I Hurt Harlan Ellison

Remember way back when Brandon and I had some back-and-forth about how you can tell how good a writer is by how much he gets paid? Watch the video for another view on the topic. Warning: There is some language.

Apparently Ellison and Jack Vance agree. This doesn’t surprise me terribly much.

One thought in particular hit me though: I’m putting up plenty of fiction for free. I just posted thirty days straight of free fiction. Am I hurting Harlan Ellison? Am I hurting another author’s chance of getting paid by putting out fiction for free? After all, if I can pay someone for fiction, or read something else for free, what would I rather do?

I take comfort in the fact that the blog doesn’t get THAT many views that I would be taking any audience from anyone. I also don’t have THAT much up on the blog that it would keep someone busy for years and years of reading.

However… am I an amateur that hurts professional writers?


(And yes, Brandon, I’d love to have you weigh in on this!)


5 thoughts on “I Hurt Harlan Ellison

  1. If the paid author’s work is worth paying for, I’ll pay for it. If I’m not being asked to pay for it, I won’t pay. Seems simple enough. If the paid author wants my money, he can earn it.

    1. But what if there’s just as many not-as-good writers offering their services for free? Generic writers, I guess you could say, as opposed to name brand?

  2. First of all, my impression of Harlan Ellison’s maturity level just went way down, but that’s maybe a little beside the point.

    You know, here’s the thing – I agree with the notion that if someone wants to read and author’s work, they should be willing to pay for it, and if they’re not, then they shouldn’t complain about not getting to read it. Same goes for publishers – if they want to put someone’s work in their stuff, they need to put the money up for it.

    I’m not sure that I agree that by putting things out there for free that you, or I, or anyone somehow hurts the professional writers. Baen took a different look at this some years ago and started the Baen Free Library, where they make a certain number of books available as free ebooks. Often it’s just one piece from each of their authors. Their philosophy was that if you can get exposed to an author for free, and you like their work, you’re more likely to go out and buy the stuff that isn’t available free. And it has seemed to pan out.

    You could maybe extend this to the thought that maybe someone who has never picked up a science fiction book before might take a chance on the genre if there’s a free one available. That may get them introduced and lead to a lot more reading, which is worth it.

    Another thought is that people generally like to support the artists they really enjoy. If I find a guy who has written several books and makes them free to read, but asks for donations, if I read all those books and love them, I’m totally going to donate to him. I want to support him. But if I have no idea if his work is any good, and he wants me to pay first, I’m probably going to pass. So, what ended up better for him in the long run?

    I don’t know, I think Ellison is just whining. And making excuses. But what do I know, I’m just an amateur.

    1. I didn’t see him as immature — I saw him as frustrated at what should have been a simple situation. Sure, it’s a bit of a rant, but…

      I see his point on the “free” though — if “the public” or corporations or whomever are used to getting their writing for free or cheap, that makes it harder for others to get a higher pay grade. I guess you could say it’s the free market — which is frustrating, too.

      1. I see his reaction as immature because a grown man of his age should be able to handle a conversation with an intern without flying off the handle at her and then ranting obscenely about it. Maybe that’s just me. Frustration is one thing, but it sounds like he’s more about making excuses than just saying that he’s going to offer his best writing, expect to be paid for it, and that’s the end of it. Then again, lately I’ve been reading a book by Ben Carson, who has no patience for people saying, “You know who’s fault this is?” and blaming someone else. He calls that “victim mentality”.

        Anyway, yeah, it is how the market works. Same as if Walmart was selling candy bars at 50 cents a piece and the local family owned drug store has to sell them for $1 to make a profit. It may be frustrating, but they can either be upset by it, or only stock the gourmet candy bars that Walmart doesn’t sell and charge the premium price for them because they’re worth it. Or invest in Walmart stock, which many writers and musicians make a practice of – find the guy who is just looking to get his name out there (which is why he’s offering his stuff for free), support him, promote him, and then end up getting a cut of his popularity.

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