Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction

Image courtesy of Hoard Lake on Flickr Commons

Image courtesy of Hoard Lake on Flickr Commons

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

Image via GrandmaLow WANA Commons

Image via GrandmaLow WANA Commons

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.

*fist bump*

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 disagree.

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!


*backs away*

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.

The reason?

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Support chocolate addiction, workers AND critters!

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.

Sound familiar?

Just because something has always been doesn’t mean it has to always be.

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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.

Roberto Ventra

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Roberto Ventra

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


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    • jillhannahanderson on January 6, 2016 at 2:12 pm
    • Reply

    I love this. Only the past few years have I had any idea how little authors can get paid for all their hard work (and wonderful novels!) Readers have no idea. They don’t think about when they’re getting that ebook for $1.99 off of Amazon that the same book ten years ago would have been $15. People who love to read should be willing to pay decent $ for a book. Taylor Swift took on itunes… it should be no different for books.

  1. I’m glad they didn’t get you down. Your points are solid.

  2. Love your blog and I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Sometimes I get ARCs from authors and do reviews because it’s exposure for them. But then I will also buy their next books if I enjoy their work. I WANT them to keep writing, and more stories will keep me happy. 🙂

  3. A friend posted one of your blog’s on FB, and now I’m hooked.

  4. I agree with your points regarding book sales. I also understand that there are readers who’d be homeless if they bought books full price and new, which is why I love Smashwords’ coupon and free library features.
    To the best of my knowledge, most library cards are free, which is in everyone’s budget – there are even online libraries, which make accessing inventory as easy as a wifi connection.
    I also donate hard copies to libraries, who won’t simply put them in their used book sales…. is it disturbing that a national resource like our system of libraries participates in selling used book cheap?

    • annaerishkigal on January 6, 2016 at 2:19 pm
    • Reply

    I usually lurk rather than jump into a political shitstorm, but I rather noticed the types of people who screamed at you were:

    1) Already established authors who have a shit-boat-load of used paperback books out there, just waiting for somebody to pick one up and then buy their entire backlist online;

    2) Indie authors who rode the Amazon 2010-2012 crest of indie publishing up to the top of name-brand recognition and have stayed there as solid ‘established author’ best-sellers (i.e., they now have a lot of paperback books also in circulation, so benefit from used book stores);

    3) Newbie authors who follow 1) and 2) blogs and haven’t realized yet the rules are different for newer authors who are starting out now;

    4) Used book store owners;

    5) The usual trolls who hate everybody and like to stir the pot.

    Who I noticed -wasn’t- commenting, or when they commented was positive, was:

    1) Newer traditionally published authors who got shafted with short print runs or ebook only and are now realizing that big publishing house did absolutely nothing for them for that rights-grab;

    2) Midlist ‘professional’ indie/hybrid authors with a few too many books out whose income largely rests on ebooks plus what few paperback copies they sold out-of-hand or gifted as raffle prizes;

    3) Indie authors who have more than a single book out and have realized they are blatantly discriminated against by Overdrive, their local library, and nearly all bookstores, and so don’t have a lot of paperback books in circulation.

    So, no … nobody owes us a living. We must all make our own way in this world by writing the best book we can and finding readers. But the economics of discoverability are tilted against the newer author, whether that be tradi-pub or indie. In no other profession are you expected to work so many hours for free. I, for one, am tired of spending a year of my life to write a book, self-edit it, then PAY to have a pro edit it, proofread it, pay a cover designer, pay gigundobucks to launch and market it, only to be told I have to give it away for free and suck it up cupcake. How about I leave y’all with my hero with a knife in his heart on a big, nasty cliffhanger, and then take 3 years to get the next book out, because as much as I love my readers, my first priority is to eat and feed my family, and I can do that if you don’t BUY something once in a while?

    1. Well said.

  5. “Reader shaming?” That’s a new one on me. What a time to be alive. 🙂

    1. Yeah but author shaming is a-ok. Whatever. Grow up, LOL.

      • Kim Kouski on January 19, 2016 at 12:32 pm
      • Reply

      No, I have to say starting a blog with nothing on it so you can attack someone you don’t know is a new one on me. Tom, do you honestly think that someone wouldn’t click your link to see your ‘blog’? Dude, YOU DON’T HAVE ONE!!! You started one so you can troll!! And you’re not even a writer!! Seriously, seek counseling, really you need it. SMH.

