A Culture Addicted to FREE—How FREE is Poisoning the Internet & Killing the Creatives

Image used with permission from the creator Ira Gelb.

Image “Not for Sale” used with permission from the creator Ira Gelb who’s an activist in stopping Human Trafficking but authorized this image for use outside.

It’s funny, at various junctures I’ve felt propelled to tackle certain topics, even when that made me very unpopular. My biggest leviathan to date has been this notion of artists being expected to work for free, and I believe the reason that this topic is weighing so heavily on me is that, for the first time in years I’m no longer enthusiastic about our future.

In fact, I’m downright frightened, because of THIS.

I Feel Sick

Yesterday morning on my Facebook, a friend shared this open letter to Oprah Winfrey from a local performer in the Bay Area, Revolva, whose act caught the attention of mega-icon Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah was holding The Life You Want conference and the producers contacted Revolva to see if she would like to perform as part of a conference featuring mega-stars like Deepak Chopra and Elizabeth Gilbert.

At first, Revolva was over the moon.

OMG! OPRAH! Sure! How much does it pay?

Well, we don’t pay. The artists get exposure.

Revolva in an act of unbelievable bravery…said no.

She could not work for free when she, herself, was struggling just to make ends meet—especially at an event that was charging $600-$1000 a ticket in an arena that could accommodate 18,000 people.

The producer’s response to her asking to be paid? So sorry. All the slots have filled. We’ll contact you at a later date when we hold a conference with a bigger budget.


Free Cancer

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.34.15 AM

Original image courtesy of NIH Image Gallery vis Flickr creative commons (added in text)

Businesses are always seeking ways to innovate and I applaud them, but with the explosion of the internet and our global society becoming more integrated in the web, the soma of free non-stop entertainment has blinded us to a cancer that’s metastasizing.

The cancer of FREE.

Artists always have struggled to have people value their work monetarily, but this is different. Very different. And yes, branding and social media are all necessary and vital, but unless we all want to die from being worked to death?

We need to pay attention to the symptoms of sickness and DO SOMETHING.

Global Culture Climate Change

The accepted norm in Western civilization for centuries was that the artist owned his or her work (copyright) and thus could choose what way to monetize it. That’s all vanished and we’re facing a monster unlike anything we’ve seen. The reason?

Consumers are blind to culture climate change that is creating an environment where disease thrives.

Stop Whining. It’s ALL In Your Head!

Image courtesy of Raymond Brown via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Raymond Brown via Flickr Creative Commons

Creatives are struggling to survive, but what makes it worse is we’re facing a life-ending “cancer” but far too many around us believe we are whining or being a hypochondriac. When my blog Pay the Writer took off, I was amazed at the wonderful support. But what amazed me even more was the vitriolic attitude toward me and writers wanting to be paid.

Create something people want to pay for or get another job was something I heard more than I liked.

I agree! But this performer Revolva illustrates what’s vexing many artists. She created an act that caught the attention of Oprah’s producers. Seemingly her content had some value since the tickets were $1000 a piece. She did create something of value for consumers, but not of value for the venue hosting her act (and profiting from it).

Our culture cheers that Oprah is worth almost $2.9 billion dollars and are happy to pay her because, “Well, she creates a product of value.” But that product of value rests largely (at least in the instance I’m referring to) off the voluntary assistance of unpaid professionals—who are told in regular life, “You want to be paid? Offer something of value or get another job!”.

Am I the only one seeing the paradox?

And I don’t know if folks like Oprah are meaning to treat artists unjustly. I think, like my grandmother offering me a whole dollar do all her yard work, many people have not caught up mentally to this new reality and then changed their ways of dealing with artists.

***A New Format

That’s what we are going to look at but today I am trying something new. This post is too short to make a book but too long for a “blog” (just over 3,000 words). The problem is that the concepts, broken apart, lose integrity and I feel we cannot see the big picture which is why I am hesitant to break this into multiple posts published separately.

As a solution, I’m trying a different structure and this is my only post this week. I’m breaking this into three acts like a play, since it actually IS our story. It just happens to be a Choose Our Own Ending kind of story.

Read all at once or one act at a time. I hope the editing makes it easier to absorb because this is an issue that is seriously impacting ALL of us.

ACT ONE—We Never Saw It Coming



At the end of the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s, average people generally were not on a computer outside of work. How we found and consumed entertainment was vastly different.

If we wanted music? We bought a CD. Wanted a book? We bought one. Wanted a movie? We had to buy a ticket or a VHS/DVD. Even in secondary sources (libraries, radio, television, rental establishments) artists received some kind of compensation.

But then our culture began shifting on-line.

The BlackHoleBerry 

Image via Pink's Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Pink’s Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

Today’s user-based web is an unplanned consequence of the implosion of the dot.coms meeting with a strange confluence of other events.

Why was BlackBerry a big deal? Blackberry changed everything because it finally tipped technology from the early adopter into the mainstream. BlackBerry successfully bridged our transition from paper to handheld computer to digital and set the stage for the rise of the smartphone.

In 2006-2007, BlackBerrys took off and forever altered our world. For the first time, regular people were using their phones in never before imagined ways (I.e. as a camera).

Web 1.0 was the firm domain of the professional contributors because devices were cost prohibitive and one needed an advanced skill set (I.e. HTML) to contribute. But Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 was meant to be ruled by regular people.

The Social Media Singularity

Devices like BlackBerry made it increasingly easy for people to share content (which is a huge part of socializing). Soon people were addicted to consuming and sharing music, videos, pictures, blogs, etc. Social media appeared to accommodate this shift in behavior.

MySpace launched in 2003 but hit it big in 2005. YouTube was launched in 2005 and was one of the fastest growing sites in 2006 when it was purchased by Google. Facebook opened up to the general public at the end of 2006. So in this three-year span everything shifted.

The web we know today didn’t start getting momentum until I’d say around 2005 and after 2007? It was unstoppable. MySpace was king. Facebook was now public. Music had gone digital. MP3 players and iPods took the place of CD players. Most people owned digital cameras which would lead to Kodak claiming bankruptcy by 2013.

These massive changes set the stage for infection.

ACT TWO—The Exposure Infection Goes Systemic


The world change and the environment was altered forever. New parasitic organisms began populating.

Blogs had been around for quite some time, but Ariana Huffington co-founded the Huffington Post in 2005, and while initially it attracted A-List contributors, it soon opened it’s doors to bloggers willing to trade “exposure” for content.

Big sites like Huffington marked a major shift in how regular people consumed news and gathered information. Before, free stuff generally had a far lower quality, so we were willing to PAY. But now that the free stuff was almost as good, as good or better than the paid stuff?

Come on. A no-brainer. Instead of paying for a newspaper or magazine, we went on-line.

