Saturday, January 10, 2015

Self-Publishing Controversy: No, There Aren't Too Many Writers

AUTHORS NOTE: I'm relatively new to blogging and have been doing it mostly for fun.  So I haven't done much research into how to build audiences and such.  But the one piece of advice I did read was to keep posts short and frequent, which seemed to make a lot of sense.  As I was busy with other things, mostly finishing my novel, I didn't post frequently but I did work hard to try to keep it short.  However, my last post was very long and has gotten by far the most traffic.  So maybe short posts aren't always better.  I share this for two reasons.  One, it's always good to question conventional wisdom when you see evidence to the contrary.  And two, this is another long one:

There is a popular meme, which comes up often in discussions about self-publishing books, to the effect that there are too many writers. It is rarely questioned, though there is some argument as to how big of a problem it is. Some consider it a disaster, while others effectively shrug and accept that it is annoying problem that has to be lived with. There is also a great deal of handwringing that growing popularity of self-publishing is making it all worse because it’s too easy to publish a book. There are arguments that maybe things were better when wannabe writers were discouraged from pursuing careers by gatekeepers like traditional publishers and literary agents. Even some of those who have found success through self-publishing, evading the old gatekeepers, worry too many people are trying to follow them. There are suggestions that special measures must be taken to make it harder to publish along with predictions that unchecked the problem will have disastrous consequences for all. For writers, for literature, for the world.

I disagree. I don’t think there are too many writers, and I believe the world will be better off with even more writers. The best possible outcome of this self-publishing revolution will be if everyone on the planet writes a book. Writers specifically benefit from the all the other writers, and wannabe writers, who actively pursue their craft. The self-publishing revolution is one of the greatest gifts technology has brought to the world. While it undoubtedly discomforts those who benefited from scarcity, elitism and dysfunction in the old publishing world, it’s unquestionably better for society as a whole.

Now, let me be clear, this is personal. I am exactly the kind of wannabe novelist that complainers are worried about. I’m a guy who dabbled in all sorts of writing for decades, but never finished a full novel. Let alone had it published. I’m about to self-publish my first book, completely inspired by the success of others. I’m exactly the kind of person who was put off by the notion of gatekeepers, and slush piles and would have probably stayed out of the book business for the rest of my life. So I’m one of the “too many.” By stepping into the game, it’s assumed I’m going to take money and opportunity away from those who have already been playing.

The idea that more writers is a bad thing for literature, self-publishing, or even traditional publishing is not only wrong, but diverts writers from discussing the more important issues related to fair compensation, career management and growing the industry for all. So I’m going to pick the concept apart piece by piece in the unlikely hope of burying it once and for all.

The arguments against too many writers has several components. Some of it is pure snobbery, that people like me can easily join the “published author” club diminishes the respectability of “serious” authors. How dare I call myself an author, and demand attention to my work, when there are real authors who deserve more attention to their works? Others obviously just hate the idea of competition and want less of it. That is sometimes hidden by a concern that “bad writing” and “unprofessional” writers are “ruining” it for the rest. This lament was recently expressed in an article by Stephen Akey in New Republic, “There are far too many writers out there, and if the good ones are not to be buried by the bad ones, agents have an obligation to recognize and nurture talent that might otherwise go undetected.”  Rather than shoot at fish in a barrel, I’ll pass on mocking the logic behind appealing to literary agents for salvation. Stranger to me is the assumption that we will all nod our heads in sad agreement when he says “there are far too many writers out there” as if writers were an infestation of rats or a bevy of pickpockets moving through innocent crowds.

A more persuasive argument is that too many writers means that writers don’t get paid enough. If there were less writers in general, individual writers would get more money (and maybe their own literary agents to nurture them). This argument has the advantage of not appearing to be selfish. It’s presented a concern for the overall health of the business, an expression of market reality: supply and demand. If there are too many people who want to be writers, then there are too many books, too much downward pressure on book prices, and everyone gets less money. Writers can’t make a living wage, and because publishers can always find writers desperate to work, they can pay them terribly. Frequently, this argument is pursued to a reductio ad absurdum where all writers are soon forced to work for free.

There are a lot of problems with this argument, even if one were to accept that it is a correct assessment of basic market forces. Presumably as writers stopped making money, less writers would try to get into the business and the pendulum would swing the other way. That logical outcome is dismissed with the thought that there are too many writers who aren’t concerned about money and would still work, but that contradicts the idea that this is a new problem caused by the success of self-publishing and it’s promise of riches.