  6. Well said. While I don’t search the internet looking for pirated copies of my books, I can’t imagine PROMOTING pirated anything. Pirating = stealing, and I wouldn’t buy a pirated item off the internet any more than I would pocket some Twinkies at the grocery store. I did wonder if I had gone to the dark side when I asked to copy a CD of an author that my neighbor had. The author was giving them away for free on his website. Permanently free, not as a special. Pay postage and handling. My neighbor’s husband said it would be wrong to copy it. Any thoughts?

    1. It seems like it would just be easier on your conscience to get the CD from the author directly, if they’re still free. But to me if he’s still giving them out for free, that’s a statement that he’s using the content as promotional material rather than something to promote himself with, and it’s fine to copy it.

    2. Copy it and then if you like it send the author a gift card on Amazon. If the author is choosing to give something for free that is fine and this way you are saving that author postage. THough I will say the author may be using that to build a mailing list too, which can be valuable too. Hard to tell. Just remember that author worked hard and if you like the book? Reward the author with a review, a sale, or by promoting on your social networks. We all have to work together in this industry. We can’t make it alone. Never could but now even more so.


  8. Another great post, Kristen! To those who criticize, they might profit by learning one of the first rules of business and the marketplace–never spend the customer’s money for them. In other words, don’t assume they can or can’t afford it. Price it fairly and then it’s their decision. Just don’t decide for them! They’ll put their big boy pants on and figure out if they think they can afford it or not.

  9. I agree on viewing writers as resources (as all people are), a nurse is a trained individual and they get compensated for their efforts at the hospitals and health clinics, certainly they deserve a living wage? Well, why not writers as well? I haven’t published anything yet, but once I do (that’s my optimism kicking in now :P), I’d like to get compensated for the hard work and ridiculous amount of time I’ve put into my writing. And after that… well, things get a bit complicated I think.

    I’m not entirely against sharing for free/pirating (two sides of a tricky coin), but I can’t really elaborate on my opinion on a deeper level, because honestly I just don’t know enough of the subject matter yet (for example the economic consequences of sharing works of art, whether it be a photo or a piece of writing, for free). Writing takes a lot of time, for a lot of people it is their job that pays the bills, I get that. I’d like to be one of them, but I can never be, if I don’t get paid for my work …that is if anyone wants to commit to buying one of my titles… and what a dream come true that would be!

    I have full time job that pays my bills. But writing is what I do. If there is one soul out there that might enjoy my writing, they would have to wait for another 5-10 years for another project of mine to be finished from an idea to a novel, if my only payment were to be the pleasure of knowing someone read a book of mine… And perhaps even liked it. A pat on a back does not feed my belly, or present an opportunity to write full time. One may dream, right?

    Now I’m sure anyone can find a number of arguments against and for paying writers, let alone how much they should be paid, but I think we can agree on one thing: hard work that has culminated into an enjoyable/accomplished read should be rewarded, no?

    1. Hey, you want to link to a pirate site? Go ahead. My beef is when I get trashed for my side which is the Fair Trade Fiction. Why not have both? If people don’t want FTF? Go get the pirated stuff. It IS a free market. But a free market only owkrs if we give choices instead of ASSUMING a consumer won’t want something.


      Try it. If they don’t? Wow. You fail. Big deal.

  10. Best line ever: “I will starve eating exposure sandwiches, okay?”

  11. You know what, you’re right! Fair-trade fiction is an excellent idea. I’d love to see more authors checking where the ink, paper, and other materials involved in printing their books comes from.

    I want to be able to profit from my fiction someday, too, and the people buying my books probably would be the ones with the extra money in their pockets to buy everything fair-trade. But don’t appropriate the term, please. Fair-trade, to my knowledge, means that the laborers involved are all being paid fairly, not exploited or enslaved. When people buy your works used, you have already been paid fairly for those works. Piracy is a different matter and I will never condone it, but I don’t really see how buying a used book that the author has received money for could accurately be compared to buying goods produced through slave labor or worker exploitation.