“Real” journalists were paid and this was a genuine constraint for news outlets and magazines competing with Huffington and a legion of “volunteers” offering excellent content.

Huffington, like a regular print source still made money on ads, but unlike the competition (print sources) they didn’t have to worry about paying salaries, benefits or health insurance to most of their workforce.

That was a dangerous precedent. A once a homeostatic environment where artists could thrive suddenly became toxic and vulnerable to disease.

The Creative Code Blue

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

First, with file-sharing, downloads and sites with free streaming music, consumers got in a habit of getting what they wanted for free. In 2012, Emily White published a blog on NPR I Never Owned Any Music to Begin With and revealed how she had a personal collection of over 11,000 songs and yet had only ever bought 15 CDs and how she was profoundly conflicted with the new reality of our world.

Self-published authors flocked to Amazon and people like John Locke pioneered the idea of the .99 cent book and giving books for free. A tsunami of amateurs then rushed to publish unedited, often unreadable books. Countless “authors” flooded the market with content that used to be left to die in a slush pile.

Yes, I love self-publishing and some of the best books of our time are coming out of it (Wool & The Martian) but the rush of amateurs who vastly outnumber professionals has had terrible consequences for consumers and artists.

Amazon is now having to enact warnings on e-books regarding quality issues (to flag readers for spelling problems, poor editing, bad formatting) because too many amateurs were (are) offering up content that’s not ready for consumption. If uncooked chicken can make you sick, a book that’s not “done” can too.

The Casualties of Free 

Image via Alisha Vargas courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Alisha Vargas courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I understand that businesses are rushing to give content to consumers, but in rushing to give what affect is that having? Everywhere we look on the Internet, content is FREE. Of course it isn’t really “free.”

Those who sell hardware (tools) and access to the artists? They’re doing very, very well.

Internet connection, devices, service, data streaming and conference tickets all cost consumers money. But what’s happening is those businesses and entities who deliver content (Amazon, iTunes, iBooks, AT&T, Spotify etc.) are making record profits while artists are withering on the vine.

The Future is Streaming—Poison or Potion?

I feel the future of everything entertainment will be a streaming model. We already have streaming television, news, music, and movies. I predict books naturally will follow suit.

Whether this is good or bad is irrelevant. I think it’s coming.

Barnes & Noble is dying and physical point of sale locations for new books are getting rarer. This means even big legacy publishers potentially will be muscled into cooperating with a streaming model if they want to survive.

If consumers are getting their books off a streaming model and not buying copies? Will anyone have a choice?

Courtesy of Imagens Evangelicas vis Flickr Creative Commons

Courtesy of Imagens Evangelicas vis Flickr Creative Commons

If writers don’t want to part of the streaming model? Amazon, iBooks (or whoever is offering streaming books) won’t be greatly affected. The distributors of today don’t have skin in the game.

In the old days, bookstores and publishers DIED if writers didn’t succeed. Record stores and producers DIED if musicians didn’t succeed. They couldn’t fall back on the billions they made selling gadgets, connectivity, services and camping equipment to stay solvent.

Companies are offering streaming to help artists get in front of overwhelmed consumers. It’s been designed (in part) to combat the discoverability problem, but the streaming model currently is NOT structured beneficially for artists. One musician’s song was played over a million times on Pandora, yet he was paid less than $17 (less than selling a t-shirt).

Oh, but how can you refuse? Streaming PAYS and you get exposure, you ungrateful hack. Create something people want and stop whining!

And yes, it’s scary and frustrating, but us not wanting this tech evolution to happen won’t change it coming. Tower Records, Kodak, BlackBerry, and Blockbuster are all good examples of what happens when denial is the action plan.


Image courtesy of Spirit-Fire via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Spirit-Fire via Flickr Creative Commons.

Now that I’ve shown you how our world has changed and painted a rather bleak picture, I want to revisit the story I began with.

Oprah a billionaire hosting a conference about reaching your dreams…using largely unpaid performers. Huffington selling for $300 million and growing increasingly valuable using unpaid work.

Can it change? I think so, but it is largely up to those we idolize to help change attitudes and educate the public.

Taylor Swift is an excellent example.

Earlier this past year (2015) iTunes went to launch its new streaming music program, and the plan had been to offer three months for free for users trying the program. At first this seems awesome! Especially for me (Average Consumer).

But then Taylor Swift stepped in and wrote a beautiful letter politely shaming Apple and put her money where her mouth was. She refused to allow her latest and hottest album to be used in Apple’s plan.

What’s interesting is that a company worth over $650 billion didn’t truly think about the consequences to artists by expecting musicians to work for free for three months until Taylor Swift pointed it out.

Did they overlook this because they are psychopathic jerks who stay up all night thinking of ways to crush artists? Or, has this notion of exposure made businesses (possibly unintentionally) predatory?

Doesn’t hurt to give the benefit of the doubt.

That was the point of me offering up that history lesson. In the 1990s, a used bookstore greatly benefited writers because exposure actually did translate into PAID work. The same for doing spec work for Huffington or performing for free alongside Oprah. I know I’ve even offered my comparably microscopic platform to help unknowns gain exposure because exposure is still extraordinarily important.

The problem however is that we need to make the next shift in the digital evolution. The biggest companies and names need to make it. Consumers need to make it.

Exposure used to be the treatment/cure, but the world has evolved to be exposure-resistent. Exposure is like tossing regular penicillin at flesh-eating MRSA and expecting it to work.

What we did to prime Web 2.0 cannot sustain it.

What happens when everyone views exposure as just as good as cold hard cash (which WAS the case but is no longer the case) is that then all content contributors are working for free.

When everyone is exposed then no one is.

When everyone is paid with exposure then no one is paid.

When conferences and corporations create space in the budget to pay everyone but those providing the content? That’s worrisome. It’s especially worrisome when exposure in these places is no longer leading to paid work. Why? Because it is only leading to people wanting to pay content producers with even more exposure.

The Trochordist said it best and I strongly recommend reading this post.  But the hard truth is that:

The fundamental shift in principals and morality is about who gets to control and exploit the work of an artist…Now we are being asked to undo this not because we think this is a bad or unfair way to compensate artists but simply because it is technologically possible for corporations or individuals to exploit artists’ work without their permission on a massive scale and globally. 

What I would add to this is that they can do this with the consent and support of the public who’s not understanding how their updated habits combined with outdated attitudes are killing the artists they love.

I think why all this is bothering me so much is I feel like we’ve created a system where to survive, content contributors are literally the problem. We’ve become a cannibalistic organism.

We Need to Work Together

Image of Killer T-Cells Attacking Cancer from NIH courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (added in the obviously silly stuff)

Image of Killer T-Cells Attacking Cancer from NIH courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (added in the obviously silly stuff)

We cannot fix a problem until we admit there is a problem. We need to all recognize that FREE has gone way beyond getting out of hand. It’s now metastatic…

…but it can be cured.

If FREE is a cancer, then WE are the T-Cells. All of us.

Apple proves things can change. After Taylor Swift’s letter, the company deeply apologized and made it right. They paid the musicians and you know what? Everyone made MORE. Consumers felt better about signing up for Apple’s streaming because it was caring for artists and the artists were paid. Artists were happy, Apple was happy and consumers were happy.

What if more BIG names were as protective as Taylor Swift?

What if more SMALL names were is brave as Revolva?

What if more ICONS were as fearless as Wil Wheaton?

What if more CORPORATIONS changed their treatment of artists like Apple?

What if consumers changed buying habits (refer to my post Fair Trade Fiction)?

What if more conferences became active and creative to find ways to support the contributors? Perhaps a commission off ads sold, ticket sales, digital tip jars or even corporate sponsorships?

What if more artists joined with the ranks of Coldplay, Taylor Swift, Adele, Beyonce and others and stood up for an ethical and sustainable internet (as these artists did with Spotify)?

What if BIG name writers supported new writers like these mega-artists are doing in music? Just like Phillip Pullman who resigned as an Oxford literary patron over lack of pay for authors?

What if more on-line magazines worked WITH bloggers like BuzzFeed who pays contributors based on click rate?

For instance, instead of ALL my best content being on my blog, magazines can recruit us as talent. I’m happy WD Magazine gave me an award, now let me help YOU! Figure out a way we can both win.

Old Guard + New Guard = NEW AND WAY BETTER GUARD! We are not alone!

All of us in one way or another need to set an example and lead the way to the next evolution of the web. Web 3.0—A Better Place to Play, Live and Work.

Image a gift to Flickr Commons from professional photographer Brett Jordan.

Image a gift to Flickr Commons from professional photographer Brett Jordan.

Revolva had a fantastic idea, that I hadn’t seen in action. She had a TIP jar on her site and I left her a tip for using her story (Note to Self: Add Tip Jar to New Website). I know Flickr allows me to donate for the commons images, but I would LOVE a tip feature so I can support the actual photographers and image creators. 

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that we have to work together to help consumers and businesses update their thinking regarding commerce.

What are some ways we can change the world? What are some companies, conferences, businesses or artists that you’ve seen doing great things? How are they solving this problem? What are ways you think we might be able to work together instead of fracturing into a million pieces of Every Man Out For Himself? 

Have you been frustrated with this increasing expectation that you need to not only give for free, but it has to be as high of quality as paid work…and people just seem to want more and more and MORE? What are your thoughts? Experiences? Opinions? Concerns? Ideas?

I love hearing from you. You guys are some of the most brilliant people I know and if anyone can fix this? WRITERS CAN. We have changed the world time and time and time again. Let’s roll!

Author Call to Arms!

After posting this, I talked with Revolva and even though her blog got over a million views? Oprah’s people never issued a statement, wrote a letter or even offered apology. There is no indication of any policy change.




I am asking you guys to activate YOUR platforms. ALL OF US BLOG ON THIS. REPOST THIS BLOG OR EVEN REPOST REVOLVA’S.



It’s one thing to step on a performer, but REVOLVA doesn’t have a legion of  TICKED OFF WRITERS on hand, whereas I DO. YOU can help me make a difference for ALL the arts!


***A special note of thanks to all the photos generously shared for free use. I donated money on your behalf.

I don’t yet have a tip jar (redoing my web site), but if you like my work, please pick up a copy of Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


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    • Janet B on February 9, 2016 at 3:40 pm
    • Reply

    I believe Oprah is worth around $3 billion dollars. Not quite as much as you listed. And I believe the top speakers do get compensated. Just not the smaller speakers. Such as The HP, that have people that are willing to do free blogging for the exposure, the conference will look for those speakers, that are willing to do it for free. Unfortunately, it’s the way society is currently. They feel they are doing you an honor.

    1. Oops, the decimal point got deleted. I was going between 2.9 and 3.0 and accidentally edited it weird and inaccurately. Fixed it and thanks for the heads UP!

  1. Your post highlights an interesting dilemma that I’ve facing. An overseas blog has expressed an interest in my work. They would like me to submit an article, but can’t pay me. Their entire site is based on user generated content. I’m a new writer and building a brand for myself. Exposure is what I need and this is an unpaid opportunity. So, based on your article, you would recommend turning it down???? I’m honestly not sure I can afford to do that.

    1. I can blog on this in the future. Some FREE is good for new writers starting out. The problem is what used to be in the real of the new (“Intern”) is now the same deal being handed to the seasoned professional. So the honest answer is I don’t know.

      1. Thank you for your response, Kristen. I would really appreciate a post for new writers on what you think is “good” free content and “bad” free content. This overseas blog wants me to write a series of articles for them, but for free. I’m reluctant to do this for no pay, especially after reading your post. Your thoughts on this subject would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

        1. Off the cuff, I would say no. Make them pay you something even if it’s buying a couple items off an Amazon Wish List. A gift card. SOMETHING. People value what they pay for. Never underestimate the respect you can gain by simply charging $20. When I say monetize, it doesn’t have to be exorbitant. But SOME transaction, making them give SOMETHING is very valuable and it weeds out the time wasters.

          1. Hi Kristen, I completely agree with your statement that people value what they pay for. I think I will just submit one article to this site, but ask for compensation if they want a series of articles. Thank you for giving me the confidence! BTW, I purchased your book and have been applying your social media advice. It works. I published an article on Scary Mommy that was shared over 131,000 times on Facebook, largely because I followed your guidelines. People came to bat for me. So, a big thank you!!!

          2. Typo!!! Kristen!!! Why can’t I edit my reply???

          3. What typo? 😉

          4. So I can use you as a testimony right? 😀 What I would GIVE for this as a book review. Le sigh. Soooo, if you haven’t written one yet *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*

          5. Grinning….. No problem. Happy to oblige. Perhaps even without any typos this time. 😉

          6. Just posted my review for you on Amazon. It was “fairly” positive. 😉

  2. I’ve been publishing (both trad and self) for about eight years. I can’t make a living off it. I doubt I ever will. And yes, my titles show up on pirate sites regularly, where I lose money off those free downloads. You mentioned the avalanche of poorly written/edited work showing up on Amazon (and other venues); that makes it hard for the good stuff to find its audience. I admit I’ve become discouraged about the business in the last year or so. Maybe it was stars-in-the-eyes to think I’d be earning enough to quit the day job by now (and I wouldn’t need much–just a few thousand in royalties a year). I’ve recently decided to continue writing and publishing, but for pleasure, not money. Otherwise, I stress too much over what I perceive to be a failure–a failure to connect with my audience, a failure to sell, a failure to get my name out there.

