A few days ago there was a tweet going around about how much artists made per book; the advance, agent’s fee, etc and showing what it all amounts to per month. You may have seen it. Basically, they get paid around $422/month and it really sucks. The thing that stuck with me, though, was that these are professionals. They have agents and publishers and contracts, and the tweeter was talking about why artists have to be “on” all the time. If they don’t show up, put out work, and keep their names on people’s lips they will quite literally die. So what about indie creatives?
A book takes anywhere from months to a year to write. Hours and hours of your life, and if you have a day job (like so many of us do), you have to balance that with a work schedule, attempt to sleep, and hope that you can have a life for an hour or two a day. For all that, you get to hear people tell you that $2.99 is too much to charge for an ebook.
An album takes months to a year to produce. Songs, music, studio time, production, all of that takes time and a lot of indie artists have day jobs as well. It also takes money, and gigs don’t net you much, if anything (my friend – as seen above – says you sometimes lose money if they make you pay for your booze). For that, people tell you that $10 is too expensive and that they can just stream it for free.
Game devs put in ridiculous hours, pour massive amounts of money into their games, attempt to get buzz, somehow have families and lives, only to be labeled as losers and have their games pirated only days after release. If they make money on a game it’s a miracle. Women in game development get death threats in addition to all this. It’s a disaster.
And oh dear, my indie artist friends. They put so much time into their art, suffering burnout at an alarming rate and learning new ways to stretch beans and rice. Some of them have gone to school and can draw the most beautiful, evocative comics and illustrations only to be told that $30 is way too much for a full body color commission that will take them hours.
The problem is that society sees creative careers as less than. Books, music, comics, and games are all seen as frivolous or a waste of time, so those of us who create the things that people enjoy aren’t doing a “real job.” Unless we hit the magic number and produce a commercial hit, then we are suddenly Authors or Rockstars. Until then, we are just little girls and boys playing with our words, paints, and songs and we should be grateful for whatever we’re given. Which is almost never enough to even live on, but if we have a day job we obviously aren’t serious about our work. If we aren’t starving artists, are we really making art?
When I first wrote The Detective’s Brother, I had this idea that I’d write one book a year and that’d be great. Then I learned the reason that Harlequin puts out ten-plus books a month is because genre writers have to write and publish often, or we get buried. There’s the Catch-22 of the idea that anyone who produces multiple books a year can’t possibly be putting out a quality product as well, but if we put out one book a year no one will ever know who we are. At Any Cost will be my fifth book released on my own through Frozen Flame Press, and I have put hours and days and months into it. Thanks to my job I can continue writing and promoting my books but sometimes I do wish I could sleep a little more.
I’m fairly sure that if you’re reading this you support indie books, music, comics, and games, so I’ll leave you with the one easy thing you can do to help artists that doesn’t cost a thing: write us a review. Talk us up to your friends. Retweet, share, and ask your library to carry a book or album. Even if you just drop an indie creator a note that says “hey, you’re the bee’s knees” it can make us feel like a superstar.
One final thing – the picture is of a show I attended recently by my favorite band. They’re called Calhoun and are a local Fort Worth band that I’ve been listening to for lucky 13 years, and I am appalled that they’re not actual superstars yet. Go forth and buy some of their music. Start off with an EP and get obsessed from there. Here’s the iTunes link but they’re also available everywhere else you want to look. Paperweights
Oh, and you should definitely preorder At Any Cost while you’re at it. How can you beat $0.99? You can’t!
“I’m a saint so I’m used to never getting paid.”