To Charge or Not: A Pagan Author's View on Fees
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Article ID: 10870
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Lupa [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: August 13th. 2006
Times Viewed: 4,939
Ever since I got involved in Pagan ways a decade or so ago, one of the hottest debates has been whether or not to charge for services such as classes or readings. On the one side are those who claim that charging money takes away from the sanctity of the action, that charging money turns the action into nothing more than a commodity, and/or that charging is more or less unethical. The opposing viewpoint states that one’s time, effort, learning, and energy are worth money and that these skills are just as valid a way of making a living as carpentry or artistry.
I’ve always been in the latter group, but no more have I understood why until I started on my career as a Pagan author. It really opened my eyes to the reality of the Pagan-specific market and why some people do charge for what others think should be a free service.
Let’s start with books. For my first book, I put in several hundred hours of my free time, writing the rough draft, editing it, looking for a reliable publisher, editing it more, getting artwork together for it, editing even more—not to mention the several hundred dollars I had to save up to buy my first 30 copies. (Contrary to popular belief, which shall henceforth be abbreviated “CTPB” because I’ll be using the phrase a lot, most Pagan authors don’t get advances.)
Then add in promotion. CTPB, Pagan publishers generally don’t offer much in promotion other than a place in the catalog and an occasional ad featuring usually their tried-and-true cash cows. Plus smaller publishers just don’t have the advertising budget. So it’s up to me, as the author, to buy ads, send out flyers (and sometimes catalogs) to retailers, and otherwise talk my book up to get word out there that it exists. That, too, takes a lot of time. There are a lot of places where I’m free to announce my latest book, but I have to write the promotional material and then get it in place. In addition, a lot of us write articles for magazines and Web sites on the side (just like this one), and that takes time and doesn’t always pay.
Keep in mind, too, that workshops are information, just like books. You don't buy a book just for the paper, do you? And you can't ask a book a question, whereas most authors are more than happy to talk shop after a workshop. A lot of us respond to your e-mails and letters, too—it may take a bit of time, depending on how popular the author is, but we get there eventually!
Now to dispel another common myth: CTPB, very, very few authors, Pagan or otherwise, make enough money off our books to make a living. The average author gets about 10 percent in royalties. On a book that costs $15.00, that’s $1.50 maximum. If you buy from the author hirself, consider that s/he probably paid 60 to 70 percent of the cover price, which still means a gain of about $3.00, minus shipping costs if the publisher doesn’t cover it. Some publishers reportedly make authors pay for books that are received damaged or even lost, which means more cost to eat. Except for really good sellers year after year, most books only sell a couple hundred copies a year at most, and the numbers go down each year, especially once used copies start into circulation. So feel free to do the math.
Some authors try to make up the difference by presenting workshops at Pagan gatherings and bookstores. Very few gatherings can offer their presenters more than a free admission; it’s a rare one that can help pay for travel expenses, let alone travel, lodging and food. So that comes out of the author’s pocket. As for shops: again, the author, not the shop, usually covers travel, lodging and food.
Most presenters at gatherings don’t charge for workshops; they’re considered paid for by general admission. As for shops, most of them take 20 to 30 percent as a fee for allowing the author to use their space for workshops. Most are pretty good about letting the author bring hir own books, but you’ll get an occasional shop that will allow only books in hir inventory to be sold, which means all the author gets is the 10–20 percent royalties. Some shops also have in-house readers and won’t let visiting authors give readings of their own.
To make a living off of books and classes, an author basically has to be on the road year-round and spend enormous amounts of time self-promoting. A few lucky ones have significant others who can help support them, but the vast majority of us work part-time or full-time day jobs, which can cause scheduling conflicts if the job is on weekends. Taylor and I both work 40 hours a week jobs; most of the money we get on books and workshops goes right back into more books and workshops and all the promotion that’s required. There is just no way to make the rent, the car payment, and all the other bills for two people on a few thousand dollars a year.
Some authors will blame the Pagan community for being too cheap. I don’t. It’s the nature of the beast: Pagan books are a niche market with a limited audience. Even more mainstream authors can’t make a living off their writing. And add in that not every Pagan is going to want to read my books. How can I expect to be any different with a much smaller group of people to sell to?
But you know why I do it, despite the fact that I don’t make much off of it? Because I enjoy it immensely. Whether I’m putting together catalogs for the small publisher I work with on a purely volunteer basis, traveling to a new place to present to a whole new group of people, or doing just one more edit on that manuscript, I’m having the time of my life. Sure, I’d love to be able to quit my day job and do this all the time, but it just isn’t possible. And that’s okay. If I can cover my basic expenses from this career—even on the travel, lodging, and food—then it’s all good. And that’s why I charge: so I can keep doing this thing that I love.
Copyright: Repost long as you say it's Lupa's and give a link to this page.
Location: Portland, Oregon
Author's Profile: To learn more about Lupa - Click HERE
Bio: Lupa is a twenty-something experimental magician and animistic pagan living in Seattle with her partner and fellow author, Taylor Ellwood. She is the author of "Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone: A Primal Guide to Animal Magic" (Immanion Press: 2006) and spend her free time creating artwork, gardening, and being owned by a grey and white tabby cat.
Other Articles: Lupa has posted 25 additional articles- View them?
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