Are Unpaid Journalists Destroying Journalism?

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Today, I read an article from Huffington Post posting the question: Are Self-Publishing Authors Killing the Publishing Industry?

The fact that the author of the article is a self-published writing is a little… I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

So, let’s get to it:

  • Huffington Post article writers post the content for free. It doesn’t get much more devaluing on the written word than that, right?
  • $0.99 books are probably worth their price. This used to be a price point that people used to gain an audience, and for those finding success, it is used by a loss leader by those with higher-priced items down the line. It is also common to use the price point for shorter works.
  • The work is worth what the market will bear. Apparently, Huffington Post believes that news and commentary is worth $0.00. My local newspaper thinks that the sum total of its weekly Sunday issue is worth $1.50. People read both.

The article also quotes the Guardian, which said, “Despite the splash caused by self-publishing superstars such as Amanda Hocking and EL James, the average amount earned by DIY authors last year was just $10,000 (£6,375) – and half made less than $500.”

I don’t know about you, but $10,000 is a lot of money, especially in this economy. One of the main reasons I got into writing and publishing was to add to my income, not replace it. My books have tripled my income this year while my salary has remained the same, which would be way beyond my expectations. But if it hadn’t, the extra money helps when raising two kids, paying all of the bills that simply won’t go away, and every once in a while, doing something fun for myself.

Even $500 is decent money. It’s not going to be something you can retire on, but maybe it is enough to tip the balance in your favor. Maybe that extra $500 is enough to pay for the rental car for your vacation next summer. Maybe it is enough to bail you out of a mortgage payment that’s overdue. Maybe it will put clothes on your kid’s back or your own. Or maybe you can go out on a few dates with your significant other.

If $0.99 is your plan, then it’s your plan. It doesn’t devalue writing. The big publishers prove that readers are still willing to pay $10 or more for an eBook if it’s from an author they really like. (No, don’t worry; I won’t be boosting my prices anywhere near that high for a single fiction book.) It’s about the writer, not the word count or the price per sentence.

I do have common ground with the article’s writer, though. Writing isn’t a get rich quick scheme. It takes a lot of work, and it is as hard and tough a business as anything else. Another thing we agree upon is:

And lastly, nasty reviews from other authors with the sole purpose of driving down customer ratings.

Yes, that is a problem. A severe, industry-wide problem? Anonymity makes it difficult to tell, but it’s been proven before. Unfortunate and sad every time. But, the green monster has been seen in every industry; jealousy is a personal issue, and people that try to destroy others might be surprised how much they could accomplish if they focused on their own work instead.

Until next time.

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