    As a reader, I do vote with my money, so to speak. I’ve saved up to buy books from new or less-established authors because I want them to continue writing; when I buy mass-market book, however, I usually buy used. Readers are aware that if they don’t buy your books new that they may not keep coming out; however, not all of them can afford them. In fact, many readers are also writers and trying as hard as you are for their own less-profitable creative endeavors.

    This blog gives two different types of advice on how to deal with this challenging economic climate–reader engagement, and guilt. If guilt is going to involve misuse of terminology and failure to acknowledge that people make choices when they buy luxuries (for example, deciding that they’d rather spend their tiny amount of discretionary income on buying fair-trade and know they aren’t benefiting from slaves than put it toward a book of writing advice, because it’s one or the other), I’m just gonna take the reader engagement advice, thanks.

    1. Definitions evolve ALL the time. LOL used to mean Lots of Love in the 1980s and the very broad use of fair trade is not as narrowly employed as you are using it. It really means in broad strokes fair worker compensation and promoting sustainability. IS that NOT what we’d be doing? The English language is ever-evolving and this is something high concept and memorable. If people don’t like it? Change it. I was using it to make a point about a business concept of social responsibility and I happen to dig alliteration.

      Fair Trade Fiction far more catchy.

      And my critics were pointing out that ALL consumers wanted cheap stuff and that education and conscience didn’t sell stuff. I used Fair Trade to prove them dead WRONG.

      And your last paragraph…I may be tired. Not quite getting what you’re saying. Sorry :/ .

      1. I concede the constant evolution of the English language, but also feel that there are some times when meanings ought to be deliberately preserved and kept static. To me, anything that’s used in product labeling falls into that category. Even if the issue we’re discussing is in some ways conceptually similar to the issue involved in fair trade goods, it’s not actually the same issue and I think you run the risk of accidentally confusing people in this situation.

        I think that you’re correct in saying that your critics were proven wrong by your point; I merely meant to say that appropriating the term “Fair Trade” for something that is not fair trade is going a bit too far, and that some readers may have to choose very carefully when to buy new editions due to budget restraints, no matter how common fair trade goods have become. That said, the introduction and normalization of fair trade goods into the market is still a work in progress, and I don’t think that it really needs a hurdle like confusion about the terminology to overcome. But that’s just my opinion.

        The final paragraph was a general statement of dissatisfaction with the strategies suggested in this post, but the rhetorical style was embarrassingly unclear. I rushed the last few sentences because I had other things to do and I probably ought not to have.

  12. One writer versus how many book stores? One writer versus how many publishing houses? One writer versus how many pirates? One writer versus how many readers seeking free books/art? Those are poor odds for the lone writer, especially when we’re driven to write. Quitting this poor paying gig isn’t an option. Flipping burgers and operating a cash register don’t quite provide the same level of satisfaction. My blog is approaching my three-year anniversary and has a base following of 2,200. It’s provided me $0.00, and I wouldn’t trade the experience, yet I remain—one.

    1. We are W.A.N.A.s. Who said there is only ONE?

      1. Sorry, I meant in a legally organized sense. Believe me, I’m greatly appreciative of all my WANA support, and there’s been much.

  13. So Kristen, when are you going to start the Fair Trade Fiction book store? Sign me up! 🙂

  14. Authors should be paid. I don’t know why that is controversial. I also think authors should be able to control the price of their book. Personally, I’m not a fan of KU for that reason. Amazon decides the price of an author’s book with whatever they decide to pay out on a particular month. I liked Scribd and Oyster’s method better where you were guaranteed the full royalty rate after a certain percentage was read. (I was sad to see Oyster go.) I fear more authors will give up pricing control in favor of discoverability through KU, and this will, ultimately, lead to a decline in the author’s ability to earn a good income from their work. For that reason (and because it would deny readers outside of Amazon access to my work), I can’t bring myself to participate in it.

    By the way, I love organic and gluten-free foods and will gladly pay more for quality. I’ll be on the look out for the Fair Trade labels. I didn’t know about those. Thanks!