Which highlights another problem with the “too many writers” argument. History and reality. There have always been more people who would like to make a good living writing than there are good paying jobs for writers. Pick an era, twenty years ago, a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago. There have always been more writers than paid writing opportunities. In ancient Sumeria, there were plenty of farmers who would have happily given up the plow to pick up a stick and write poetry on clay tablets if they could make a decent buck. When books were copied by hand, I’m sure scribes thought, I could write better than this, if only I was given a chance. In the nineteen twenties and thirties, there were tons of books written about the desperate efforts of starving writers living in big city slums (some of which made the authors a lot of money). Despite all the unfulfilled dreams by the majority, in past history, many many writers have gotten very, very rich, despite the fact that there are a lot more writers who didn’t get rich. And plenty of writers were paid nice working wages, even as many, many more begged for jobs. If all writers weren’t forced to work for free back then, why do we presume they will now? Because the ratio of writers to jobs has shrunk? Instead of a hundred people that want to be writers for every one available writing job, are there now a thousand that want to be writers per writer job? Or ten thousand to one?

Unquestionably, there are more people who want to be writers than ever before, because there are more people on the planet. But aren’t there also a lot more writing jobs and money making opportunities for writers? Aren’t there more interesting non-writing jobs in other fields too? Has the ratio of desire to opportunity really changed? A larger percentage of people dream to be writers, rather than teachers, doctors, lawyers, firemen, computer programmers or whatever? I’m not so sure. And why would market forces that didn’t kick in when the ratio was a hundred to one, suddenly kick in when it becomes a thousand to one?

Then there is the problem of current reality. Several years into the self-publishing revolution, there are a lot more books being published. Some writers are getting rich, some are not. Some give their books away for free, some sell books and make a bundle. Just as one self-published writer complains that sales are down, another reports sales rising. Yet supposedly just around the corner, everything will fall apart and every writer will work for free because there are too many writers. Recently it was reported that million dollar advances to first time authors are becoming more common in the traditional publishing world. They are the "new normal." That’s right, despite there being too many writers in the world, and the fact that all these “bad” books are ruining the self-publishing market, a bunch of unknown novelists are getting a million dollars upfront from old school publishers. I guess they didn’t get the memo that soon all writers will work for free. Of course, some will say this is bad news because it will encourage more writers to jump into the business hoping to get million dollar advances, and THEN everyone will have to work for free.

The truth is that market forces don’t work the way the “too many writers” crowd proposes. The meme imagines a kind of “How Green is My Valley” world where unemployed writers are lined up outside a coal mine begging for jobs. The longer the line, the less the mine owner has to pay the workers. If the line is long enough, the workers will be forced to work for very little or even nothing. Then, with coal smudged faces, they have no choice but to shuffle back home to their starving families.

This assumes that the mine owner is an evil bastard that enjoys making workers suffer. But even if that is the case, if he pays below a certain wage the workers won’t have enough to eat or pay their rent and won’t be able to work for him. Below a certain rate, some workers may prefer to starve. This also assumes the workers have absolutely no alternatives, they can’t leave the valley searching for other work, they can’t start up their own businesses in the valley, there are no other jobs available.

In reality, even evil mine owners have to deal with the fact that they can only squeeze workers so far before they refuse to work, unionize or even riot. They have to deal with the fact that the mine owner over the hill might offer slightly better wages and lure off the best workers, or all the workers. The vast labor pool they take advantage of could move out and they are subject to community pressure. Whether it’s the local priest that decides to make an issue out of worker welfare, or state regulators that the mine owner needs to appease to keep operating. Whether there are twice as many workers wanting jobs, or hundred times as many workers, there are limits to how low he can drive down salaries before it hurts his own long term interests.

Moreover, not every boss is evil. There are plenty of bosses that pay fair or even good wages just because they feel that’s the right thing to do. There are also very good business reasons to do so. Not all workers are equal. The better ones are worth more money. Worker turnover is expensive. The cost of training an employee can be high. In fact, many smart businesses adopt a principle of paying top wages for the best employees. This, of course, puts pressure on other companies that want to pay less. Back to our mythical evil mine owner, if workers are lined up to dig coal, rather than pay less, wouldn’t it be smarter to pick the strongest, hardest working and most experienced workers? Even if that means you have to pay them a little more? Aren’t the benefits of a good worker worth the extra money? Even if you’re evil and want workers to suffer?

