Showing posts with label careers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label careers. Show all posts

Thursday, 7 January 2021

What fresh hell is this? The B-word and creative freelancers by Dawn Finch

I have always held the opinion that it's probably best not to express too many opinions. This means that I have usually opted to not say anything at all about Brexit preferring to wait for people to tell me just one positive fact about it (still waiting, by the way...). Facts - love those, but like all of us, I'm drowning in opinions right now and those are not always the same as facts.

Most of us are already feeling the negative impact of changes that restrict our freedom of movement and impede our ability to see Europe as our wider work-space, but for most of us, we simply feel so overwhelmed by the whole thing that it just feels like a massive dog-pile of opinions. Picking the facts out of this dog-pile is becoming increasingly difficult and it is with great relief that I read the latest piece from the Society of Authors. I say "relief" but I should stress that's not relief about the content, but about the fact that the details her are at least clear and understandable.

The end to Freedom of Movement means that many creatives will have to negotiate complicated visa and work permit regimes before travelling to EU27 countries and we'll all need to be aware of the extent of any potentially varying exclusions that may apply to us. Authors travelling to an EU country for research or work should remember from now on to check with the UK consular office or embassy, and this is not always going to be as simple as it sounds. There is a significant risk of backlogs, and of paperwork delays as even the embassies try to set into place how this will all work.

Some things are clear, such as the fact that we should still be able to work in France for up to 90 days without a visa, but we will need a work permit. Sadly the details for other countries are still up in the air and awaiting conditions based on reciprocal arrangements that have yet to be agreed.

There is, of course, a huge amount of confusion and uncertainty about the emerging rules, but what is clear to the Society of Authors is that it will "present a costly and complex barrier to thousands of freelancers working in the creative industries". The Society draws attention to a petition calling for a Visa-free work permit for touring creative professionals that has already gained well over 200,000 signatures.

I would strongly recommend reading the Society of Authors' article and following them on social media for regularly updated information. With so many opinions flying around it is refreshing to have a source of information tailored to my needs as a freelance creative European.

Access the latest news from the Society of Authors via their website, and the article referred to in this piece can be found here.

Dawn Finch is an author and information professional.


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

How much do you earn? by Dawn Finch

Recently I did a brave thing - I made the decision to take one of my books out of print and take back the rights to it. I did this for one very good reason; I hadn't made any money out of it. The book had been in print with a mainstream publisher for almost four years and in that time I had seen just about enough to buy a sandwich and a cup of tea. I've made far more money with this book from PLR and the loans via the public library system than I've made from sales.

I'm jumping to the end of the story... so let's go back to the start. This all started with a sunny room and an excited handshake and a whole bunch of promises and assurances and a glass of champagne. I was going to be the next BIG THING! My book was going to be EVERYWHERE! I was so excited that I could hardly stand it. Publication day came and there it was on the shelves in Waterstones and other bookshops and I had great reviews and everyone loved it and.....well.... nothing.

Of course experience has now taught me that the fizz of publication day lasts about as long as the bubbles in that glass of champagne. My publisher quickly (immediately) moved on to the next book and the next BIG THING and there was no marketing budget, no merchandising, no tour or support. I was forgotten. I learnt to deal with going into bookstores and not finding my book, and to not getting replies from my publisher.

I soon worked out that I would have to pitch my own book and do my own marketing, something that I still find depressing and demoralising. I flogged myself half to death trying to sell the book myself, and did pretty well. I kept the numbers good on Amazon, built my own website and acted as my own publicity and marketing person. Of course this meant that I didn't have much time left to write the sequel or do any other writing, but that didn't matter much when my publisher told me they didn't want a sequel because the first book hadn't done as well as they hoped.

Great. I wasn't exactly surprised that I hadn't achieved the sales required for them to take my sequel because finding my book in a bookstore was about as likely as finding Lord Lucan on Britain's Got Murderous Talent. I was surprised that it sold anything at all seeing as it had zero marketing and wasn't sold anywhere outside Amazon.