    You’re absolutely correct. Everyone wants everything for free, and while many purchase the things they want, so many more refuse, knowing if they search the ‘net, they’ll find it for nothing. This is not a healthy environment for creative people. We currently live in an age where art of all kind has been devalued… unless you have a “name.” The people at the top continue to make money. The rest of us struggle.

    1. I don’t think it’s impossible and I DO think things are changing. The big names in music are starting to stand up so obviously this is a problem bigger people than me are noticing. We can do this, but we are going to have to work together.

  3. Wow. As a journalist who is ‘lucky’ to still receive pay for my articles, this is excellent and thought-provoking.

    1. Well I am SO SORRY to be contributing to this problem of GOOD JOURNALISM FOR FREE! But I hope it’s in the right direction ((HUGS)).

      1. Haha – yes, a worthwhile investment of your time I’m sure.

  4. Excellent article! Know how to do the tip jar? Thanks for bringing this out into the light.

  5. Totally agree. I do use repurposed material as a reader magnet (I.e. Freebie), but I would never allow Huff Po or any other publication to use my work without paying me. If I choose to repurpose a small portion of my work for marketing purposes that’s my choice and comes out of my marketing budget. Many writers I know use the “product sampling” at the supermarket analogy to justify giving away their work and that’s fine – it does work. But here’s the catch: most artists don’t approach their work the way a more conventional business does. They don’t track how much they give away, whether product sampling is actually working for them or not, and they don’t set a budget of how much they can give away and not lose their shirts. In short, they have no marketing plan other than giving away free stuff and hoping it works and have never written a (gulp) business plan. Artist friends, we’re in a business. In order to be successful, we must treat it as such. Incidentally, I’m actually very optimistic about this “free” trend. Why? Simply because it’s unsustainable. May take a while though.

    1. There’s a big difference in YOU making the CHOICE of giving away your own work as a sample to a person already interested in you, specifically, and an entity like HuffPo using your work to generate REAL MONEY(TM) in the form of advertising space and pageviews, in exchange for the IMAGINARY MONEY of “Exposure” to, not your audience, but theirs.

      Your own choice to give away content you’ve created can be very sound, and often for us little folk, the difference between being in “the basement” at Amazon, and being down where we bunk with the Balrog at Amazon.

      Especially if you’re giving it away in exchange for some commitment in kind from the receiver (ie, a reader magnet in exchange for subscribing to your mailing list – there’s no coin money in that, but there’s an exchange of value–your work for their attention at a later date). Giving to your own audience is Customer Care. Giving to HuffPo’s audience is not. The free stuff ends up WAAY devalued because only a fraction of their audience will turn out to be your audience.

      Now, it is hard to say if Revolva would have seen an Oprah-attributed bump in her sales or notoriety. I would have negotiated space, time, and opportunity to set up my own merch table and keep everything I made off it (which again isn’t direct money, but it would have been “exposure” in the sense that Revolva was both exposed to Oprah’s audience AND permitted/unspokenly endorsed to offer to them. That may have been an opportunity of value, depending on how big the audience was, and how much of Revolva’s “people” they were expected to be or align with.

      I do think your point about tracking the effectivity of your freebies is important. Most of us consider the fact that we wrote it, and it wasn’t selling anyway, so at least the giveaway is an opportunity to reach people and invite them into our ecosystem for other opportunities. But tracking “conversion rates” is probably a good idea to get into.

      1. But what is bothering me is that I bet you Deepak Chopra was paid. So the artists who need the money the most are not paid when the ones worth tens of millions are given speaking fees. If a conference like that is charging $1000 a ticket, there is NO reason they cannot budget a base pay for the new artists. The problem is that these folks budget for janitors and caterers and even parking attendants. If they can budget for those folks, why not artists? Folks like Oprah are the thought-leaders and I am not angry or attacking her, only challenging folks like her that exposure no longer works like it used to. THESE people set the example. And holding a conference about “Getting the Life You Want” and then not even offering gas money? That can’t continue.

        I am not against FREE. I think it can be valuable, but it is being exploited and that needs to stop.

        1. I used to speak for free or base, base cost especially at libraries. Then I had a library ask me to come and be part of their conference. It was almost 100 miles away and this was back when gas was $4.50 a gallon and I have an SUV. So $85 to fill a tank and it would take a good amount of gas to get to this place. They offered me $50 per class and three classes and told me I could sell my books.

          Okay, I had another (more lucrative) offer, but I wanted to support libraries so I turned it down and mobilized my following for this event.

          A week before the event, I am told that they can only pay for two classes.

          Ok, no problem, I can sell books and offset my costs of gas, food, time, etc. And was still $100.

          TWO DAYS before the conference. “We found another author we want to speak so we only want you for one class.”

          Oh-KAY. At this point I am committed and have recruited a lot of people to attend.

          I show up and go to bring in books and they tell me I can’t do that. I am not allowed to sell books. I work ALL day, paid for $85 in gas and almost $20 for lunch. On the way home, there is an accident on I-35 so I had to take the LONG way (150 miles) and it took FOUR HOURS to just drive home.

          Only for them to stiff me for the $50 they owed me.

          NEVER. AGAIN.

  6. Outstanding post, and go Revolva.

  7. This is nothing new. Several years ago, when I published my first fiction book I was awarded a two star review with the specific reason that being an indie writer who had just published my first book, I was obligated to sell it for $0.99 or make it free. A few months later the original reviewer returned to lower it to one star because I had ignored his pronouncement that all indies should make their work available for free or almost no cost.

    This is the entitlement thinking that the buyer believes the content should be free. They don’t care that it took months of hard work and tons of cold hard cash out of pocket for things like editing and cover design. In his person’s mind, indies were not professionals and therefore should not profit from their work.

    Despite those comments, I have never lowered the price to $0.99 and never done a free giveaway. I just don’t believe that’s the proper business model for me. I set my prices at a reasonable level and let the chips fall where they may, but at least I have not set the trend for free or almost free, and no the economics does not work out. Lowering the price of a full length fantasy novel that has been professionally edited does not generate enough sales to cover the cost price difference. In fact lowering the price seems to reduce sales right along with margins.

  8. You’ve really tackled a challenging and multifaceted dilemma here with both wit and depth. Thank you! When I recently decided to start a publication on Medium, I decided that I wanted to compensate the authors whom I invited to contribute, if only minimally. I am by no means rich but I feel strongly about the need to compensate people for their time, craft and engagement. I told my author friends to imagine me inviting them out for dinner and drinks, that’s what I try to pay. I don’t know how long I will be able to afford paying authors at that rate but I’ll keep trying for as long as possible. Good work should be acknowledged and compensated and one way to do that it is to also practice it in our own small scale operations. This is another means to change the culture.

    • prudencemacleod on February 9, 2016 at 4:27 pm
    • Reply

    As I have said many times before, I don’t put my work up for free anymore. I learned early that I ended up paying in both money and time lost to give my work away for free. I also try to make sure I pay the artist. Many sites have a “Buy me a coffee” button and I use it.
    This post is timely and I will share the link. Thanks again, WANA Mamma, for leading the way.

  9. I regularly have people, when they hear my sister does my hair, say “Oh, so you get it done cheap, just pay for the product.” No, I explain that I want to pay her for her time also, and actually I go above and beyond in tipping because I support her. Also, I still schedule at the salon, because she is kept as an employee based on if she meets her client ratio that month, so I want to support her in actually getting to keep her job.

    I think it’s important that artists share their own need for appropriate payment, but also speak out and support others to spread the word. People respond positively when I explain why I pay my sister. And I think that’s more acceptable than just saying “pay me” so if we all say “pay others” together, it helps us all….So on that note, thank you for supporting all those wonderful people you mentioned in this article, not just with exposure but also by putting your money where your exposure is 🙂

    • Tiffee Jasso on February 9, 2016 at 4:30 pm
    • Reply

    I chose to go with Kobo for my ebooks for that very reason I have control over my book prices. I will market my print books myself. Despite what everyone believes, Amazon gets paid one way or the other for their services and for those supposedly, free books. It is the authors that get nothing for their work, but we have to keep in mind that is the route those authors have freely chosen. @firstbluelucy

  10. The biggest problem, as I see it, is the vast imbalance of supply versus demand. I used to make a living as a graphic designer, creating logos and printed promotion pieces (business cards, brochures and the like) which then evolved into some web design. The problem was/is: everyone thinks they are creative/artistic and can do it themselves. The few that don’t can find someone in Indonesia, Pakistan — or even here in the States — to do everything they want for pennies, or even free. Free doesn’t put food on the table or a roof over your head.

    Being a glutton for punishment, I turned to writing. The same conundrum exists now, as you ably illustrated in your post. Even worse — I have to pay to advertise stuff I’m giving away for free! Years ago, we would have considered that mind set lunacy for a business. Now, it’s the norm.

    Big Publishing doesn’t really care if a few Indies are making bank with their books. They look at their slush piles and say, “Meh, there’s a thousand more where that came from.” A similar attitude exists with readers now. If I don’t give away the first book in a series, many readers will pass on by to someone who will. “Because, hey, everyone can write. It’s not that hard. I’ve got ideas. I could write a book if I wanted to take the time.”

    How do we compete with that kind of attitude?

    1. Well said, Alan. Yep, how do we compete with that? 🙁

    2. You compete with that by growing your audience more slowly, and using free samples, discounts and sales, or low introductory prices, and even Amazon exclusivity in Kindle Unlimited as simply a single *tool* in a much larger *box of tools.*

      The only constant in this business is that there IS no constant (except Haters Gonna Hate – that’s a given everywhere). So you try something, switch to something else, then switch to something else. Don’t do perma-free if it makes you sweat goat cheese. Do a time-limited free run, then jack the price back up. Put some books into KU for a single run, then jerk ’em back out again and go wide. Offer up free stories to people only in exchange for subscribing to your mailing list (and thereby giving you permission to engage with them).

      It’s not so much training the masses (where sometimes the m is silent) to not go for free stuff. It’s about training *your* audience in the value of your work. Free, sale, and discount are all words to capture the attention of passers-by. If they aren’t interested, then the free-est free in the world isn’t going to entice them to look twice. If they are, free/sale/discount *removes a barrier* to trying. Once they’ve tried, if they like, they may choose to sit on their hands until another sale comes along. If their desire for more of your stuff outweighs their desire to wait for a sale, they’ll buy you at full price. If not, they weren’t your audience anyway and you let them go. All the bait in the world won’t get your hook a tug if you’re fishing with the wrong bait. It means you let the casual reader go because they’re not willing to buy your title at full price (or at least, not yet). Your readership will grow more slowly. You may never hit a list because of a slew of impulse-purchases or a limited-time special. But you may end up making a living. It’ll just take longer. The name of the game has always been persistence.

      1. I COMPLETELY agree and I will do a blog about using FREE effectively. My concern though is that if we don’t make some noise about the ABUSE of free we are training people to not value what we do. Just in the eight years I have been doing this I have watched free be abused more and more and more and it IS having an impact.

        When BIG NAMES like Beyonce and Taylor Swift are stepping in and going, “Whoa. Enough. Uncool.” I think it is fair to say that there is a big trend even big folks are noticing. I am and will always be a fan of hustling, working hard and being good at business. I DO believe though that we need to create a sustainable internet. Yes, starter fluid was great to get the fire burning and the web launched into everyday life, but if we are doing this for the long-haul we cannot run on short term fuel.

  11. When politicians offer free stuff for votes is it any wonder society believes free is the only way? I fear your words will likely fall on deaf ears (and blind eyes). It will only be relevant when creativity takes a permanent vacation. Perhaps then millennials will understand there is no “free lunch”. Much like Americans paying for that free college education and free health care it may be a while before society realizes free isn’t worth the cost.

    • H. on February 9, 2016 at 4:40 pm
    • Reply

    About ten years ago, I published a zine and put some of the articles online to give subscribers a taste of what was in the mag. A large media company known for making kids’ movies — usually taking books and turning them into movies — asked to reprint an article in a teacher guide that would be used in classrooms. I asked for $50. They wanted it for free. I told them the printers of the teacher guide were getting paid, the graphic artists of the guide were getting paid, and I should be paid too. There was no deal. I mean, come on! The head of the company is regularly listed among Forbes’ richest Americans. I’m pretty sure $50 was in the budget.

  12. This is such a huge issue and his filtered all the way down through our society. Photographers are solicited on sites like Craigslist to shoot weddings for free so they can “gain exposure.” (Ignore the photography pun.) I’ve seen posts from established writers being asked to speak/teach for free at conferences for exposure, and that’s AFTER they pay their own way to get there and subsidize their room and meals.

    Being at the bottom of the food chain sucks, and we’re not going to get out of this without help from those at the top (like Taylor Swift and others). Seems there’s plenty of money going around, just far too little of it landing in the hands of the people who actually produce the content.

  13. Well put together piece(s). Thank you for speaking up for artist, writers and such. I have found that in the service industry it is the same. I love free and a bargain as much as the next guy, especially since I do not have a large income. However, I understand the need to make money in this world. We all have bills to pay and groceries to put on the table. We need to honor each other, and all the gifts that we bring. We need to STOP giving it away for free. That is the only way to change things. I gift and pro-rate my services very often. However, in light of your article I am going to stop offering anything for free! And I am going to honor others in some way.
    Just a side note, I often sweat equity my way into events; I work for part of a festival as a volunteer to enjoy part of a festival without having to buy a ticket. I think that is a fair way to trade. However, that is not always a good route to offer to our clients/customers.