In situations were the boss isn’t evil, or has a philosophy of hiring the best workers, what matters most is how much money the business is making, and what can it afford to spend on labor costs. The more money the company brings in (per worker), the more generous the company can be in salaries and perks.

Who makes the most money in America? People who take jobs no one wants? No, not by a long shot. Sure, occasionally you’ll hear about good paying jobs drilling for oil in Alaska or something (which is great if you know how to drill for oil and like the cold), but the jobs that pay the least, are the jobs, NO ONE WANTS. Fast food employees are not paid very little because there are so many people that dream of working near a fry cooker. They are paid very little because people want cheap hamburgers and the economics of the industry can’t support high paying jobs for entry level employees. Janitors and hotel maids are paid lousy, not because people are lining up for the jobs, but because the labor costs of running a hotel make it hard to pay much more. Sure, in a tight labor market they might have to pay a little more per hour, or if there is a lot of nearby unemployment they might get away with a little less. But the basic pay scale will not fluctuate much for that kind of job in that kind of industry. Nor is it an issue of low skills and or little eduction. Teachers and nurses are historically and widely paid very little, in contrast to the large amount of education and trainning needed, despite frequent shortages in both professions.

On the other hand, stock brokers and investment advisers can make millions. And there are plenty of people lined up to try to get those jobs. Including many people who will intern for free. Not only do bankers and executives who work in financial markets make a lot of money, but the office workers who support them are paid well too. Many lawyers get rich, even as others worry too many people are getting law degrees. Real estate agents in good markets can also get rich, despite the fact that it takes little training or formal education. A private tennis instructor in Beverly Hills will make a lot more money than a physical education teacher in Iowa. And it’s not because no one wants to be a tennis instructor. CEO’s of big corporations have huge salaries even though there are hundreds of qualified executives who would happily take their place for a smaller salary.

The reasons some people make more money than others are complex. Much of it has to do with the value society puts on a profession. Sometimes it has to do with training and education, but not always. Sometimes people are paid more for more dangerous jobs (but not always, just ask a soldier). And yes, sometimes it does have to do with how many applicants might be interested, but only in a limited range. The main reason some people are paid more than others is they are: closer to the money.

The closer you are to money, the more likely it is you will be paid well. The bigger the money you are close to, the more you get paid. That’s why bankers and stock brokers get paid well. And the CEO’s of big companies. Is there a lot of money? How many people between you and the money? Not many, guess what, you’ll be paid more. Are you further down the food chain? Well, how much money is there at the top? If there’s enough, you’ll do okay.

This is why a real estate agent makes a lot of money. They are very close to a big financial deal. Even if they only take a couple percent off a house sale, it’s a small fortune. The house inspector that they hire is going to make less, despite having more specific expertise. This is why you can make money as the boss of a small business, but probably not as much as an executive five layers below at a big business. How much money a business makes, how many employees it requires, and how far down the food chain you are, has much more to do with how much money you will make than how many people want the job.

If you own your own hot dog stand, you’ll make more than someone who works for a guy who owns the stand. If that guy works for some other guy, you’ll make even less. If the hot dog stand makes a ton of money, you’ll still be okay. If it doesn’t, you’re in trouble.

There are lots of great jobs in the tech world, where lots of money is being made in businesses that don’t require a lot of human labor. Tales of employees being lavishly paid and showered with perks are common. Zappos, an online shoe retailer, famously treats even it’s lowest paid employees extremely well. In addition to above average compensation, the company provides no deductible medical coverage, free food, a 24 hour fitness facility and more. Does it offer all this because no one wants to work at Zappos? No, Zappos, not surprisingly for a company which treats employees so well, had over a hundred to one application to job ratio. (They recently stopped putting out job placement notices to cut back the number of applicants.) Not only do they not have trouble finding people to hire, but they famously offer to pay employees $2,000… to quit. That’s right, they only want happy employees and will pay you to move on if you don’t like it there. They raised it from $1,000 to $2,000 because they felt not enough employees were taking them up on the offer. Google, a much larger company, but one that also makes tons of money, also competes on the good pay, free food and perks front. It, famously, has a rigorous application process, searching for the best people despite a thousand to one applicant ratio. In other words, because so many people want to work at Google, rather than pay people less, they go to great lengths to figure out who is best and pay them more. Google can afford to.

