This week, a Facebook group I’m on had a long discussion. It was prompted by somebody upset at all the no-pay publications calling for submissions from us hopeful authors jockeying for exposure — an upset which quickly morphed into upset with all those hopeful authors who were willing to do it, thereby driving costs down and turning writing from the opportunity for a lucrative career which it apparently once was into a buyers’ market.
There’s a lot of rage lately as the world turns into a buyers’ market. The rage starts out directed at the buyers, but if it’s a buyers’ market, by definition the buyers are in the power seat. Kristine Kathryn Rusch published a masterful takedown of the Authors United letter a while ago, pointing out that it was one long whine. The authors who wrote it had no leverage over the publishing industry at all. So if the buyers don’t care what you say, who will? Rage is diverted toward those nasty wanabees who get between you and the promised land, especially if they ruin the market by working for less, or for free.
But you know what? If you have no leverage to tell buyers to pay you more, you have even less influence over people who are willing to work for free. What are you going to do, stop paying them? Why in the world would somebody who likes writing give up doing it so prices for other people’s stories would go up? I don’t see this happening.
Yet I understand the fury from the other side as well, as my own employer pushes to get rid of costly full-time faculty and replace us with part-timers desperate to get a nose into the door at any price, turning college teaching from what used to be a stable middle-class career into a buyers’ market.
So what do those of us in, or wanting, desirable careers do? Are we doomed to be the pawns of buyers until pay for those careers drops so low that it makes them no longer desirable? Do those of us who are most invested in making a living at them have to raise artificial barriers to keep wanabees from flooding the market? Must we accept that for those of us who aren’t superstars, these are avocations you can only pursue if you have an independent income? Must we accept that the money really belongs to the buyers by right, and they deserve to rule?
It’s tough when there are 500 sellers per buyer. At least when those 500 sellers are busy scrambling over one another and pushing one another down; but I can’t help thinking there’s another way to look at it. 500 sellers outnumber one buyer, after all. Surely that’s worth something.