and thus greater art.

This, of course, scares the crap out of industries that have made a fortune from exploiting barriers to entry; not only did they have the cash, they controlled the industries through “gatekeepers”, so nothing they didn’t want to let through got out to the general public. The public and the creators have NEVER benefited by having such “gatekeepers”; all that has happened is the creators were forced to create crap or starve and the public never even got a chance to decide what was “good” or “bad” on their own.

And this applies to everything; musicians need to stop trying to “get a record deal”. You can do just as well with a good DAW and your own abilities as with any record company. You may need to spend a little money on equipment and instruments, and have to master some new skills, but that’s always been a part of music. What you don’t NEED to do is let those who want nothing more than to exploit your talent and inspiration run your world for you, making YOUR money and then leaving you high and dry when you’re not the hot property anymore.

In short (too late!): respect yourself and your work. Our allegiance is to ourselves and our art, and it is an insult to your very own SOUL to allow that self and art to be abused and exploited. We all deserve better, and the sooner ALL of us realize this, the sooner we will GET what we deserve. I’m not saying unionize (though that WOULD be a great idea); I’m just saying respecting yourselves and your work will go far beyond just yourself.

It will help us all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *