Friday, 17 December 2010

"I Give You Good Price!"

Curtis Brown Creative are beginning to sound like knock-off designer labels merchants flogging their wares. They want your money (and a lot of it), without giving you what you think you're paying for.

In another blog over at The Bookseller, Johnny Geller is trying to dispell criticisms of their decision to charge £1,600 for a three month writer development programme. In it he just reiterates everything said in their earlier post, without really adding anything new to the argument, except whining about how difficult it is for all involved in the publishing industry.

Here's my main gripe: of all those involved in publishing and the book trade, writers are those who have it the hardest. Writers earn less per year than agents and publishers, excluding the celebrity writers whose advances are disproportionate. So charging them to help them get onto the publishing ladder is like charging the homeless to access a homeless shelter.

Yes, these things need to be paid for. But why not get sponsors involved, or simply pay for it themselves? If they can't afford to run these kinds of courses, which in the long run will and should benefit them if run properly, then they shouldn't run them. These things should be seen as investments in the long run, and not an opportunity to make a quick buck from writers.

I'm seeing far too many organisations that should make their money selling books instead making their money selling services to authors.

The truth of the matter is, there are plenty of free writer development programmes out there. Most of them are funded by the public sector because they're recognised as an investment in talent and people, rather than as a profit-making exercise. If the commercial publishing sector wants to muscle in on this, they should recognise the same thing.

If there's no guarantee any of these writers will be represented by the agency, then there's little incentive for the agents involved to support the writers once this three month period is up. And then writers will be left with nothing but a hole in their bank balances. It all seems a little predatory to me.

Any writer who wants to enter has to submit a sample of writing, anyway. If this sample is good enough, surely the agent should be willing to represent them for free anyway, without taking £1,600 from them first? If it isn't good enough, then it's disingenuous to dangle the carrot of representation in front of the author if it's unlikely to ever be offered. But maybe I'm just an old romantic who likes to think writers should get paid for their work and shouldn't have to pay others for the privilege.

Rule of writing #1: Money flows to the writer.

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