It’s not just in the tech world that many, many high profit businesses pride themselves on hiring the best workers, and paying them well. They see it as a good business strategy. So question: is this philosophy less likely to be valid with writers than online shoe salesmen at Zappos, computer programers at Google, real estate agents, tennis instructors, lawyers and stock brokers?

Well, how much money does the publishing industry make? Billions. In the United States there were some ten billion in print sales last year and five billion in ebook sales alone. The world market is estimated to be over 100 Billion.  Ebook sales are expected to grow past print sales in the next five years. And that’s where self-publishing gets the biggest slice. How close is the writer of a novel to the money that novel brings in? Pretty damn close. If they self-publish, they are the boss. But even if they work as a hired gun, there should be no reason for them to be so far down. Those billions in sales come from hundreds of thousands of books, but some books sell millions and others barely register. So why should the writer of a book that sells millions get very little? Even if the work is for a big company, even if there are layers between the writer and the money. If other highly profitable businesses pay their employees well, why wouldn’t publishers? If other businesses search for the best and pay extra for the best, why wouldn’t that happen in publishing? (Like, perhaps, paying first time writers million dollar advances for hot new novels.)

Some people, strangely some writers, think these common good business practices don’t apply to writers. For example, novelist and journalist Cory Doctorow recently said:

“Artists have traditionally gotten a rotten deal from the entertainment industry, but I think that the rottenness of that deal rises and falls based on the amount of competition there is for our services. If you are in the catbird seat, if you are lucky enough to be one of those superstar artists who has negotiated a really good share of that money, then your fortunes rise and fall with the fortunes of the investor class.”

“But I don’t think that’s true of the majority of artists. I think the majority of artists get the least that the investor class can get away with. They are, from the perspective of the investor class, largely interchangeable. That is to say, if you plan to publish 15 fantasy novels this month that are going to be primarily aimed at people who are buying them in airports to read on an airplane, then really what matters is that you just have 15 novels that are of readable quality. And there’s far more than 15 people willing to write you a novel this month for it.”

Artists have traditionally gotten a rotten deal from the entertainment industry? But for the lucky ones? Those who happen to work when the business climate for deals just happened to be favorable due to competition? I presume those lucky exceptions include Steven King, J. K. Rowling, Edgar Rice Burroughs, J. R. R. Tolkien, Danielle Steel, James Patterson, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, R. L. Stine, Jackie Collins, Michael Crichton and say hundreds of other novelists. In the music world there are exceptions like Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Elvis, etc. In comics there are exceptions like Stan Lee, Charles Schulz, Bill Watterson and Alan Moore. In film there are exceptions like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Walt Disney and James Cameron. So what were the competitive market conditions around Edgar Rice Burroughs and Walt Disney’s time that allowed them to succeed when other artists would soon be exploited? Were those same market forces in play when Steven King and J. K. Rowling got so lucky? Was it the same for Charles Schulz and Bill Watterson? Or did it dip in and out between? The lucky exceptions that Doctorow refers to would presumably include most popular artists.

Yes, there are plenty of true life horror stories about artists who are ripped off. There are artists who die penniless, or fail to profit from their creative efforts as others get rich. But there are many, many other artists who make millions of dollars (or simply nice living) from their creative works. There are artists, like Walt Disney and George Lucas, who invest their millions in profits into hiring and paying other artists and in creating innovations in the entertainment industry. The difference between those artists who profit from their work, and those who don’t, I believe has a lot more to do with hard work, talent and business savvy than luck. Yes, many artists do get ripped off, some even die penniless, but poor market conditions are not the main reason why.

Doctorow’s comments are part of his larger concerns about the negative effects of internet consolidation but they fit in nicely with the “too many writers” meme. If success in writing is mostly due to luck, then your odds unquestionably improve when there are less people in the lottery. And if exploiting artists makes for good business, then Doctorow is right that keeping businesses small is probably the only chance for artists to have more leverage. The problem is, not only is he wrong, but the concept, unchallenged, is dangerous for both businesses and artists.

