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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Don't be fucking cheap: a rant

Do you want to leave literature in the hands of amateurs, poseurs, and lowest-common-denominator craphacks? If you're not buying new books that's what you're doing.

If readers don't spend money on new books, writers don't get paid. If you buy a second-hand book the creator of the work gets nothing--that's zero, 0, to you mathematically challenged people--from that transaction. If you are the 20th person to borrow a book from your local library, the creator of that work (at least in the US) gets nothing.

If writers are not getting paid, they get jobs. If a writer gets a job, she is tired; she has no time. The quality of her work falls, or her productivity. Or both. Oh, she'll still write, because she has to, but it means fewer good books for you. Poseurs with trust funds, neurotics who write achingly boring urban angst in the second person from the POV of a fork, will still write--because it's that or admit they're parasites. Blockbuster craphacks (the ones who wouldn't know a believable character if it broke their nose and tore their ears off, who write dumbed-down fiction for people who read one book a year because it's all the rage) will still write because there are plenty of inexperienced readers who don't know any better who will buy their books.

Is that what you want? Cynical crap? Etiolated angsty crap? Inexperienced people's crap? No? Then buy a new book. Buy one every month.

Oh, I hear you whinge, times are tough, I can't afford new books. Bullshit. It's likely you're just choosing not to.

  • If you have bought steak or sashimi in the last month, you can afford to buy a book.
  • If you have cable, you can afford to buy a book.
  • If you drive a car less than three years old, you can afford to buy a book.
  • If you have seen a movie at the theatre in the last month, you can afford to buy a book.
  • If you have a NetFlix subscription, you can afford to buy a book.
  • If you have bought clothes, other than underwear or something for a job interview, you can afford to buy a book.
  • If you have a mobile and a landline, you can afford to buy a book.
  • If you pay for broadband, you can afford to buy a new book.
  • If you go to Starbucks or any other fancy coffeeshop more than once a month, you can afford to buy a new book.
  • If you generally buy local-grown organic vegetables or free-range eggs or reared-without-hormones-and-antibiotics meat, you can afford to buy a new book.
  • If you can run the heating or air conditioning when you want, you can afford to buy a new book.
Erasmus said something like: when I have a little money, I buy books; if I have something left over, I buy food. Books help us learn who we are, who we want to be. Books help maintain our culture. Books matter. Writers of books should get paid. But most of you are not paying, or at least not paying the right people. You're buying used books*, borrowing books from the library**, making excuses. I spit upon your excuses. My guess is that 99% of people who read this post can afford to buy a new book--hardcover, ebook, trade paper, mass market--once a month. I don't give a shit about the format; I just want a writer, somewhere, to get paid.

Writing novels well is hard. The books you fall in love with, the ones you fall into, are not written by amateurs, poseurs, or cynical craphacks. They are written by experts who love what they do and get paid for it. You don't become an expert until you've written a lot. You don't get to write a lot, and polish your work to a glow, if you don't get paid for it.

So don't be fucking cheap. Go buy a book. A new one.

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* I love used bookstores. By all means, use them for out of print or barely-read blockbusters. But if you can afford it, go buy new, too.
** I love libraries. I couldn't survive without them. By all means, use them for research (academic books are obscenely expensive--not affordable at all for most people), for out of print, for blockbuster, for new-to-you books. But then, if you can afford it, go buy new, too.

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