  15. Here’s a novel idea (okay, pun intended) – locate/chase down your favorite author (through their publisher, through a google search, through their university connection, however) and send them a personal check for whatever amount you think is fair based on how much you enjoyed their book. If you didn’t pay full retail price but instead bought through amazon at a discount or you picked it up in a used book store, write a check DIRECTLY MADE OUT TO THEM, and compensate them for the hours of pleasure you took in reading their words. I’ve often said, if I could, I would pay Anne Patchett $50.00 for Bel Canto – that’s how much I loved that book. You know what? after reading these blog posts, I’m gonna do it.

    1. I sent Harlan Ellison money for using his PAY THE WRITER in my blog, LOL. This is great, just there is a lot of friction. I am recommending a change like this because then you have it in the free market and then there is the power of the impulse buy.

      Wait this is fiction.

      This is Fair Trade Fiction.

      What’s the difference? OH!

      Then the consumer has a CHOICE. Buy. Don’t buy.

    • prudencemacleod on January 6, 2016 at 3:26 pm
    • Reply

    I’d like to know who these critics are and what their motivation could be for shouting out, Don’t pay the Writer. Okay, Don’t pay the plumber or the mechanic, see how far that gets you. What about the favorite TV show? Did the actors work just for exposure? Doubt it. Nope, I’ve said it before many times. I do the job and then I get paid.
    Good job, Kristen, I’m loving these posts, sharing them on FB, and I’m cheering you on. Tell it like it is, sweet sister!

  16. I’ve been following your blog for about a year, Kristen. It’s always first class. Really enjoyed this post. Cogent and well argued.

  17. I was nodding my head in agreement until your comment about pirates. Pirates make a bleeding fortune off others’ copyright. One of the smaller sites went up for sale a few years ago where its owner bragged about making a hundred thousand or more dollars a month, and the site went for the bargain price of 3 million dollars.

    Those of us who fight piracy have found that one of the best methods for hurting pirates is by going to their advertisers and telling them that their ads are on these sites. When ads disappear, the site’s bottom line is hurt.

    Authors who belong to groups like will find a site and the ads, then those in the group who have books there will flood the big company’s email with complaints. It’s rare for companies like Proctor and Gamble not to pull their ads.

    And pirate sites are even worse than used bookstores for discoverability because their members ask for a free copy of the next book instead of buying it.

    This is something else that authors and readers need to be educated about.

    • edgett2014 on January 6, 2016 at 3:40 pm
    • Reply

    While I agree with your assertion that we need more education, I think your battle will be uphill all the way. Another way to approach writers’ income issues is already starting to be addressed by the burgeoning worldwide call for an Unconditional Basic income. See BIEN – Basic Income Earth network or read more at:

    1. I don’t feel I am owed a wage. I don’t even feel I am owed a sale. I believe in improving free market systems by educating consumers to change the market and then offering them the choices to do just that.

  18. I have strongly held views that I mainly keep to myself. I stick to writing about my grandchildren. They are worth writing about. But also sticking to the safe, protects me from having to defend myself and my opinions from visitors who have different points of view to me and who rather than disagreeing in a constructive way express them in an aggressive manner. So, brave you to be passionate about your beliefs and putting them out there.

  19. Reblogged this on Chimaeral and commented:
    This week’s reblog is about paying the writer and comes from Kristen Lamb – it is long, but worth the read:

  20. This series has been AWESOME! I gave you a shout out on my blog and linked to here 🙂 Thanks for the education!

  21. As a new, traditionally-published author, I will speak up, since someone said my group haven’t spoken yet. I don’t yet know how much I’ve earned with my first historical novel, THE TIDE WATCHERS (June 2015, William Morrow). But I *do* know that I earn approximately $1 per copy, and my advance, though seen as good, will not make me rich (my earnings are still beneath the poverty line, actually – thank heaven for my husband’s wage). As a former category romance novelist, I quit, in part, because I could earn more working in a supermarket since piracy came along.

    They’re the facts for me. As to people being upset that Kristen said please consider buying one or two books full-price to support the authors you love…

    I don’t know if this will start a furore, or stop certain people buying my book, but my stock answer when people say to me. “Give me a copy of your book, and I’ll read it for you” (doing me a favour, apparently), I smile and answer, “Give me your car keys, and I’ll drive it for you!” or, “That lasagne in your fridge looks great. Give it to me, and I’ll eat it for you!”