    • Wing Dunham on February 9, 2016 at 4:53 pm
    • Reply


    1. Yep! 😀

  14. I have to admit I’m actually one of those people encouraging others to self-publish their work. After all, it’s free and it doesn’t cost the artist anything. Meanwhile, while I am aware that people are writing novels that are not good quality, it is a good training ground for people who wants to make it big to keep on writing.

    My point is that since the advent of free, there are no longer gatekeepers of quality. Traditional publishing houses makes sure that the book they print out is high quality. They are the gatekeepers of quality. Since Amazon lets people self-publish their work, nobody could guarantee quality anymore. It’s a perfect place for new artists to try their hands on writing and publishing their work so that they could get more practice.

    On the other hand, a tip jar would be awesome. That’s what companies like RocketJump had used Go Fund Me for.

  15. What a fab post, Kristen, and I’ll bet it gets as much buzz (and flak) as “Pay the Writer.” I read Revolva’s letter, and I completely agree. How ridiculous is it to be asked to work for free (and spend money on traveling expenses, as she would have had to do) at an Oprah money-making juggernaut with a theme of “The Life You Want”? Seriously? What struggling artist imagines the life he/she wants as working for EXPOSURE? As Revolva pointed out, you can’t pay your rent with “exposure.” A big-time icon like Oprah can afford to pay her performers (and not just the big names like Deepak Chopra). She should put her money where her mouth is.

    Context is important in artists’ decisions about what to do for free. For example, I’ve given talks on fiction writing to elementary school students for free on many occasions. (Except for the mocha latte and blueberry muffin one kind teacher bought in for me on a long day, God bless her). In talking to school kids, I’m giving back and sharing what I love, with the hope that it will inspire some of them to start writing those stories they can’t get out of their heads. I’m sure many artists share their talents to help a cause of some kind. Look at how much you give US for free. *wink*

    I know that’s totally different from what you’re talking about here; I just wanted to point it out. I’m so glad you posted this, especially giving the context of how it came to be. Exposure has become the new currency, and both consumers and artists need to be educated about how that just doesn’t work.

  16. Another thought provoking post. I’m reposting this on my facebook page. Thanks!

  17. Although I love what I do, this post for the most part was so depressing. I am so glad when you put a few suggestions for changes at the end of the blog post. I was about ready to shoot myself! I like the tip jar idea.

    I personally stopped trying to give away content for free. I think people are starting to get wise to the idea that perhaps free isn’t all its cracked up to be. I hope so, anyway. As far as what we can do about it. Hmm, I’ll have to think about that for a while.

    1. Trust me. I felt the same way when I saw that post from Revolva regarding Oprah. But now you see why I put all the posts together. I sent twelve hours just RESEARCHING that there were answeres! Keep up the fight. We are not alone you know ?

      1. Thank You Kristen!

  18. I am working (erm in my head that is) on a similar post at the moment. The free or low cost culture touches too many people.
    Thanks for this great article, I will definitely give you a shoutout!

    1. DO IT! ALL OF US SHOULD! You have my support!

  19. Great post with lots to think about.

    That being said, I would like to add a couple of thoughts on the topic.

    The “freebie” culture goes deeper than just the artist being expected to work for nothing. When I retired in 2014 from teaching high school, I had been teaching creative writing, essay writing, and research paper writing. I stood in front of the creative writing class my last year with a stack of poems in my hand. I was ready to pass them back. “Longfellow? Henry Longfellow?” I asked.

    One of my AP students looked at me. “There’s no Longfellow in this class. He’s dead?”

    “Well, I thought so, but now I’m not sure because here is a hand written copy of one of his poems.”

    Giggles and then silence followed. Many students do not understand that taking even a sentence, a stanza, or a paragraph off the internet with highlight-copy-paste is considered plagiarism and harmful to the person who wrote it.

    Second, not only do poorly written pieces get published for free (or money) on the internet, the writers of said material have a completely inflated ego and believe that, since people read it or pay for it, there is no reason why it should be in need of revision or editing.

    Finally, on a bright note at least for writers, research is beginning to discover that reading material on electronic media is detrimental to the reader’s comprehension and reading pace. This, hopefully will indicate that the printed word on paper is still valuable.

    1. Brilliant move on the plagiarism front!

    • annaerishkigal on February 9, 2016 at 5:24 pm
    • Reply

    Ugh! Your post so eloquently stated exactly what I’ve been feeling lately. First it was one book we were expected to give away for free, then a free book plus a second one free as a reader magnet, and then other free books or novellas free ‘for exposure’ in anthologies or box sets, and then we’re expected to write and email our readers and/or post on our blog links to additional free short stories. Add to that mix a toxic cocktail of Kindle Unlimited where all books ‘look’ free except the authors who aren’t in it, and I’m feeling so discouraged it’s been hard to get motivated to write. I pulled back on all the freebies except for the single perma-free, but from now on I expect to get paid. I mean, I’ve got 8 books out now, all of them highly rated, so when am I going to start earning a living with my writing?

    1. Now should be the time to start charging. People would pay for quality and since you seem to have an established fan base, they’ll pay for your books.

        • annaerishkigal on February 9, 2016 at 6:19 pm
        • Reply

        Right now, the only book that earns money is Book 3 of my flagship series. It’s difficult getting readers to try out a new series by the same author, especially if it’s a slightly different genre (i.e., paranormal fantasy instead of high fantasy). Readers come with their hands out, expecting you to give away the series starter for EACH series for free now, not just one book. Kristen is right. I’m sick of freebie snarfers. 😛

        1. I notice that too. I started selling my crochet designs online a month ago at 99 cents. So far, I have created 4 designs but no takers. I understand that I’m a fledgling designer so I’m not worried. Eventually, I’ll build my credibility but I’m still learning my craft.

          1. But (and I will address this in another post for OBVIOUS reasons). Free IS good. The ABUSE has just become so rampant. I am still ALL for authors having a blog. Blogs are free. People get to know us, sample our voice and style. In turn we can grow as writers, gain a following and it is HIGHLY mutually beneficial.

            I am not even against offering a give-away “freebie” book to promote other PAID sales or giving away the first in a series.

            The problem has become that FREE used to be for newbies cutting teeth (like an internship). But now people want the product, talent and expertise of long-time pros for intern pay. Free used to be the PROMOTION, not the PRICE.

            That has GOT to STOP or it won’t matter for any of the new people. The environment will be clear-cut and you won’t thrive. That is what I am trying to stop because I believe in you guys!