Woe upon the publishing startup company that takes seriously Doctorow’s suggestion that “readable” will work if you’re trying to sell 15 new fantasy novels a year in airports. How does that sales pitch go with the buyer for Hudson Booksellers? Hey, we have these readable fantasy books. Who wrote them? Oh, it doesn’t matter, just some dime a dozen writers. How are those books expected to compete with established names for the few places available? A new company wouldn’t even get those books on the shelves, and passengers looking for something to read would likely skip them in favor of more famous authors. Even if the company has some inside track on book placement, even if the company uses famous brand names (first created by good writers?) and hires cheap ghost writers, it is not going to survive for long if the people on airplanes simply find the books readable. Unless by readable, Doctorow really means “pretty good,” in which case you’re going to need good writers that are able to deliver. If the books aren’t good, eventually even airplane passengers will avoid them and the brand names associated will be tarnished and the airport bookstore will look elsewhere for product. Which is to say you just threw away all your startup investments.

Not that there aren’t “readable” or even flat out “bad” books being sold in airports. But “readable” and “bad” are subjective based on the reader’s opinions. One readers “bad” is another reader’s “good.” Prominent placement and good marketing, including beautiful cover art (from a poorly paid artist?) and well written book descriptions (from a poorly paid copy writer?) can make a huge difference in impulse sales. But why, if a new or old business is going to go to all this trouble to get books onto valuable shelf spade, would they prefer to hire bad writers rather than good? To save a few extra bucks? To avoid paying royalties? Obviously, they have to make some decisions about cost vs. value, but saving money by hiring the cheapest writers possible because the quality of the writing doesn’t matter is the worse way to save money. It would be incredibly short sighted. If that is your new business, why not hope that eventually the books sell in places other than airports? Like online? Why not hope they become intellectual property worthy of movies or television shows, given all those people casually reading them on airplanes? Why give up hope for a best seller or even a classic? Would that help your start up pitch? Would that lure more investers to your company?

Obviously, not all businesses are run well. Some bosses are assholes. Some do take pleasure in exploiting people. Some do dismiss the value of talent. And, unfortunately, some businesses can make a lot of money even if they are run badly or for short term gain. But those businesses are always surpassed in the long run by businesses that are managed well. That means smart decisions are made about how to compensate employees and how to retain top talent. Zappos was sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion dollars. Google mints money. In the publishing world, giant corporations are buying up small publishers and paying first time writers million dollar advances. They aren’t doing that because its easy to hire cheap writers and anyone can write a “readable” novel.

I’ve done a variety of work in the entertainment industry, in film, television and internet startups, for decades. I started as a guy that was paid $10 an hour to teach people how to use Microsoft Word on their Macintosh. My very first freelance client said, "I'm recommending you to a friend, raise your rates."  Very quickly, my rates jumped past $100 an hour because people liked me and I did a good job.  More than one boss advised me to charge more to the next guy.  Before long, I was branching into more creative work including consulting for major entertainment companies. Working freelance is always hard, there are ups and downs.  I ran into some evil bosses along the way that took advantage of me (or tried to).  But good companies would also seek me out, not because I was cheap, but because I did a good job and worked hard. Cutting my rates to get more jobs was never a good idea. Raising my rates almost always resulted in more recommendations because I was perceived as being more valuable. And the higher my rates rose, the higher I moved up the food chain in terms of both getting closer to, or working directly for the boss. It was also more likely I would be working for a company that knew how to make a lot of money, or at least had a lot of money.

The other thing I've learned over the years, seeing some creative people fail and others rise to incredible fame and fortune is: it's not luck.  Blaming success, or failure, on luck feeds the meme that all writers are the same, and thus the only power is with the boss.  Yes, there is a lot of luck if you are born in a favorable environment.  If your parents are well connected, if you don't have to worry about money, then you have a leg up.  Equally important, if your parents encouraged your creativity, educated you well, supported you emotionally, that also helps.  Just being born near an important media center like Los Angeles or New York also helps, even if you don't have any other advantages.  But being rich, well connected or in a favorable location isn't enough.  The people who really succeed do so because they work really, insanely hard, and they bring something unique to the table creatively.  It might not be "better" than what someone else brings to the table, it might just be more popular or more timely or more easy to appreciate, but it's that unique quality what makes them successful. Those people, that combine something unique with hard work, are rare and really valuable.  Finding those people and, yes, "nurturing" them can make other people rich.  Finding those people and exploiting the hell out of them can also make you rich, if they will put up with it.  The best won't, at least not for long.  (And if you don't have something unique, hard work and craftsmanship will get you pretty damn far.)

There’s an old joke, that applies to many industries, and goes something like this:

Q: How do you make a small fortune in the entertainment business?

A: Start with a large one.

