Joan De La Haye is one of the hardest working authors I know. She’s also one of the only authors capable of turning in horror that genuinely unsettles me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an enormous wuss and will jump at anything, but Joan twists the knife in a way very few others can. Her work is effortlessly intelligent, inventively horrifying and consistently excellent. I’d recommend starting with recommend starting with Requiem in E Sharp but everything she’s written to date is well worth your time, especially her work in Noir Carnival, the recent anthology from Fox Spirit. Check her site for details of these and everything else she’s done so far.
But, one of the perils of being hard working is you tend to take some professional knocks along the way. For short story authors, there’s a particularly big obstacle to get over and when Joan and I started talking about her posting here, this was the first thing she suggested. It’s an issue that burns a lot of authors, including me, sooner or later and I jumped at the chance to have her talk about it. So, without further ado, here’s Joan De La Haye on why it’s time for No More Freebies.
I have probably made every rookie author mistake in the book and I’ve also probably made a few that aren’t. One of those mistakes is undervaluing myself and my stories and giving those stories to non-paying anthologies. Like most authors I often get requests for short stories for these anthologies. These requests are always flattering to my ego. I mean, they wouldn’t ask me to write these stories for them unless they thought I was great, right? Wrong! They probably ended up asking me because all the other authors with any sense already said no. I seem to have a flashing neon sign above my head that says ‘Sucker.’ The reason the authors with sense and self-esteem said no is because it’s yet another non-paying gig. And authors, believe it or not, also need to make money in order to pay the bills. Offering an author, who lives by their pen, only a pdf copy of the anthology is not payment. I can’t take a pdf copy of an anthology to the bank. They’d laugh at me, and yet it seems that there are so many indie and small presses who think that this is payment enough. Guess what? It isn’t. And the so-called publicity that they say you’re going to get also doesn’t cut it. Most anthologies get very little publicity, certainly not enough to warrant not getting paid.
If a plumber comes to your home and does some work for you he charges a call-out fee as well as labour and parts. A lawyer will charge a consultation fee. The chances of either giving their services away for free are slim to none and yet authors are regularly asked to do exactly that. If we say no then there’s something wrong with us, because we’re supposed to do it for the love of writing. Well, screw that! The love of writing isn’t going to pay my bills. Writers deserve to be paid for their work just like everybody else. Just like any other profession, I’ve spent years working on my craft. Our work is not worth any less than anybody else’s. Short stories are crafted just like our longer works and take time out of our days when we should be working on our novels. It doesn’t just take five minutes to quickly churn one out.
I don’t have a problem if the publisher is doing it for a charity or if they’re not charging the public, but if the publisher is charging around $9.00 on Amazon for the kindle copy and not paying the authors a cent and then charging those same authors for a print copy as well, then I think it’s wrong. Don’t you?
I’m happy with a small token payment or a royalty share. Hell, I’m even happy with just getting a print copy that I can show off on my bookshelf. I just want publishers to show us authors the respect we’re due. I don’t have a problem with a publisher making money; just don’t profiteer off our words and not share any of that profit with us. We also have bills to pay.