            • annaerishkigal on February 9, 2016 at 10:57 pm

            Hear, hear… [*singing … to choir*]

            With 8 books out (7 of them full-length doorstoppers), I don’t consider myself a newbie anymore. I just thought, by now, I’d be earning a living wage? I don’t mind giving away one free ebook to introduce people to my writing, but this all-free, all-the-time stuff has to stop. Or there won’t -be- any pro’s anymore.

            • KellyNJ on February 12, 2016 at 2:50 am

            Website? Author page link? (Always looking for new to me authors! I also know too many writers to ever want free content. I purchase copies even when I get an ARC or do beta reading – because to me the value is in the work, so I want to be counted as a purchaser)

  20. So true! At this point I just want my writing to break even. I don’t do “free” promotions anymore – I would get a bunch of downloads but no sustained increase in sales, just not worth it.

    • patriciaawoods2013 on February 9, 2016 at 5:36 pm
    • Reply

    Bless you for this post. It is insane to work for free. You cannot get food, shelter, clothing, or anything else for free. Why are intellectual properties expected to be free? People have become so selfish and uncaring that they obsess about getting all their needs met for free. It is a sad reflection upon our culture and moral values. Taylor Swift is right and we need to step up and be counted in the fight for integrity. Otherwise we get exactly what we deserve..nothing. Thank you!

  21. There is a sea-change coming … verrrrrry slowly, like your Taylor Swift etc example.

    Indie authors need to be ahead of the curve though, to succeed. Someone in the coments above mentioned the subscription model as just one way of looking at the issue, and tip jars, and placing notices in the FRONT of books that say something along the lines of , ‘if you didn’t pay for this book then please consider heading over to my blog/website, and leave a tip/donate/paetron etc’.

    I think the ‘free everything’ issue is part of the birth of the interwebz. Everything is still sorting itself out, humans included.

    1. I agree ergo the trip through history. I think we are feeling birthing pains. Hopefully birthing Web 3.0 ?

    2. That change can’t come fast enough 😉 Young people, especially, need to be educated and shown why it’s not good to take whatever they want from the Internet. I had a conversation a couple of years ago with my older daughter about pirating video games.

      “Did you enjoy the game?” I asked.

      “Yeah,” she said, not understanding where I was going.

      “Then you should pay for it, because those people can’t make cool stuff like that if you just take it. That’s stealing. How would you feel if someone took something you created without asking or paying for it?”

      It seems so basic to us, but with the Internet being “free” young people (and many older folks too) make the leap that everything on the net is free as well.

    3. I agree and that’s why I liken it to contractions or birthing pains. I have no problem that we did so much for free. If we all hadn’t the Internet would have died and that isn’t good either. But starter fluid AIN’T long-term FUEL. STOP IT!

      I think indies have always led the way and we can do this too!

    • psybok on February 9, 2016 at 5:51 pm
    • Reply

    As an actor, trying to get away from doing background work (which pays, but not a lot) who has obtained an agent, (not getting sent out a lot, but I’m also pushing 60) I understand. There’s a lot of casting calls in the DFW area that want quality actors, but can’t pay. IMDB credit and food won’t pay my bills.

    Acting is my day job, (I’m on disability from an accident, so at least I’ve got the basics covered, but just barely.)

    That said, there are a few directors I’ll work with on a spec basis. But a lot of people expect an Academy Award performance for credit, and pizza…

    So artists across genres are affected by the cancer of free…

  22. Great post, Kristen! I started out as a traditionally published writer in the 90’s and only got into self-publishing in 2014 to keep 2 books in print when the publisher went belly up. I buy other indie writers’ books (prefer print–even have a print copy of your fabulous RISE OF THE MACHINES which has been VERY helpful) and thankfully most of them have been edited (I have been burned by a few stinkers, though). I learned years ago that people do not value what they are given for free, but for some reason I didn’t apply that to giving away my books (yep, thought “exposure” was the key). THANK YOU for encouraging writers to start building a dam together to hopefully stop the mindless flood!

  23. I appreciate all of the time and effort you’ve put into this post, Kristen. There’s a lot in here for one to mull over so now it’s time to share with others.

    • Mark Hennon on February 9, 2016 at 6:13 pm
    • Reply

    Great post, Kristen! Well-thought, well-written = Outstanding.

  24. Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
    Add a tip jar to your site!

  25. I am on the other side of this topic because I believe that giving things away is one way to market your product as an artist. It lets them have a taste of your work at no cost to them.

    Other people seemed to have “solved” this problem by selling other tangible objects. Crunchyroll, my favorite anime site, had free option (which is full of commercials, poor video quality) and paid options (no commercials, better quality, and a ton of other cool stuff). Then, they’re also selling some merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, mangas, and action figures. They’re basically offering the videos for free but they’re getting paid one way or another.

    I still believe that giving away things for free is a good way to expose yourself. However, there will come a point where you have to make a leap from free to paid once you’ve established yourself as an artist. Another way to do this is to offer your work for free free for a certain period of time and then start charging after that grace period has passed. Basically, if you miss the grace period, you’ll have to pay for the product.

    1. But I don’t have issue with some things being free. The problem is free is becoming the standard and artists are being stripmined. Its good to cut trees down. Keeps forests healthy but clearcutting because if greed destroys everything and hurts all.

      1. I stand corrected.

  26. Reblogged this on Ed Hoornaert (Mr. Valentine) and commented:
    I almost never reblog, but this post resonates so very deeply with me.

  27. Spot on, Kristen. Reblogged on . When you find … er, pay for … code for a tip jar, let us know!

  28. You’re on the right track, Kirsten! I’m hoping things change for the better. I’m putting my thinking cap on. 🙂

  29. I didn’t mean to read the whole thing all at once, but once I got started I couldn’t stop. I devoured it like a can of Pringles! Artists (of any medium) should be paid. I don’t understand how Oprah, who is worth billions, expects artists to play for free. I know that’s probably part of how she came to be a billionaire, but now that’s unnecessary. Another aspect is piracy. The internet has made that an all too common avenue.

    1. I’m glad you read it all at once. I hoped for that but I broke it down to also make it easier so I hope that helped. I don’t get it either. It made me ill. When I saw that story it was the first time in years I doubted my decision to become a writer. But then I read all the other stuff that big artists are doing and that gives me hope 😀 .

      1. What if we all behaved as the “big artists” behave? What if no one expects to work for free? I’ve always wanted to become a published author, but I keep hearing horror stories of how little publishers pay authors. Like writing 70,000+ is a piece of cake! Nothing’s sacred any more.

        1. I am all for that with certain things. Free does have a place. For instance, author blogs are extremely useful for writers for honing skills, building an audience and connecting with fans. I also recommend blogging because then we can build that existing content and repurpose IT as any freebie promotion so we are not giving our polished, highly-edited ART away.