So, skip to today and I made the decision to ask for the rights back and to put it out via an indie publisher. I don't know if I'll make any money out of it, but I'm pretty sure I'll get replies to my emails and I get to work with someone who doesn't make me feel like I'm a desperate saddo. Thankfully my non-fiction books sell well and are used in most primary schools in the country, and that has kept me going. If it wasn't for my wonderful non-fic publishers I think I would have given up completely.

I'm not alone. I really wish I was but I'm not. Time and time again I hear about brilliant books that have had no marketing push and, after an initial flurry, they slide into obscurity without the attention they deserve. I also see poorly written books given vast sums of marketing and publicity money that they clearly don't deserve. This is obviously to recoup some of the massive advances that some "authors" are being given.

The imbalance is shameful, and it is now damaging the mainstream publishing world so much that I am not sure it can ever recover. There is a popular misconception that celeb "authors" sell so many books that they prop up the publishing world and feed money back into the system allowing publishers to take a chance on new and lesser known names. I simply don't believe this as there is no way some most of these titles are earning out those huge advances, and when new authors are given that illusive "chance", they are not marketed with anywhere near the push that the celebs get. Of course we don't know this for sure because publishers will not share these figures.

This month two of the biggest English language trade publishers have seen substantial increases in their profit margins. Simon & Schuster's profit margin has risen from of 9% in 2008 to 16% in 2016. Penguin and Random House have almost doubled their profit margin to 16% since they merged. In 2016 the publishing industry turnover was in the region of £5.1 billion, of which sales of books generated 69% of that total. Despite these huge figures, writers and illustrators only received around 3% of that turnover.

The Society of Authors is challenging publishers to be more transparent about the details of contracts and to be more open about how much they are paying authors. Nicola Solomon, SoA Chief Executive, wrote a powerful piece in The Bookseller speaking up for the rights of writers and illustrators, and for fairer deals. Philip Pullman has joined the chorus of people demanding change.

The Author's Licensing and Collecting Society publish data on author's earnings every year, and these reports make chilling reading with the average income for authors hovering around the £11k mark. For comparison, a job as a junior publicity assistant in a mainstream publisher will earn you somewhere in the region of £18 - £20k. With figures like that it's amazing any of us can survive. ALCS are currently gathering data on author's income for their next survey, and I strongly recommend you fill out the survey before Friday 9th March 2018.

As book-buyers we should demand new titles from booksellers, and pay a fair amount for them to support authors. We all say we love a bit of Fairtrade, but it's amazing how many people are prepared to pay more for a sandwich than they'd pay for a book. Author and illustrator James Mayhew has written eloquently on the importance of fair dealing for authors, and this is such an important point.

As an author, I want fairer deals for writers and illustrators too, and I want publishers to expand their reach, but I also want this as a librarian. I want books of all type and genres, not just big names and big sellers. I want books for readers that are challenging, unusual, quirky, and demanding. When I go shopping for food I don't just want the same food every day, I want new tastes and flavours. As I browse supermarkets I see new things that I've never tried and I take a risk. I want to take a risk with books too and so do many readers. If publishers constantly lean towards what is a safe seller, we are all denied something new and exciting.

What of the future? I hope that publishers will look at their figures and offer fairer deals and contracts and the balance will be redressed, but that would take a radical rethink of the way they work. In the meantime I suspect that for many the best way forward is with smaller independent publishers who are more prepared to take a risk, and to share the profits more equally. These publishers are already making great inroads into the world of booksellers, and we are seeing many of these books appear on award listings. Independent publishers are out there taking risks and publishing exciting new titles that have often been shunned by mainstreams. Personally, I look to the indies now when I want something different, and I suspect that will not change for the foreseeable future.

Good! Let's give the Big Boys a run for their money and maybe we - both authors and book buyers - can make them realise that the times they are a changin' and we're slowly taking back control. If we don't, all we have to look forward to is a stagnant market flooded with safe-sellers, and a world where only the already wealthy can afford to be authors and illustrators. That fills me with dread.

Dawn Finch is a children's author and librarian, and member of the Society of Author's Children's Writers and Illustrators Committee (CWIG)