    Those who post excellent reviews through ARCs and free copies, this does not include you. But to those who can afford to buy books and don’t – I don’t eat your food. I don’t drive your car. And I never take freebies from others. We’re far from rich, but can afford a mortgage and to eat. And I buy my books whenever I can (some research books are only available secondhand). So please, think about if you or your partner were not paid for their job. A job you work hard on. Or if someone you’d never met decided you earn too much, and decided you could do just fine on half, or quarter, of your wage. Because that’s what’s happening to most writers from the mid list down. Bestsellers are being ripped off, too, but they can afford to eat, at least.

    So full support from me, Kristen. And I did like your book I received at a conference, and bought others. Full price. :-)))


    Lisa Chaplin

    1. THANK YOU! Congratulations on the book! And yeah. I buy new books all the time. Can’t read all of them, thus most of my family just expects them as gifts. But whatever. I get to support the writers I love with a sale and gift family members with a good book. Win-win.

      Aaaand I just ordered a copy of your book. I told y’all I needed a 12 Step Program.

    • mitziflyte on January 6, 2016 at 7:16 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen: I thought you might want to read this blog about a writer in an anthology and her difficulty in getting paid. As with the Ellora’s Cave debacle, it’s everywhere and writers have to stand up for themselves, either together or alone.
    P.S, The video of Harlan Ellison you showed during the first blog, should be on every writers desktop.

    1. I think I need a 12 step program too! It’s a rare week I don’t buy a book. I’d rather read than watch TV.

      And thank you!!! I hope you enjoy The Tide Watchers (or whoever you give it to as a gift enjoys it!) 😀

    • Harold Rhenisch on January 6, 2016 at 7:20 pm
    • Reply

    Perhaps “Fair Trade” also means that writing in the new economy somehow gets vetted, so that readers get the same security that writers need too?

    1. I agree. That was why I said the QUALITY of LEGACY vetting but with the PAY of INDIE. Just y’all think on it. Come on! We have made SOME progress but what we’ve been doing is broken! And the answer isn’t to keep making pirate sites richer while at the same time shaming artists who work really freaking hard for wanting to be fairly compensated. That’s BS.

      Can’t we at least admit what we have kind of SUCKS for everyone? Even Amazon is making a lot of money but they aren’t exactly against making MORE. It sucks for publishers. It sucks for bookstores. It sucks for writers. It SUCKS for the poor readers who have to wade through a mountain of GOD ONLY KNOWS. Can we TRY something different?

      1. I guess someone needs to create a new online publisher that would somehow rival Amazon and other established publishers, get a rep for only publishing high-quality stuff. No easy thing, I know, but surely someone with the business sense and skills could do something like this?

  22. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  23. Your post reminded me of the numerous self-publishing articles I have read about readers equating value with cost. We expect things that are free to kind of be crap. Don’t get me wrong, I will run a limited free Kindle run on one of my e-books to generate interest or encourage a purchase of others in the series (as well as to hopefully get reviews). There has to be some strategy involved. But when I go buy a second hand book I don’t expect it to be the same as a new one. I am paying less to get less. If I want crisp pages, no bends in the cover, and a spine that isn’t dead, then I’ll buy new. Pay more to get more. Like you said, quality or quantity? We definitely live in a “quantity” culture. But I won’t go into that. Haters gonna hate. Potatoes gonna potate.

  24. It sounds like its time for authors to band together and do…..something.

    My copy of Rise of the Machines arrived today. 😀

    1. Truthfully, bookstores AND publishers are allies. The way business has been done has made it tough for them to be very good allies, but we could change that 😉 .

  25. Reblogged this on Musings on Life & Experience and commented:
    This is well worth reading.

  26. I love Endangered Species chocolate. Buy it all the time. Not a lot of it, you understand, but what I buy, I savor.

    Another win for the Fair Trade market? The Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) used consumer pressure to convince the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Warner Brothers to use only Fair Trade chocolate for their Chocolate Frogs. See? It CAN work. And if it can work for Chocolate Frogs, why not for authors, too? 😀

  27. Keep it up. Critics always pick up the smallest sound byte that will create the most confusion and run with it. Bottom line, people should get paid for their work. My gym coach, my hairdresser, my massage therapist, everyone.

