I don’t often go on drunken rants, but the one time I did in recent memory, it was about how much I hate libraries.
Whoa there. Put down your pitchfork. I don’t really hate libraries. I love libraries, same as the next nerd. But what got me going on this particular night a couple of years ago was that I’d been contacted by a book club in a nearby state who was interested in reading my book and hosting me for a visit. How exciting! Interstate book business! I replied back that I would love to attend, and here was the cost and/or here’s how many books the group would need to buy. I made it very affordable. I thought it would look nice on my calendar, even if I didn’t quite break even.
In the end, the book club neither hosted me nor read my book at all. They didn’t anticipate there would be a cost for me attend, and, furthermore, they only read books that can be accessed for free. Someone had checked their library and my book wasn’t there. For the record, any library can absolutely get my book when requested. But more importantly, how the flaming f*#& do they think I make a living? How do they expect any author to make a living if readers refuse to spend a single dollar on books? What makes them so goddam entitled that they get access to the time and talents of every modern author they’re interested in reading for free?
And thus, there I was, ruining a perfectly nice evening with my friends, ranting about cheap book clubs ladies and libraries and how people always email me to tell me they loved my book so much that they’ve loaned it to five people, as if that is helpful to me in any way, and why doesn’t anyone understand what it actually means to support someone who creates something and definitely pointing my finger in my poor friends’ faces and slurring my words.
Drunk, I was. Right, I also kind of was. I understand that if you’re a big time author and every library in the world buys a copy or two of your book, you’re doing just fine. There are a lot of libraries out there. But most authors are not big time authors. Most of our time and talents are scarce and must be closely and jealously guarded (I get that I’m blogging right now, and while I note the irony, I will not take the bait). (I also get that libraries support writers in a lot of amazing ways, and that I would have benefitted if one of those ladies actually requested my book from their own library, which is why I do not at all, as previously professed, hate them at all.) And while I’m pretty sure I cast an odd tone over our girls’ night, I am proud to say that several of my friends started purchasing more of the books they read after that night. So there’s that.
This came to mind after I recently followed an online conversation among a group of professional writers discussing ad blockers. I was amazed to see, though much of the writing these writers do is supported by online ads, many of them staunchly defended ad blockers, which, when installed on your computer or phone, make all those online ads disappear. You know, the ones responsible for paying us. Those ladies from the book club clearly hadn’t spent one moment thinking about the connection between their right to free entertainment and the value of my talents, but how could these professional writers ignore the blatant reality of how they themselves make a living? It was a bit mind boggling.
The tectonic plates that have long dictated how writers, actors, musicians, artists and other creators get paid are undeniably shifting. But one thing that feels important to keep in mind as they do is that while everything is becoming on demand, there is a supply side to content too. This is why I don’t hate ads (or libraries, which I know you still haven’t forgiven me for even teasing about). I don’t mute commercials on TV or download ad blockers. Because I don’t get to watch The Blacklist because I’m so stinking charming. I am not, and nor are you, entitled to every book, article, album, painting, movie or TV show we want without giving a little something up for it. Preferably cash, please. Or, even easier, just averting your eyes from an online ad. And sometimes, if you’re asking for an awful lot from the content creator, coughing up for a train ticket would be nice.