Read for Free: Nothing is Free

Not surprisingly, in this day and age, I found all four of my books today on a site where, for a monthly fee, readers can read my books 'for free.'  I have never uploaded my books to this site.  There is no money coming to me from this site.  I have sent them a request to remove them.  But the sad truth, in this day and age, is that thousands of books are being read on these and similar sites, without authors' permission or knowledge, and the sites themselves are earning money off these authors without any compensation to these authors.

Writing a book takes a great deal of time and money.

For me, I spend hundreds of hours on each book: on writing, editing, researching, cover design, and formatting for both print and electronic editions.  I have frequently spent months at a time working--writing, teaching music lessons, taking care of home and children--from shortly after 6 in the morning until 1 the next morning, and then getting up 5 hours later to start again, because this is what it takes to make a book happen.

The time it takes to write historical fiction includes research.  I can spend two days finding obscure answers to a single question, to make sure a statement on one page of my book is historically accurate.  Thankfully, it rarely takes that much time for a single fact, but certainly research consumes entire days.

I have spent countless hours in Half Price Books and on book sites online searching for reference books on Scotland and medieval history.  A book specifically on James Douglas, for instance, is not easy to get.  But when you read of Shawn raiding with James Douglas, you are reading history as it happened (apart from that little detail of Shawn and his time slip), because I have taken hours of my life to find those rare books and research the exact paths that James Douglas took on his raids.

I have flown to Scotland five times now, four of those for research trips.

These things all cost money, too.  Every time I go to Scotland, I lose income from my teaching job, if I can't make up those lessons.  When I go to book fairs, I lose my teaching income for the day.

And of course, there's a cash layout.  It costs over two thousand dollars for each trip, in addition to lost income.

I have spent hundreds of dollars on my research books, having a library of probably around 200 or more books, at this point, on the topics I study to keep my writing as historically accurate as possible.  Books on James Douglas, the Bruce, medieval Scotland, medieval Britain, everyday life in medieval times, Nigel Tranter's fascinating book on how the topography of Scotland is different today than in Bruce's day (yes, I not only visited Bannockburn and walked all over the town to the various potential locations of the battlefield, I also know how what I saw differs from what Bruce knew); books on the weather of the early 1300s (yes, such books exist, and what Niall experiences in 1315 to 1317 is exactly what was happening--none of it is made up.)

This doesn't even begin to count my vast collection of music, Scottish music, medieval music, and books on music history, or the instruments I own (and play) such that I know full well what it is for Niall to sit at a harp and play a piece of medieval music.

I do a great deal of my own work, but I also pay my editor.  I have done some of my own photography for my book covers, but I also have paid royalties for some of the photography I've used.  And even for my own photography, there's the expense of the camera and--once again--the trips I took in order to take those pictures myself.  (In my case, the camera was a gift.  Nonetheless, these things are all paid for by someone.)

I have also paid for publicity and for one of my book trailers.  I pay fees for my website hosting.  I currently pay a publicist who is working to open more doors for me.

I am currently compiling a collection of recipes for foods eaten in The Blue Bells Chronicles (tentatively titled Food and Feast in the World of the Blue Bells Chronicles.)  For this, I and a number of my friends are spending money buying food specifically to test these recipes.  In some cases, the ingredients are a little exotic, and in many, simply things that are pricier than I'd normally buy.  It all costs money to make these things happen.

If I were to add up what has been spent to make these books happen, it is in the tens of thousands of dollars.  My time--thousands of hours over the last 12 years of writing the series--is of course uncompensated except for book sales.

And the cost of those books?  For an e-book, just under $6.00. A couple of dollars more than a latte, and it lasts much longer and can be read again and again.  Far less than going to a movie theater, and you can hardly get a meal at MacDonald's for that.  Books become like friends; they leave us with memories, people we've come to know and love, and lessons learned.  They can leave us better than we were, with deeper insight, knowledge, or wisdom.  Books have great value.

It's true I write for love.  However, I also put a great deal of time and money into it, and as a single mother of 9, six of whom live at home, it actually does make the difference on how I'm able to care for my children.  My children are in no danger of going hungry, but neither is it a simple matter to do the very necessary repairs on my kitchen (for instance). Might those repairs have been more easily and quickly done, had these sites not been giving away the books I've devoted so much time and money to creating?

Nobody else expects to do their work, no matter how much they love it, for free.  And the fact is, if my income from writing disappears entirely, it would require me to take on a full-time job, and I would no longer have the time to write.

I think it's easy for all of us to not think about these things in the moment of seeing a free book or free music online.  I suspect I could make a full-time job of finding sites that have uploaded my books and are actually making money off my work--as could most other authors.

For the moment, I'm asking that we all remember how much work and money goes into creating the art that makes our lives better and brighter, and refuse to patronize these sites, unless we know for sure that the authors and musicians are being compensated for the time and expense they have put into making those books and music part of our lives.  Let's please appreciate how much really goes into creating books and music.

My books are available legally at amazon, barnes and noble, smashwords, and createspace.


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