    I love the term Fair Trade Fiction. We should make t-shirts.

  28. Someone recently made an internet meme that said, “I am an Artist. That does not mean I will work for free. I have bills just like you. Thank you for understanding.” You should make one for writers.

  29. I’m a Fair Trade buyer myself, and I feel dumb for never making the connection with writers and other artists. That cartoon ROCKS. Thanks for this elucidating take. Fair Trade Fiction. I agree with Connie Cockrell: we should make T-shirts! I would buy a dozen, if anyone out there wants to take this on.

    1. Go make one over on Cafe Press and I will promote it here 😀 .

    • karenmcfarland on January 7, 2016 at 2:29 pm
    • Reply

    Ha, ha, ha, far be it for you to cause a little rumble. This has been an interesting discussion. As you know, I too have a background in sales. And yes, you have to ask for the sale! I cannot believe how hard it is for people to ask. And yet, it’s your job to ask. It’s your livelihood that’s a stake. I have always believed for the most part, this boils down to a self-worth issue. I think people/writers have been beaten down for so long, they forget they are worthy of being paid. That is of course if what they produce is worthy of payment. And that goes back to quality as you so nicely brought out. The majority of us are willing to pay more for quality, be it organic, fair-trade, it is expected. I know people that are on Food Stamps that buy healthy organic foods because they are educated. Haven’t we been taught that education brings about change and a better world? So keep it up Kristen! Keep bucking the system. It’s going to take people like you and lots of patience and time. ((Hugs)) 🙂

  30. You seem very upset, Kristen. Breathe. It’s ok. One thing I’ve always tried to remind myself is that no matter what, you can’t make everyone happy. It’s not worth stressing out over things/opinions that can’t be changed, and it only makes me more frustrated and miserable when I butt my head against figurative or literal walls. I’m new to this whole writing side of things since until recently I was just a reader. So, it’s nice to hear about the business side. I learned something! Yay! Just take it easy and enjoy the new year. Relax!

    1. Sadly, I came across an article today that I may blog about soon. If we don’t change how readers view paying artists? We may all need to change jobs.

      1. I hope you do blog about this article, Kristen. Their message is along the same lines as yours. I thought musicians made decent money from their tours. So much in the article is disturbing. 🙁

  31. Great column, Kristen! Thanks for your snark. And for the awesome information. But mostly the snark.

    Posted links on FB and Twitter.

  32. Yes, yes, yes to everything!! You’re absolutely right, and I stand with you 100%. I buy authors’ books new–for myself AND others, buy food & chocolate & snacks that are fair trade/non-GMO/etc, and choose quality over quantity every time. And I’m on a limited budget. There are MANY of us out there–most not writers but who’ve been living this way & educating others for years. Thank you!!

  33. Sometimes it feels like a crime that books are even as cheap as they are, considering how much WORK goes into them. You can’t buy a hand knit glove online without paying $20. Oh I’m sorry. That art print cost $40? They worked on it for four months? I WORKED ON MINE FOR EIGHT YEARS. (Not that I’m trying to disrespect artists in any way – I think artists are amazing and more stylish than the rest of us. I’m just saying – why is it such a crazy notion that people should pay for books too?) Your posts are amazing as always. You are the queen of sass.

  34. And I can’t help but add – are there really people who complain about the prices of books? Because they’re too expensive? I don’t have money either. I’m not very good about actually buying books and supporting authors – part of my new years resolution is to change that. But even though I “don’t” have the money to buy books (actually I’m a cheapskate) I wouldn’t complain about their prices. I think their prices are more than reasonable. People won’t spend money on a work of art but they’ll spend 40$ on four different kinds of soda. I work at a grocery store – people spend money left and right on junk food. Hey, that’s fine, spend it on what you want to spend it. But please don’t complain that a book costs more than those three bags of chips. Please don’t.

    1. Don’t get me started. People have money for iPhones, laptops, Frappucinos, pedicures, pizza delivery, eating out but if an artist asks to be paid for the content those folks eagerly enjoy? YOU SELFISH WHINY BASTARD! GET A JOB!