          I love to speak and teach but I no longer do it for free at venues. I’m not cost-prohibitive at ALL but I had too many venues expect me to drive hours on my dime and work all day (only then to not even let me sell books to offset my costs) and all for “exposure.” NO MAS.

          But this blog? Y’all are a labor of love 😀 .

          1. I’m seriously hooked on this blogging thing. The writing, the challenges, the community, albeit, I write for free here. Ironic, eh? I suppose “exposure” could be advantageous to a point. But it’s difficult (impossible?) to know if the exposure you’ll receive at a venue/event will be profitable later. It’s risky.

  30. This is without a doubt one of your best posts. I have personally stop my free book promotions, I will lower my price during a promotion, but I have discovered that people don’t necessarily value a free book as much as one they have paid for. I do have one disclaimer and that is perma-free books that are the first in a series. This tactic has proven very effective and profitable for many writers. Take for example Elizabeth Hunter whose books are now in the public library systems and who ranks as one of Amazon top selling indie authors, and the first book in her first series is permanently free on Amazon.

  31. Thank you!

  32. I know this is a bit different than writing, but this trend is also seen in the world of handmade. Rather than people getting content/things for free they can buy cheap knockoffs made overseas. If you are aware of Etsy it began as trying to help struggling artist/handmakers but then turned its back on them. While on one hand the internet was a boon to artists, they could now reach people all over the world and sell their creations, it then became a bane because people outside of the country were able to see what was selling/hot and could start up their manufacturing to cheaply make and underprice those people who made each of their creations by hand. Potential customers basically said why should I buy yours, even though you spent hours creating an original work of art or piece of jewelry, when I can buy a “stolen” copy at 10% of what you are asking from this overseas source that is using slave labor. Creatives from all walks probably need to get together and brainstorm ways to turn this damaging tide.

    1. Oh WOW! I didn’t know this. It has actually gotten so bad even the PORN industry is suffering.

      1. porn industry?

        1. Well in porn one might use “artist” and “performer” more liberally but yeah, the major publications like Playboy can no longer compete and I find that interesting because if ANY industry is guaranteed to thrive it has generally been the adult industry. But the big players are being run out by all the FREE. So if they are hurting? That’s bad juju for the rest of us.

          1. Thanks for the explanation. I don’t pay attention to that industry but, yes, if they are hurting then the path we are all heading down needs to change direction. It not only starts with us figuring out a way to make the change, but to also not partake of all of the freebies.

          2. LOL. I don’t pay attention either. I was railing about what writers were going through to a guy friend of mine and he told me and I was all SERIOUSLY? That IS bad!

          3. LOL. Does WP have to display comments in this way?

          4. I guess it’s not about paying attention, but it just reaches you. Me, like you, heard without looking, but because of not paying attention I wasn’t sure. For example I see people on Twitter (can’t give names) who promote sexy pics and they hardly get any re-tweets or likes. They’re just so many, they don’t call attention anymore, I guess.
            I do take a bit of pleasure in the sex/y-entertainment-industry’s suffering, to be honest, because that industry made life unfair for us normal people. Financially, I mean. It’s not like my husband doesn’t get cake at hime hehe.

        • annaerishkigal on February 9, 2016 at 11:02 pm
        • Reply

        [*…plot bunny, starts hopping around…*]

      2. Hahhahahaaa, really? You heard that too? Me too, but I thought they were just kidding.

  33. There’s the old saw “You get what you pay for” and Dr. Phil’s “You teach people how to treat you.” When I’m tempted to put a 100K word count of a book that took $1000 to edit and $300 for covers (both are bargains, by the way), for anything but $3.99, I remember the first sentence. I’m easy, not cheap.

    • Celia on February 9, 2016 at 8:12 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for this. As usual, your points are clear and explain something that has been bothering me, but that I have been unable to articulate. I sometimes feel people participate in online piracy and devaluing of work without any awareness of it or the consequences to the artists. Thanks again!

  34. Wil Wheaton was always a hero to me, now he’s even MORE of one!! Likewise, Phillip Pullman!!

  35. I bought your book Rise of the Machines and am reading it now. Can you tell me where to find your novels? I could not find anything but that one book on Amazon, and you have mentioned you write novels as well.

    1. The first novel is with a publisher. Don’t have a release date yet. Other novels are in editing. I sidelined my fiction when social media got big. Everyone was preaching to authors 101 Ways to Become a Spam Bot and I couldn’t sit by, so I shelved the fiction. Figured people would want murder in a couple years. This was more time sensitive. But thank you for your support 😀 .

      If you are simply curious to READ my fiction, you can read my short story “Dandelion” HERE. Warning, it’s pretty dark and gritty.

  36. Sadly, this mentality is not a new thing. Years ago, toward the end of my career as a practicing psychotherapist, I started receiving invitations to present at conferences. At first I was flattered, and some paid a reasonable honorarium that made it worth my while to close my office for a few days (i.e., not make money by seeing clients) and travel to the conference to share my expertise with other therapists. But other conferences paid little or nothing. I was told more than once that people usually presented for the “prestige.” My response: “Prestige does not pay my mortgage.”

    It is indeed like a cancer. The more people get stuff for free, the more they expect it and think we are “greedy” for expecting to get paid for our talent and effort. Ask them to go to work for a week and not get paid and see what response they give!!

    1. This goes on in academia, too. “Publish or perish” makes for a lot of academic material going for free or all-but-free.

      1. Yes, Athena, that’s what I finally realized. They were getting that model from academia. There were enough university professors willing to present for free that the conference planners didn’t need to pay the rest of us. But the professors were getting paid time off and expenses paid by their institutions. Those of us in private practice lost money!

        Often in their pitch to get me to present they would say that they needed more presenters on the practical side of things, those who were applying the theories in their practices. They never got it that they were top heavy with academic theorists because they didn’t pay. *sigh*

  37. This blog post didn’t seem long at all, Kristen. I think this is one of your best posts ever. I have to admit I, too, felt pretty down while reading it, but your ideas to change things give us hope, so thank you. I like the idea of a tip jar. We’ll have to ask Jay Donovan at Techsurgeons how we can do that. (Yep, I’m sneaking in a plug for Jay. He rocks!)

    I’m not sure how the subscription concept works (mentioned in a previous comment).

    I’m so glad you gave a warning about your short story “Dandelion” because I was going to click on it, but I’m not sure I can handle it. Is it horror? Murder or psychos? Dystopian? I can handle (and love) dystopian. The title sounds so inviting!

    1. Its SciFi meets dystopia about a mother plotting revenge for a murdered child. Tough but lovely I think.

      1. I’m a big SciFi fan, too, so now I have to read it! Cool!

      2. I’m so glad you shared the link to “Dandelion,” Kristen. Yes, it’s dark and gritty, and also compelling and lovely and heart breaking. Excellent! Looking forward to you novel.