Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Friday, May 13, 2016

Deserve's Got Nothing to Do With It

It's exhausting most days to be an adult.

I don't want to get up five days a week and drive to an office where I'm shut up in a cubicle for eight hours trying to teach idiots how to use spreadsheets and arithmetic.

But I do.  Because I like to eat.

And I don't like to pay bills.  Or mow the lawn.  Or sit at condo meetings.  Or be the fucking condo president.

But I do.  Because I like having a roof over my head and electricity.

What would I rather do?  Well, you can probably guess if you're reading this.  All you need to do is take a glance up at my header.  I'd rather write about zombies and clones and wacky adventures.  I'd rather network all day with famous people and schmooze all night with my fans.

But, see, I don't make money doing that.  Or rather, I make a little money doing that.  But not enough to pay for my house and my car and my groceries and hot and cold running water.

Does that mean I'm a shitty writer?  Well, no, not really.  Not to toot my own horn, but I'm actually a pretty good writer.  Hundreds of independent, unpaid reviewers have publicly stated that my stuff is, you know, pretty good.  There are some who think I'm shit.  Okay, good on 'em.  Different strokes for different folks and all that.  The point is not that I'm universally acclaimed, it's just that I'm not deluding myself.  The public's not exactly beating down doors to get my stuff, but when I can shove it by hook or by crook into their hands, they think it's pretty good.

So where does that leave me?  Well, it doesn't leave me with any more money, that's for damn sure.  And it doesn't leave me quitting my day job any time soon.  Maybe some day, after years of hard work paying my dues, I'll be able to quit the day job.  For some authors (most authors, I'd venture to guess) that day never comes.  Okay.

So what does that make me?  Well, it makes me an amateur.  Or, if you're finicky about terms (and, Jesus Christ, what writer isn't finicky about terms) it makes me a minor league ball player.  I'm not selling out Nationals Park, but I can half fill City Island for the Nationals farm team in a pinch.

So where am I going with all this?  Well, I'm going to say some shit that people won't want to hear.  But I'm just exhausted not saying it.  Every day my Facebook feed is filled to brimming with artists, both amateur and professional, complaining about how people don't pay them enough.  How some people even have the gall (gasp!) to ask artists to work for free.  And you wouldn't ask your doctor or your plumber to work for free, would youWould you?!?!?!?

Yeah, well, guess what, kids?  My doctor went to medical school for eight years.  My plumber is bonded.  Hell, it took me a college degree and ten years of experience under my belt to get where I am in my day job.

But you know what?  That's all basically irrelevant.  Because social workers need a fuckton of schooling and they get paid shit.  And teachers need degrees, not to mention patience and a whole host of soft skills, and they basically get kicked around like soccer balls.  And being a janitor is really fucking hard, backbreaking work that you do all fucking day and you get paid peanuts.

You see, my darlings, what is important in this lovely capitalist system of ours is not how you value your own time or effort.  Rather, it is how much people are willing to pay you for your labor.  Now my various bosses have evaluated my eight hours a day in the cubicle at a certain figure which is sufficient for me to pay my bills.  Yours may pay you $7.25 an hour.  Fuck, yours may pay you a 6-figure salary.

This is not complicated stuff.  Capitalism ain't fair.  It has to do with supply and demand.  Now, when it comes to art, the demand at present is not for me.  Nobody is going, "I have $6!  Give me an unknown novel by an unknown author!  I demand to be surprised about whether I will enjoy this reading experience or not!"

Nope.  They, like you (if you're honest with yourself) are mostly saying, "I have $6.  Give me another James Patterson novel.  He didn't disappoint me last time and he won't this time."

Now does that mean I am just as deserving of money as James Patterson?  I dunno, maybe.  I'm probably about as good as he is when it comes to pure craft.  In terms of pure craft I know I'm better than Dan Brown and quite a few other major leaguers.  But I can't just complain my way into an audience, or be upset that they found audiences and I didn't.

As a wiser man than me once said, "Deserve's got nothing to do with it."

So please, for God's sake, will you shut up about how much your time is worth?  Your time is worth precisely bullshit until people are willing to pay for it.  Maybe if you spent less time complaining about how you won't work for exposure, and more time getting yourself some goddamned exposure, the value of your work would go up.

I know this isn't going to stop the deluge of memes on my FB feed.  Because I'm friends with a lot of artists.  And if there's two things that artists can agree on it's that:

1.)  being paid in exposure is bullshit
2.)  not having enough exposure sucks

Maybe one day someone, Batman perhaps, will come along and deliver some kind of equitable solution for this Gordian Knot of a fucking puzzle.  But until then I'll just be working all day to pay my bills and working all night in the hopes my dream will come true.

P.S.  If Batman does swing by one day to solve the exposure conundrum, can someone please stop by my cubicle and let me know?


  1. I like this piece. I honestly don't get the complaints about not getting paid for your writing, or those who take issue with giving away free books. Traditionally published writers do it all the time. Why wouldn't indie writers? I met Arthur Golden at a promo party for the film of "Memoirs of a Geisha" and I told him how much I loved his book and wished I had brought my copy for him to sign. Within an hour, he had found me again and handed me a lovely hardcover with a personal note inside. Class act, right? Free books equate to exposure, and how can exposure not have financial value? Especially in the Internet age? I like this from Ray Bradbury: "The first year I made nothing, the second year I made nothing, the third year I made 10 dollars, the fourth year I made 40 dollars. I remember these. I got these indelibly stamped in there. The fifth year I made 80. The sixth year I made 200. The seventh year I made 800. Eighth year, 1,200. Ninth year, 2,000. Tenth year, 4,000. Eleventh year, 8,000 …" Hence, it takes time. Write because you can't not write.

    1. So true. Although I didn't make $10 last year. But it's aspirational. :D

    2. I bought "Braineater Jones" for $5.99 to give to a friend, so the BIG bucks are coming this year. ;)

  2. I'm happy to read this if for no other reason than a blog post I read recently by a publisher denigrating putting your books in the 'dollar bin'. I disagreed with it at the time, but wondered if it was a personal bias.

    I am a huge proponent of making books available through libraries, which obviously gets you paid once with the hope of exposure, and I'm all for it.

    It's a tricky field to be in if your goal is to get rich. But then again, if that were my goal, I would most likely be in a job that left little time or energy for ANYTHING other than getting rich. I'm very happy to be a poor-ish unknown, making art I like and using my art as a means to become a better human.

    Besides, that way they can extoll my virtues when I die, rather than fighting over my millions. 😃

    1. *extol* darn trifocals! 🤓

    2. I agree. Libraries, too, are incredible exposure, and what indie wouldn't wish to be in a library catalogue, whether they give their books away or are bought for an infinitesimal price?

      And with this I agree wholeheartedly: "I'm very happy to be a poor-ish unknown, making art I like and using my art as a means to become a better human."

      Virtues versus millions. Ha! Yes. You can't take it with you, but it seems one should rather leave behind the former than the latter. I've seen people fight over monetary inheritance, never virtues. :)

    3. Thanks for the comment, Stillphoenix! People are very fierce about not degrading the value of art - not putting it in the dollar bin, as you say. But I've never felt that pricing your art to the point where only your friends and family will buy it is the solution. I mean, I don't like being poor and unknown but I can at least accept that my work only has the value people are willing to pay for it. Otherwise they'll just buy something else. It's not like there aren't options. So why make a fuss about people who will pay $5 for a cup of coffee but not for your book? They wanted the cup of coffee and they didn't want your book. All one man's opinion, anyway.


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