I’m gonna jump briefly on the bandwagon here, one that’s previously been touted by, among others, Kristen Lamb (this one on how we’re paid is informative as well) and Wil Wheaton, and that’s the issue of free work for exposure. It’s as if, because we’re creative, we’re supposed to let you have parts of our work for free just because we’re not part of what’s considered “normal” working folks.
Really? You very rarely see this kind of thing from other professions. Sometimes free samples at restaurants, but you’re not gonna make a meal out of them. Yet we’re expected to give away stories, songs, and artwork in the hopes you’ll come back and buy more.
I live in Northwest Arkansas, the land of Walmart. Now, I gotta tell ya, sometimes when I shop there, you’ll see them giving away free samples of what are usually new products. But if you look at those samples, you’re not getting more than a bite or two, or a couple of drinks in the case of liquids. They’re not giving boxes of the stuff away.
And no one expects them to. No one goes to, say, Keebler, and says, “Hey, give us a case of free cookies and maybe we’ll come back and buy some more.” No one petitions Coca-Cola for free products. No one goes to an insurance agent and says, “Give me free coverage for three months, and if I like it, I’ll renew at the end of that term.”
Why? Cause they’d get laughed at, that’s why.
No one else, anywhere else, is expected to do this. Only creative people are. Why? I have no idea. Yes, we need exposure. But we get hungry and cold just like everybody else, so we need food and clothing as much as they do. And electricity. And cars. And for God’s sake don’t let me hear you tell me to “get a real job” cuz I’ll slap you on the back of the head. Writing is a real job. If you don’t believe me, just try it sometime. Quit using that excuse that you’ll do it when you have more time. Or when you retire. When you’re a real writer (or artist or musician), you write whether you want to or not. Know why? Because it won’t let you sleep if you don’t.
I’m not an artist or musician, so I can’t tell you how long it takes them to get a finished piece, but I can tell you that even a short story can often take days to write, and that’s not counting editing the damn thing. If you think we sit down at a keyboard and pound out something in a short amount of time, you’re sadly misinformed on how all this works. Sure, we occasionally blurt out one or two thousands words at a sitting, but those occasions are rare for most of us. I shoot for around two thousand words a day, and it’s been a long time since I’ve met that goal in any kind of a consistent manner.
A novel can take hundreds of hours altogether before it’s ready to be published. Hundreds. Easily. And then you complain when our book is fifteen bucks. Yet you’ll spend five bucks on fifty cents worth of ingredients at Starbuck.
Think about that next time you browse a bookstore or Amazon, would you?