Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction
You aren’t famous until someone famous calls you an idiot 😛 . As I was finishing up Monday’s post about how to support writers with reviews, I found out I’d hit the big time. Thus I went over and checked out the counter to my scandalous assertion that writers should be paid.
Aaaand, yeah. Still not wavering in my opinion.
Also think my critics have missed the point. Instead of protecting the old ways that well, for lack of a better term… suck and don’t benefit writers (or readers, publishers or even bookstores)—how about we start doing things differently?
So long as we protect sacred cows because that’s what we have always done? Nothing changes. But agents and editors and authors and pundits will all have fun blogging that I hate used bookstores (untrue) and how all of us should be grateful for the system as it is.
As for me? I may not change things, but I will break my neck trying 😛 .
First, this bugged me.
Please Stop Assuming All Customers are Broke
Here’s the deal. I get that there are readers who’d be homeless if they bought books full price and new. I happen to be one of them. This is why I have an Audible membership, Kindle Unlimited and I love digital. Also, I never once stated to buy all books new. I said if you liked an author to do him or her a solid and strive to buy something new.
Yes, there is the avid reader who can’t buy every book new. There is also the dead broke reader. I’ve been that reader too. I kid you not, I was so poor when I became a writer I lived off Vienna sausages, generic saltines and ketchup packets from Wendy’s…so I could use that extra cash for the bargain rack at Half Price Books.
To this day, if I walk in the house and the lights are off? I panic and wonder if my power has been shut off. So yeah. I totally get being that broke.
But that isn’t everyone.
And we live in a world of abundance and if people can afford an iPhone 6 they sure as hell can afford a digital copy of your next book if they loved the used copy. Because if our entire customer base is living in a refrigerator box, then we all just need to go get retail jobs and stop trying to make money.
Look around. Plenty of people live in nice homes and drive nice cars and carry nice handbags. They can shell out $10 for a book so stop being insulting.
Consumers with Conscience
Some of my critics said I was “reader shaming.” Fine. You are welcome to your opinion.
I feel most people don’t know how our industry works and how would they? Most of US are confused how it works since it changes every frigging month. Publishing barely changed for over a 100 years and now it looks almost nothing like it did 6 years ago.
Hell, we work here and half the time have to look up how we’re paid. Oh! But the average consumer! I guess she should just get that through osmosis.
My critics have pointed out that people are going to do what people are going to do.
The War on Piracy didn’t work! The War on Drugs didn’t work! You are an idiot for trying to fight it! Here get my books from THIS piracy site! Here!
All right. But those were policies of control. No one is suggesting federal laws making it illegal to go to Half Price Books or make people buy new. I am only asking we as writers educate our consumers because educated consumers change the market all the time.
Sometimes this has to do with the product itself. For instance a BPA-free water bottle is going to be way more expensive than a regular water bottle. But, because of education, consumers learned that paying more for a water bottle was in their favor if they didn’t want to end up with cancer. Education.
Commenters railed on the Passive Voice repost of my blog about paying more just so workers could be paid? What idiot would do that?
In fact my loudest critic in his comment section went for my throat using my own background in jewelry sales.
Did you go to a customer and say, “Here, pay $10,000 for this diamond instead of $6,000 so the miners get paid more money?” Huh? Huh? Did you? DID YOU? How did that work out on the sales floor, Kristen?
Actually, funny he should use that example. I once had a customer who was incensed at our diamond prices. He’d found a much higher quality diamond from another source for a fraction of the cost and demanded to know why we were charging more and ripping him off.
When I looked at the “other source.” There was no guarantee that other diamond wasn’t a blood diamond.
Yes, in jewelry we do educate customers they’re paying more in part to ensure their diamonds weren’t mined by slaves and used to fund military warlords.
Education can guide consumers to pay more for a water bottle (product) and a diamond (conscience).
Fair Trade and Social Responsibility
Our consumers have a lot of power. No I don’t feel anyone owes me anything I haven’t earned. Never said that. I said I am tired of people acting like I should be grateful for “exposure” en lieu of being paid and if I say anything I’m a whiny jerk.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writers asking for the sale. All people can do is say….no.
When I was in sales, the single largest reason most salespeople failed to make a sale? Never asked for it.
But what are people saying to writers?
It is okay to have “exposure”…just don’t ask for the sale. Just be happy being exposed.
Huh? WTH? NO!
What good is a used bookstore for exposure if I then don’t tell people, Hey, if you find a book of mine there and you really love it, please buy my next one NEW? It’s how I get PAID.
OMG! How could you? You broke the cardinal rule of being a writer!
I will starve eating exposure sandwiches, okay? Thank you OATMEAL for this. Check out his comic on it.
And this notion that our books are SO expensive. Really?
I took a look at some really common items I buy all the time. Now, consumers buy these for two reasons. First, superior quality. Secondly, it supports the workers, the industries, the resources and the environment. I feel it’s a huge fallacy to believe all consumers only want more and cheap.
Many of us will do just fine with less and are just fine paying more.
Fair Trade Tea
Hubby’s favorite tea. We work to buy as much as we can organic, non-GMO and fair trade. We might not eat out as much. I cut a lot of coupons. Hubby picks on me that I can make a penny scream. But I spend my money on good quality products and industries I support.