  35. Excellent article, Kristen. And it makes perfect business sense.

    1. Reblogged.

  36. Not everyone is as altruistic as you. People are selfish, and will take what they can get. True, you can inform people, and there are a few who will take what you say to heart, but you can risk alienating a whole lot more folks. I think you have to be very careful how you educate people. You don’t want to come across as condescending or trying to make people feel guilty. People should buy your new work out of love and enjoyment of your work, not guilt.

    1. You know what? I am not that worried. If I have to tiptoe that much? Bye. Why do I have to be careful? I have not been rude. And why is asking to be paid making people feel guilty? Do you feel guilty when the electrician who fixes your busted wiring gives you a bill? Does he have to justify the invoice? Is a doctor “guilting” you when he gives you a bill? Why is an artist “guilting” people when they ask for compensation for giving someone 15+ hours of escape and enjoyment? Is the restaurant that gives you a free sample “guilting” you when they then ask you come actually DINE at the actual restaurant?

      I have no issue with a used book or a free book or a sample…but then buy. And don’t shame me for asking for the sale.

      And I agree, buy for the love and enjoyment of my work…from the places I make money. I (the person who CREATED it) makes money. Not Google or Sprint or any of the mega corporations who will gladly supply high speed service for piracy. Please buy places I get paid if you like it. That’s it. And if someone is enjoying all their books and entertainment off piracy sites and never buying anything new, I hope they do feel guilty.

      No, not all people are selfish and the ones who are? Not my audience. And if this is the case and ALL people are selfish and we as artists have no right to want to be paid like every other job, then we should just all pack up now.

      No, not EVERYone is as altruistic as me, but a lot are. The Fair Trade markets have made BILLIONS, so there IS a demonstrated market for social responsibility. So I refuse to apologize for asking to be paid and if people find that condescending? Grow up. Is it condescending that Apple asks you to pay at iTunes? Did it feel condescending when Starbucks didn’t let you have the frappucino for free? I will side with writers. And maybe it means eventually I DO have to give up writing and go back to a “real” job because if writers don’t stop apologizing for their existence? We are replaceable with newbies who will gladly work for free.

  37. Reblogged this on Scablander and commented:
    This blog reminds me of a conversation at a sit down where I was asked to raise my rates out of respect for my peers. Everyone should reserve the right to set their own prices and not have to defend their position.

    Does my lower rate undercut my peers, I don’t think so. My clients cannot afford the rate of my peers and would not have hired them anyway. So long as I am not actively soliciting their clients I don’t see what the problem is.

    Does Kristen Lamb have the right to ask to be paid for her work? Yes. Yes books used to be $10, but people also used to share them. Every copy had an estimated 2.5 readers. eBooks thwarted the sharing with friends and family. eBooks potentially equals more volume sold, allowing prices to fall.

    What about poor readers? They don’t have Kindles. They don’t have the iPhone 6. They don’t have media on their phone. If they do, they can shell out $2-$6 for a good read or they can live with their once a month free Kindle choice.

    I set my price as I do because I write for charities. Authors do not have to be starving to be true to their craft, nor do they have to forfeit their work as a charitable donation to society.

  38. This blog reminds me of a conversation at a sit down where I was asked to raise my rates out of respect for my grant writing peers. Everyone should reserve the right to set their own prices and not have to defend their position.

    Does my lower rate undercut my peers, I don’t think so. My clients cannot afford the rate of my peers and would not have hired them anyway. So long as I am not actively soliciting their clients I don’t see what the problem is.

    Do you have the right to ask to be paid for her work? Yes. Yes books used to be $10, but people also used to share them. Every copy had an estimated 2.5 readers. eBooks thwarted the sharing with friends and family. eBooks potentially equals more volume sold, allowing prices to fall.

    What about poor readers? They don’t have Kindles. They don’t have the iPhone 6. They don’t have media on their phone. If they do, they can shell out $2-$10 for a good read or they can live with their once a month free Kindle choice.

    I set my price as I do because I write for charities. Authors do not have to be starving to be true to their craft, nor do they have to forfeit their work as a charitable donation to society.

  39. In the days of Napster, people said that nobody would pay for something they could get for free. Digital music sales disproved that. Water is free (sort of) from the tap, but look at the water bottle sales. (Even if water from the tap isn’t free, it’s a HECK of a lot cheaper than bottled.) There is no reason writers shouldn’t be paid. People will pay for something they want.

