Lot’s of stuff going on.
First and foremost – my parents have arrived for a visit. Yes, it’s true, I have parents. And, in fact, they actually want to visit with me. Hey – this blog is about science fiction. Don’t say that didn’t warn you that occassionally I’d post some strange and wonderous things here.
What this actually means is that, for approximately the next ten days, I will not be able to spend all my time at the computer. What it really, really means is that I may end up losing some of my new-found traffic (thanks to two posts that have been widely picked up – the piece Scalzi’s Whatever linked to about giving fiction away for free and my bit of humor concerning how to convert a mundane heathen into an SF reader).
On the other hand, the visit may provide some interesting material for future posts. My folks are retired so they’ve got lots of time for day trips to this and that. Later this morning I’m meeting them to schedule out the trip. We might end up visiting Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory (don’t tell anyone but they don’t actually make ice cream – they make frozen desserts. ICE CREAM comes in three, perhaps four flavors – vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and maybe tutti-frutti. All this crunchy-funky-monkey-balls and Phish Pharm Phlava crap is an affront to the dignity of mankind (what dignity?). It may be fun, it may even taste good, but IT IS NOT ICE CREAM!). Since everyone loves ice cream, I might be able to recapture some of that traffic if I post some pics of the tour.
I’ve been revisiting the commentary on the ‘free fiction’ post and wanted to clear up a couple of things.
First: I made an assumption that any published author is paying at least a little attention to their stock in trade and includes finances in their considerations when placing their work. There are all kinds of good and valid reasons why an author would offer something to readers for free – whether they receive compensation or not. In most cases, they are receiving enough compensation, of some kind, to make it worth their while to do so.
An example from my own experience will serve to illustrate this point. I was writing feature articles and regular monthly columns for several publications, and receiving way beyond ‘standard industry compensation’ for the work. (My pay scale was 2 to 3 times what other writers were getting.) I was approached by the editor of another publication with a request to write (there was a time when my name on the TOC or cover was a draw) and I asked what the pay was. It was minimal comp – $25 an article, $50 with pictures. This was about a quarter of what the other publications regularly paid, so obviously well below what I was receiving.
I thanked him for the offer and declined the opportunity (why undercut myself?). About two years later I had occassion to remember something that the editor had said to me: “We don’t censor” – by which he meant that, unlike the other rags, he didn’t worry about pissing his advertisers off when it came to running copy.
I was at the time embroiled in a huge political fight and none of the magazines I wrote for would vet my articles on the subject. I called up the previously mentioned editor and asked if was still interested in pieces from me. I explained the situation and he agreed to run them.
Not only did I quickly jump to the editor’s ‘higher pay scale’, I eventually ended up as a regional editor and later sports editor for the publication and the ghost writer for many editorials. Most importantly, I had an outlet for subjects that no one else was willing to publish.
I’d have given those pieces away for free, because in that particular circumstance the compensation I received (airing my viewpoint) was the compensation that I needed. I’d also previously established the fact that I expected ‘decent’ compensation.
Now on this same subject: the issue of free authorship actually encompasses two different issues. One is mostly a marketing issue: the new writer who breaks into non-scale paying markets is willing to accept this as a (required) part of their growth. They get something in addition to exposure and experience, even if it isn’t professional level wages. Or, as in my case, I’m trying to develop my craft in an entirely new market. While that progresses (during which time I am receiving NO compensation for lots of hard work) I’m making myself available publicly and hopefully building a potential market. This is called ‘investment’ and ‘growing the brand’. If I start selling fiction, I’ll begin to realize a return on that investment.
The other issue is one of intellectual property. Ownership. Copyright. Copywrong. Creative Commons, digital piracy & etc.
I think it’s important to remember when discussing writers and compensation – especially when the word ‘free’ is involved, to keep these two aspects separate.