That is, a lot of wealthy people, or people with good investment connections, jump into the entertainment industry with a big pile of money to burn, and it burns up until they walk away in failure with a small pile. I’ve seen dozens of these companies come and go, I’ve worked for some of these companies, and I will tell you the problem almost always is they don’t understand how to manage creative talent. They underestimate how hard it is to get good talent, how expensive good talent is, and how hard it is to keep the best talent. The companies that succeed are always the ones that either learn how to manage creative talent (usually by paying well), or already have great creative talent. In fact, one piece of advice I frequently give to startups is that in entertainment, it’s critical they have a creative person in charge, and that almost always means a writer, former writer or someone with a keen story sense who loves writers.

The publishing business also knows this. That’s why they pay million dollar advances. That’s why they pay their best selling writers a ton of money. And that is exactly why they are helping promote the “too many writers” meme in regards to self-publishing. They hope that good writers will be fooled into questioning their own value and can be bought more cheaply. They don’t want to be forced to pay million dollar advances. They want to try to lock up the best writers to work in their coal mines, and that means convincing all writers, good and bad, that they are worthless.

Sadly, many struggling writers are quick to repeat and promote the “two many writers” meme because they are afraid of competition, they refuse to be honest about the quality or marketablity of their work, and plain old insecurity. Some of this has to with the self-questioning nature of writers in general, and some of it is just a normal part of the difficulty of working freelance, which most writers have to do. I have sympathy for writers struggling make a living, but competition will never go away in a profitable industry. And entertainment is a highly profitable business that lures the best and brightest as well as the most powerful and well connected.

Books, novels, entertainment and art, of any sort, all compete in a vast global capitalistic market whether they like it or not. While there are some tiny enclaves, non-profits, wealthily patrons and government grants, creative works are expected to compete for attention. Even an artist who works privately in secret, with no ambitions for fame or fortune, runs the risk of becoming a Henry Darger, who’s landlord made a fortune selling his work to Madonna and the Museum of Modern Art after his death. He didn’t understand it was worth millions and he died penniless. Others quickly realized it’s unique value and profited.

Those who dream of fame and fortune from their creative work, or even a decent living, have to compete in the world. That means understanding the value of what you do and fighting to get paid fairly.

If you live in a valley where the only boss in town is an asshole mine owner, get the hell out of the valley. Yes, that means you might have to move away from your beloved home town, your close-knit family and the girl/boy next door. Yes, there’s no guarantee you’ll find a better job. But if you settle to work for lousy wages in the coal mine, you have no one to blame but yourself. It sucks that you happen to have been born into a poor mining town, but a lot of things suck in the world. Don’t blame the poor suckers that live next to you.

That’s why it’s dangerous to keep repeating this mantra that too many writers means writers will work for nothing. Some idiot bosses will take it to heart and think they can get away with paying little. And some good writers will believe it and think they don’t deserve to be paid. The best way to increase the value of all writers get is for good writers to demand more money. And for the employers of writers to learn that you get what you pay for, like in any other profession. Companies that don’t want to pay good hard working writers, and end up hiring bad or lazy ones, will go bankrupt quicker, which makes more room for the good companies to prosper and hire more good writers. What happens to all the bad writers? Well, in the long run they never would have been happy (or well paid) until they upped their game. So maybe this will be motivation for them to work on their craft and job seeking skills. Or move on to something else.

The only writers who don’t have to worry about how to make a living are the ones that were born rich, or became rich through other means. And guess what, you have to compete against them too. And you have to compete against those writers who happen to have been born with better connections that you to influential people in the publishing world. There are far more poor people than rich people, powerless people than powerful. It is very hard to move up from one social economic status to another. That fact of life plays a much bigger role in holding struggling writers back that the dreams of other struggling writers. The truth is that those desperate writers trying to climb up next to you are the best allies you have to get to the top.

Which is the other dangerous thing about the “two many writers” meme. In addition to trying to convince writers that they should devalue themselves, it works to convince writers to fight with each other rather than stand together to improve their lives.

Finally, at least for now, while it is obvious that smart businesses hire good people and pay well, it is often argued that creative workers are different from other workers because they will, at least sometimes, work for free. Some view writing as a hobby, and some will work free in hopes of a big payoff later. Both things are absolutely true. But neither of those are bad things, they are actually very good things, at least in self-publishing. Because not only is it not true that more writers means writers get paid less, but actually more writers means writers get paid more.

I’ll cover this in my next post.

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