Slaves to Creativity - why we need to stop doing stuff for free

Where to begin...

OK, I'm going to try and get this into some sensible form, but I have so many thoughts. The one I need to mention first is that I support Kristen Lamb's 'call to arms', which is why I'm writing this blog post.

 If you haven't already read Kristen's blog post, you can find it here:

We creative people are being exploited, no two ways about it. We are not being paid fairly for our work. And if we complain, we're told it's because the market is over-saturated. After all, the online revolution means anyone can now create content. If we want to make money from what we create, then we need to create quality products of value that people are prepared to pay for.

All nonsense.

There are plenty of examples in Kristen's blog post that make it very clear this is about exploitation, NOT saturation of the market place with valueless products.

Here's a personal example: one of my stories - Breaking Waves - received this one-star review:
Don't waste your money ($1.99) or time getting involved in this so call [sic] "BOOK". Only 66 pages. It was more like a short story. Shame on authors chasing the almighty dollar at the expense of potential readers. SHAME-SHAME ON SUCH AUTHORS.
To clarify, Breaking Waves is a novella of just over 22,000 words. It took me at least a fortnight to write, never mind the rest of the refining, editing, proofreading, formatting and publishing process. But for illustrative purposes, let's go with a really conservative (under)estimate here, and assume it took me two forty-hour weeks from blank page to publication and without having to pay for the services of an editor, proofreader or cover designer (because we all work for free, you know, just for the love of what we do <- sarcasm).

At the UK minimum wage of 6.70 GBP, I should have been paid 536 GPB for my efforts.

I guarantee you, with a cover price of 1.99 USD, I have earned nowhere near that in royalties on Breaking Waves.

In fact, when I analysed my earnings from writing and publishing for 2014-5, I earned 2.90 GBP (4.20 USD) an hour. If I no longer helped other writers publish their work, I could double my hourly pay.

But still I would not earn the UK minimum wage.

Don't waste your money ($1.99) or time getting involved in this so call "BOOK". Only 66 pages. It was more like a short story. Shame on authors chasing the almighty dollar at the expense of potential readers. SHAME-SHAME ON SUCH AUTHORS.
No doubt many of the people who read this (or other posts on the same 'theme') will be thinking I'm skint because the stories I write and publish are not in demand, or they're not a quality product.

I don't care how arrogant it sounds, but that's poppycock. I know, because my own stories and those of the authors I work with get excellent ratings and sell very well. Sadly, because many are short stories (10k words) and we're dealing with greedy readers like the one above (not all readers are like that - thank you to those who buy our books and support us -  we really appreciate it), we have to set low prices on shorter publications.

As most of our sales come via Amazon's Kindle store, we're receiving only 35% of each sale, while they are taking 65%. It's our work, goddamn it!

And that is the thing that Kristen did not say.

Whilst the 'culture of free' is a huge part of the problem and we all need to take a stand against it, it is not THE problem.

Of course Oprah and her team didn't comment on Revolva's situation.
Why would HuffPost have anything to say about Wil Wheaton's refusal to be a part of the rip-off scandal?

They are earning ALL THE MONEY while we, the creators of their content, are EARNING BUTTONS at best.


On one side are the customers demanding free stuff.
On the other are the corporations demanding free stuff. In the middle...

There's us.

Writers, songwriters, musicians, artists, photographers, designers, programmers, editors, etc. etc.

We make the internet.

We do.

We have the power to shift the balance, not in our favour, but in a way that makes it fair for everyone, us included.

We don't work for free.

It has to stop.

What you can do:
Post, repost, comment, make a stand.
Refuse to work for free.
Tell other people why you refuse to work for free.

Link to Kristen's post:

Link to Revolva's open letter to Oprah:

Link to Wil Wheaton's post about not writing for the Huffington Post:

Thanks for reading
Deb x
(Beaten Track Publishing)


  1. I used to get this all the time with knitting. "If I buy the yarn would you....?". Of course, I would and I did. Until one day, someone approached me to knit something she had designed for a professional fashion show. She offered to pay me but didn't know how much I should charge. I discovered knitting is classed as a highly skilled craft. I could charge what the heck I wanted and she would pay it because she valued what I did. I suppose that's what it all boils down to isn't it? If the customer values what you are producing then they will pay for it. Unfortunately, many don't appreciate the sheer hard work that goes into producing a story for publication, just as they don't appreciate the amount of work that goes into producing a piece of knitting. Mostly because they have never tried it themselves, or mainly because we are such craft masters that we make it look easy.

    1. Ah yeah, that's a good point. We obviously need to huff and puff about it a lot more than we do. I think your other point makes a lot of sense, too - the more quality stories there are, the less valuable they become.

      That said, I'm not suggesting money is the only way in which we could be fairly 'paid'. I'm always up for bartering and fair exchanges.


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