Home » Non-US, The Business of Writing » Authors suffer from bargaining ‘imbalance’ says SoA

Authors suffer from bargaining ‘imbalance’ says SoA

20 July 2017

From The Bookseller:

The Society of Authors has welcomed the Creative Freelancers report, issued this week by the Creative Industries Federation (CIF), saying several of its recommendations will “chime very strongly” with members who are often “left out in the cold” in comparison with their publishing counterparts, despite being a “lynchpin” of the creative industries. However, the trade body called it “a real shame” that poor industry practices were not wholly addressed by the investigation.

The SoA praised the CIF’s call for better representation for freelancers at government level, its suggestion of a one-stop shop for support and advice for freelances, and its request for short-term relief grants for the self-employed. However, it was disappointed the recommendations didn’t go far enough to tackle issues such as late payment of freelancers, unpaid work or address “rights grabs”, where freelances are asked to sign over all their IP rights.

. . . .

“…Creative freelances suffer from lack of bargaining and negotiating power against those who use their services, often resulting in unequal deals. As well as legislation we would suggest encouragement of collective negotiations to provide codes of practice and minimum terms to protect all freelances and ensure that they are fairly rewarded, properly credited, that they can share in the success of their work and reclaim rights that are not being exploited.”

. . . .

She added she would like to see the department look at issues in the value chain because creators were not being “sufficiently rewarded” for their input.

“With average author earnings estimated at £12,500, we agree that a benefits system that is fit for freelancers is vital,” said Solomon. “Government urgently needs to find ways to adapt existing systems, such as Universal Credit, to work more sensitively for self-employed earners with uncertain incomes.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Non-US, The Business of Writing

15 Comments to “Authors suffer from bargaining ‘imbalance’ says SoA”

  1. The problem here is universal literacy. If fewer people could write, then the skills of those who could would be in higher demand and could command higher compensation.

    • LOL.

      Of course, that means they probably can’t read either so there goes our customers, but I like your spirit! 😀

    • I think it’s more of a perceived value problem. People think that because they know how to write sentences, or at least they think they do, then someone who can write a compelling, engaging story is not such a big deal because aren’t they just writing words down? Anyone can do that.

      And most people never actually make a solid attempt to do so themselves. If they did, they might learn that really not everyone can do it, and perceived value might go up. But people are lazy and would rather think that because they can technically perform the most basic function of an activity, they can do that activity and therefore other people who can do it are no big thing. It’s like thinking that because you know how to put one foot in front of the other quickly, people who compete in running at the Olympics are not really that big a deal.

      • And most people never actually make a solid attempt to do so themselves. If they did, they might learn that really not everyone can do it, and perceived value might go up.

        Value is the benefit I realize from a good. Price is the amount of money I pay to get that value. I maximize one, while minimizing the other.

        Most people never actually make a solid attempt to design computer chips, and they are still delighted to see prices for ever more powerful devices fall.

        The creativity in the machines we use to post here dwarfs the creativity of any book.

        Folks who call themselves creatives tend to minimize the creativity all around them. They aren’t as special as they think they are.

        • Designing a computer chip is a technical skill that can be learned through a formal educational process.

          Real art of any kind requires the artist be possessed of genuine creative imagination; which can’t be learned or purchased. You either have it or you don’t, or, as Steve Martin joked, “Some people have a way with words, others not have.”

          Most people know they can’t be doctors or lawyers or computer scientists because they lack the specialized training required, but as Shawna said, everyone can sit down at a keyboard and put one word in front of another; that’s all they think there is to writing. Therefore, they don’t value books the way they value an electronic device or the services of a professinal whose skillset is beyond their abilities.

  2. It’s kinda interesting that pretty much all of the solutions they propose involve more government intervention, and more government taking money from the taxpayers by force and giving it to the state-supported artists after taking their cut in the middle. And then note that the taking from taxpayers (who artists are, after all) is a giant burden for freelancers.

    Exactly the opposite of what Amazon & Apple & Kobo have done, which is to remove all the middlemen and let authors keep all the money the middlemen were making, and make deals with the other freelancers like editors and cover artists that are open, fair, and not unequal at all.

    …and I note which one has actually worked to bring money and happiness to artists and readers alike.

    • Yep yep. Not to mention, if the state subsidized artists, the overall quality of art would go down because artists would no longer be forced to improve their skills in order to succeed/survive, and it would be even harder for customers to find the good stuff amongst all the dreck.

      • Yes. When I lived in the UK, we used to avoid Lottery-funded movies because we’d figured out that most of them were just people giving money to their mates to make a movie that no-one wanted to fund on its merits.

        I believe the government have cleaned that up somewhat since I emigrated, but people I knew there said they tried to get funding in the late 90s or early 2000s and were essentially told ‘no, we can’t fund your movie because it’s commercially viable.’

      • The number of creatives, artists, or whatever they are would explode. That average of 12,500 pounds would draw thousands of new artists if the government paid it out.

        Taxpayers don’t want the artist’s goods. If they did, there wouldn’t be a problem.

  3. “Authors suffer from bargaining ‘imbalance’ says SoA”

    When have they ever not? 😛

    Actually, with internet writers the ability to reach the readers without all the trad-pub hurdles. Writers are better off now than they ever have been.

    • Felix J. Torres

      …assuming they are willing to take control.
      Not everybody is willing.

    • What bargaining imbalance? All an author ever has to do to take control over any bargaining session is grow a backbone and learn how to use the word “No.”

      When another party wants something, the word “No” is very powerful. If the other party doesn’t want something, you are better off not giving it to them in the first place.

      • You missed it.

        “All an author ever has to do to take control over any bargaining session is grow a backbone and learn how to use the word “No.””

        It does the author no good just to say ‘no’ – not unless they can count on every other author to say no as well. (Which is why we have that race to the bottom thingy.)

        And it’s harder to say ‘no’ when you know they have a slush pile of hundreds if not thousands to find another story – one in which the other guy/gal will thing the offer is enough (because they are hungrier than you were.)

        It all boils down to how ‘hungry’ you are. Take their offer or go hungry used to be your only options. With the internet and places like Amazon you can now try your luck without the gatekeepers (though you may still go hungry …)

        • Felix J. Torres

          Is traditional publishing the only path to market?

          Once upon a time, walking away from a one-sided publishing contract meant walking away from the market. Those days ended eight years ago.

          As long as you are willing to bet on yourself, saying “No, that doesn’t work for me.” is a viable answer. Lots of authors are actually doing just that. And surviving.

          Have you noticed how often tradpubs are complaining about the quality of the manuscripts they are seeing tgese eays? Key word: seeing. A lot of the best material is bypassing the query go round. Obviously not everybody, but enough to make an impact.

      • The party who can respond to “No” with, “OK, Next!” has the upper hand.

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