Zhena’s Gypsy Tea promotes social responsibility in its business model.
Fair Trade Coffee
I got this for my mother for her birthday because she is big into organic and loves coffee. BUY HERE. Purchases support coffee farmers of Nicaragua.
THIS I am drinking as I write this because I’m too lazy to brew my own coffee and yes it’s yummy and buy some!
Hubby’s FAVORITE! Fair Trade CHOCOLATE
Not only is the chocolate a far superior quality, we prefer to spend our consumer dollars supporting what we believe in. We don’t want cheap crappy chocolate because we can have more of it. We want THIS and yes it does cost much more but we think it’s worth it. BUY Zola.
We love this brand of chocolate the best (even though it is usually $3.99 per bar on sale). A percentage goes to wildlife and rainforest preservation as an added bonus to being fair trade.
Madecasse is another company we buy from. LOVE their story of what they are doing in Africa to change the economy. Such a wealthy nation should not be so poor. The only reason it is is because of the way business has historically been done.
Just because something has always been doesn’t mean it has to always be.
I began buying Fair Trade years ago and as more people are doing it, the choices are expanding and prices are coming down from being ridiculous. But what if people like me hadn’t been willing to pay $7 for a bar of chocolate?
Additionally, what if these companies used the same arguments as all my critics?
People on a limited income won’t be able to afford COFFEE. We can’t possibly do anything differently. That is consumer shaming!
No, if you’re on a limited income, buy the cheap stuff. If and when you can? Splurge and get the Fair Trade stuff and do the coffee workers a solid.
And if enough people buy Fair Trade? Maybe the major players will change their business models. It does happen. And money talks way louder than legislation. Hershey’s just announced its plan to become 100% Fair Trade.
The thing is, no not every person who buys coffee or chocolate or tea or bananas will buy from these companies. But just because everyone won’t buy from them, does it then mean it shouldn’t be an option at all? What if no one ever asked for the sale?
Hey, will you spend $7 to support a cocoa farmer in Madagascar?
*shrugs* Sure. Why not?
And if lunatics like me hadn’t been willing to buy Fair Trade…would Hershey’s have seen the need to change? Maybe. Odds are they wanted to make money and rock on!
Thus, if we can create a market for fair trade chocolate and fair trade coffee—both arguably items that people can live without and that do have far cheaper substitutes—then why is it such a stretch to believe readers can’t and won’t pay more for a book if we take the position of education and social responsibility?
Look, we’ve tried the other way. Toss a few million free books against a wall and hope something sticks. Heck, throw in pirated books for a million more! Social media! EXPOSE ME! EXPOSE ME!
Don’t ask for a sale. That is gauche. You’re an artist.
Yay! More exposure??? Awesome! No, I don’t need money. I do this for just…love.
We do have that option. Keep using it. Knock yourself out.
I’m Scandinavian. We loathe waste. I think it’s genetic. I don’t support companies that waste resources. I prefer to support companies that value resources. I think consumers could change publishing if we let them. If we stopped assuming they didn’t care, that all they wanted was cheap books no matter the consequences.
Guess what? Writers are resources. No matter what my critics say, you matter. You are not interchangeable cogs in a machine. And all the people railing that no one owes you (writers) a living. Guess what? No one owes the bookstores one either.
But maybe together we can make it better for all of us 😀 . I prefer to believe that Fair Trade Fiction can thrive. Instead of promoting pirate sites, why not promote sites and bookstores that are GOOD to authors?
These days, social responsibility is a bankable asset. If Starbuck’s, Apple, BMW and Google apply this and they’re worth billions, why not publishers/bookstores? Why not at least…try?
Reward bookstores who are Fair Trade Fiction Stores.
Hey, you bought used? Great! Did you love it? Awesome! Could you help out and buy the next one new? Wonderful! *fist bump* Now, you’re supporting the arts and the bookstore.
***Bookstores can’t pay rent off exposure either. I checked.
And if used bookstores wanted to add that extra touch of bohemian cultural to their “cultural center” then add some fair trade chocolate to serve with that fair trade coffee and maybe even promote some fair trade fiction at the checkout counter 😉 .
What are your thoughts? Do you feel guilted when someone shows you a rainforest on a chocolate bar or do you go…mmm, not today. I think I will just get the cheap stuff. Do you prefer to buy quality over quantity? Do you like companies that exhibit social responsibility?
Do you think this is a niche bookstores (used and new) could fill? Or publishers? Fair Trade Fiction. I kinda like the ring to that. But, in a world filled with cheap and free books that suck and are a torture to read…what is the consumer’s time worth? Get the vetting of a legacy publisher but with the pay scale of the indies. Just putting it out there. Are you tired of the attitude that we just can’t change anything?
Me? I’m sick of people (writers) being far more willing to promote pirates than other authors. What the hell is wrong with the world when people will write a whole blog trashing me for saying you deserve to be paid while promoting pirate sites? Did I just fall down a rabbit hole?
Anyway. To each his/her own. I believe in you 😀
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Y’all are going to have to give me time to tabulate December. Sorry. I am good, but not THAT good. Love you!
Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors.
Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.