    I love used bookstores and I think that if they are doing better is indicates a positive trend in the reading/writing industry, which is good for writers in the big picture. That being said, there is nothing wrong with artists of any kind letting people know how they are paid and helping their fans support them. Again, people will pay for what they want.

    • lccooper on January 9, 2016 at 3:06 pm
    • Reply

    This reads like you’ve taken quite a beating. Reminding you of a quote recently posted on your blog site, “lions aren’t concerned with the opinions of sheep. ” get on with it, Lioness.

    1. *fist bump* Word.

  40. Kristen, you’re a Trailblazer for Fair Trade Fiction. I love alliteration, too, and I love how you make perfect sense. Thank you!

  41. Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
    January 5, 2016 I posted Kristen Lamb’s blog post “Pay The Writer”. This is the second part. I think it is so much worth reading it. Thank you for your great work, Kristen Lamb.

  42. I didn’t read part one, but from what you have said here I think I agree with you. You should pay for your books, writers deserve to get paid.

  43. My experience is that artists are rarely also good salespeople. A few are, but then, those artists who can sell are usually not the very best when it comes to quality of work. They’re usually good, okay, acceptable, not too bad. I wouldn’t say they’re bad at all. But, the artists who can sell are never the best of the best, either.

    I always find the best of the best huddled away in some dark alley (real or digital), so totally lost in their creation they can barely function IRL.

    Of course, as I always say, “The masterpiece is in the marketing.”

    Ah, well. Art hasn’t ever been an easy line of work. I keep telling myself I can quit whenever I want, and then I never do. LOL

  44. Love your posts, love the comments it elicts and when my first novel is published yes I would like to be paid 😉

    • life101student on January 23, 2016 at 7:07 pm
    • Reply

    I’m finally working regularly on a story that’s been in the hopper for ages, and am excited that it’s coming together to the point where I can actually think of what happens when it’s finished and I’m seeking publication. To be honest though, the speed of the changes in the world of books has me a little freaked out.

    I do want to be paid for my story. And I don’t want to give it away for free, just to get exposure for the next story that won’t even be ready for another year. I’ve recently come across (and bookmarked for future reference) a publisher that only does e-publishing and the author’s rate is 40% of sales. I’m assuming that’s probably a pretty good royalty, given that the publisher still has to do the cover, editing, and sales part of the equation. But I still worry.

    It might be a little early to be worrying, since I’m just at 40,000 words, but when I finish it, I’d love to know what a reasonable royalty structure is using an e-book publisher. I’m not sure I have the business acumen to go full throttle into self-publishing and self-promotion.

    So… how does one split the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing?

  45. Support you, 100% Being professional means you don’t give it away free. Thank you!

  46. Can we (Indimagination Books) use your phrase “Fair Trade Books” as part of our business model? Will happily pay a small fee (we’re starting out) or link or however you like. This exactly suits our business model. 🙂

    1. YES! we can do something together.

  1. […] Source: Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction […]

  2. […] Source: Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction […]

  3. […] Sourced through from: […]

  4. […] and also some more from Kristen on her blog if you follow along. […]

  5. […] Source: Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction […]

  6. […] Source: Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction […]

  7. […] about publishing, how to support writers with reviews (for the used buyers on a limited income), or the post about Fair Trade Fiction? All of these posts meant better pay and business for authors and booksellers (used booksellers in […]

  8. […] Ugly Truth of Publishing & How BEST to Support Writers, it’s follow-up post Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction and a third, exasperated instalment Why the Fighting? What World are We Creating for Future Readers […]

  9. […] What if consumers changed buying habits (refer to my post Fair Trade Fiction)? […]

  10. […] That’s the Joker, right there, and under ordinary circumstances he isn’t someone I’d be quoting. But it fits, so I’m using it, and I’m directing you to go to Kristen Lamb’s blog and read her posts, all of them, but especially this one. […]

  11. […] Ugly Truth of Publishing & How BEST to Support Writers, it’s follow-up post Pay the Writer Part 2—Blood Diamonds & Fair Trade Fiction and a third, exasperated instalment Why the Fighting? What World are We Creating for Future Readers […]

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