Paying Writers, Artists, and Musicians Last: Why How You Shop for Media Makes a Difference

Great Succession Crisis cover

It is thrilling to see my book on What an accomplishment, a life dream. It's something most people want to do and never get around to. Reviews of my "Great Succession Crisis" have been stellar; the people who know about it and have read it all love it! So I should be on my road towards getting paid and paying back my production expenses (image licensing fees, web hosting, printing, etc) right?

Well...not really, as I discovered this morning imputing my expenses and income (including income earned from freelance articles) into Excel. Despite selling my book offered by numerous online retailers, I have yet to receive a single royalty check from the sales of my book. Brick and mortar book stores don't have it; as I learned in my efforts to get my book on the shelves of the local "Books a Million" store (a location very interested in featuring local authors) and at the Lincoln, Nebraska (my hometown) Barnes and Noble, the rules chain bookstores play by make it price and logistically impossible for an independent author to get shelf space -- only the biggest names can get space there.

So independent authors, musicians, and artists like me must rely on the internet to sell our work. The problem is that not all online retailers are created equal.

What most people don't realize about the media industry is that the creator of a work is paid LAST in a long line of retailers, distributors, and media factories. First to get paid are the factories that physically make the product you see on the shelf -- from presses to CD/DVD duplicators and beyond -- or, as is the case with digital media, the website that converts a creator's files into the finished product offered online. These files are themselves created by not just the primary artist, but a team of support personnel like formatters, mixers, editors, and so forth. These producers all get paid immediately.

Next to be paid are the distributors who readily require from 30% to 50% of the purchase price for their fees -- out of what remains from the initial production runs. Last, the retailers all take their cut of somewhere between 20% and 40% of the retail price.

ONLY after all of these people have been paid will the actual creator of a work receive any money -- which readily equals just 2% or less of the purchase price.

So how can you, the consumer, make a difference for the writers, musicians, artists, and other creators of the works you enjoy?

The answer makes perfect economic sense: buy as direct as you can from the creator herself or himself.

The most direct sources for media are SmashWords (E-books), CreateSpace (print books, CDs, DVDs), (CreateSpace is an Amazon company and therefore directly distributes through them), and related independent production platforms (varies by media type). Less often, artists also sell their work directly to consumers through and Alibris, though consumers should read these listings carefully as the vast majority of offerings on these channels are NOT by the artists and, more often than not, offer works obtained through the least direct sources and therefore the smallest royalty payments.

Frustrated by a system designed to keep the public ignorant of the existence of my work, I've decided to use both E-Bay and Alibris to sell my books. Shoppers on these sites should look for me as "peersofbeinan" as the seller name on both sites.

But as an artist who really believes in the quality and marketability of her work, I strongly prefer SmashWords, CreateSpace, and Amazon. These are the places where you, the consumer, are paying for the actual work -- not an endless stream of folks who sell, but do not create, the media you love.

These retailers help all independent artists, regardless of the media. Please shop there and put as much of the purchase price as possible in the gifted hands whose work make your life a little brighter.


Laurel A. Rockefeller, author

The Great Succession Crisis

E-Book ISBN: 9781476243344
Print book ISBN: 978-1479144808