16 Nov Monday Blog – Getting Paid
Two social media powerhouses, Wil Wheaton and The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman) used their platforms this week to talk about “exposure” versus actually getting paid, both coming down on the idea that if someone creates something and someone else wants to distribute it, the artist should get paid. This is controversial, apparently.
This is also the week I got paid. I don’t like telling people this and I don’t like going into it too much but the first half of my advance check came and, though it’s not a lot of money, it represents something monumental for me. Someone is paying me for fiction I wrote making me –tadadadaaaa- a professional writer. It’s an amazing feeling and gratifying as hell.
Of course Inman and Wheaton are leagues and leagues and leagues away from me in terms of success and we’re not talking about the same game here, but I want to throw my lot in with them and agree. Artists should get paid, especially by large corporations who want to use the artist’s work for their own monetary gain and I say this as someone who used to be on the other side of the equation.
I used to work at a newspaper where part of my job was to run the entertainment section. I had some talented, very knowledgeable and proactive folks come through and ask if they could write columns and such. Every time I went to the higher ups and asked if we could pay these writers who were sinking significant time and talent into their work, I got the “see if they’ll do it for exposure” argument. Unless my memory is completely failing me, I was able to talk a paltry sum out of management, but the thing that struck me, even then, was how quickly the idea of paying writers who were contributing content to our publication was dismissed (a quick aside- I know the challenges of budgets, costs and the difficulty in monetizing the newspaper industry and know some amazing folks making hard decisions each and every day). It’s easy to justify not paying a small amount to someone making a small to medium contribution and that attitude is a scary one for people who create or who aspire to create.
The Internet age has exacerbated this problem, of course, and early online precedent didn’t help. But artists deserve to be paid for their art, full stop and that extends beyond writers. I am dying to watch the rest of Ash vs. The Evil Dead (the first episode was free) and equally desperate not to spend money on cable TV, meaning I’m going to have to wait until it’s available to buy. And I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with paying for movies, music (sometimes more than once which is kind of crap) and software because I recognize that blood and sweat and inspiration went into it. Even if it’s a movie I think is crap, I’m still going to get it legally because literally thousands of good jobs are created whenever Michael Bay cranks out a Transformers movie.
I don’t make my living writing novels but it’s something I aspire to. I agree with the Wheatons and Inmans and Devin Farcis of the Internet who say, unequivocally that money needs to be part of an exchange for creative property and art. The further into the process of writing and publishing a work of fiction I get, the more fervently I agree.