Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Christie Says: Turn Off the TV, Pick Up a Book!

The Writer’s Guild of America is on strike, in case you didn’t know. The WGA represents 12,000 workers who write scripts for TV and film. This is what’s at issue: How writers will be paid for their stories which will air on “new media” such as the web. The WGA wants residuals (these are the what we call royalties in print publishing) and, like royalties, is a kind of deferred payment that WGA writers get when a TV show they wrote is run and/or re-run. What they’re asking for is to be paid when their work airs, whether it’s via TV or at the movie theater or via the internet. Currently, studios are showing full episodes on their websites that the viewer pays nothing for, the writer gets nothing for, but the studio or the network get advertising dollars for through sold advertising on their site.

This isn’t like the print-publishing practice of giving away Advanced Readers Copies to gain word of mouth. In that case, publishing houses don’t get paid either—and there’s a limited number available. This is a case of the networks/studios, in the words of the immortal Dire Straits (in a song, ironically, about the music industry), “getting something for nothing and chicks for free.”

The other side claims that the “new media” is too new to come up with a model of fair payment for writers, but the fact is, the WGA is asking for a percentage of their profit. If the studios/networks see nothing from these new platforms, then the writers see a percent of nothing. Oh, and let’s not forget writers want an increase in their share of DVD sales. 8 cents instead of the current 4 cents per unit. How greedy! (They offered to give up on this demand over the weekend but the cold rejection from the other side made them re-think their submission.)

There’s a whole lot of places on the web to read about this and what’s at stake. As a working writer and TV viewer, I think it’s important to know that the average Writers Guild of America member makes 5k a year on their writing. Again, that’s an average. So yes, a few make lots more—yet they too believe it’s important to fight for these issues.

Joss Whedon (of "Buffy" fame) commented on the website about the strike and what he had to say really hit home to me. Many people don’t understand how hard writing is. They think because it’s “art” it’s fun. But it’s important too. He says:

“…human awareness is all about story-telling. The selective narrative of your memory. The story of why the Sky Bully throws lightning at you. From the first, stories, even unspoken, separated us from the other, cooler beasts. And now we’re talking about the stories that define our nation’s popular culture – a huge part of its identity. These are the people that think those up. Working writers.”

If they’re denied the ability to make a decent living, there won’t be new stories, new shows, new films. So let’s support them. Okay, and book writers too! Turn off the TV until the strike ends and pick up a book instead.

I’m opening Tara Janzen’s (recently riding here), ON THE LOOSE. Tell me what you’re reading this week!


Betina Krahn said...

Wow, Christie, lots of good info here! I'm with you on the support of the writers. . . didn't realize quite what was at stake. Hadn't paid much attention. But I will now.

I think the internet and the "new media" have all "creative" venues (except perhaps live theater) thrown for a loop. It's such an open and unconstrainable medium. And it's so hungry for new material. . . it's like a big vortex drawing in ideas and images at cyclone force! Print publishers (the Simon & Schuster clause!) are certainly struggling with what it means to publish in the electronic age.

And we writers have to give some serious thought to how our work will be displayed and disseminated. When we sell the rights. . . will we ever get them back again? If giving rights "in perpetuity" becomes the new standard. . . shouldn't we be demanding higher royalties and higher advances to compensate?

Yeah, and if we "demand" higher rates and advances, what are the chances we'll get them? If we band together and stay together-- maybe better than we think.

Heading for my TBR stack. . .

Helen Brenna said...

Christie, thanks for bringing this up. It probably surprises most people to realize how little most writers make. If I sat down to figure out my per hour wage ... well, let's just say I prefer not to think about it.

Actors get all the attention, but we tend to forget that if not for the writers, those actors would have no lines.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads-up Christie. I know yesterday Steve Carell and other workers fromthe set of The Office didn't show up for work in support of the writers. They still had scripts, so they were going to keep producing the show. Now they can't because Steve won't work until the strike is over.

I'm reading Creation in Death right now. I'm pretty sure the books in my TBR pile will get me through the strike.


Christie Ridgway said...

Liza: I already finished Creation in Death! Another great book.

As to how much writers make, Helen. Yeah, I don't want to figure out my hourly wage. Would I count the dreams I had last night about the manuscript-in-progress?

I recommend reading Joss Whedon's entire post on because he also talks about how hard it is to write. He says that even when the Buffy series was flowing its "flowingest" that his co-writer turned to him and asked why it was still so hard. Why weren't they good at it by now? His answer is fabulous.

MsHellion said...

More power to these guys! I think they should get more. (Of course, is it bad to say I haven't even been watching any of the Fall shows anyway? I've been watching North & South over and over I don't miss it. In fact, I don't anticipate the picketing effecting my TV watching until some time next year or two where there is a dearth of good movies at the theater available. Oh, wait, that's a problem now too. Hmm.)

In any case, I'll do my part I'll read more books and write more of my own. Writers are underpaid enough per word as it people think this creative genius comes for free?

MsHellion said...

Steve Carrell is a funny guy--and he's probably written lots we don't know about. He *knows* how little they make. He's a good guy...I'm glad the actors are supporting the writers. They're all in this together...

Debra Dixon said...

Christie-- That's fabulous info. I'm with 'em in spirit!

Try this link to a WGA bit on YouTube.

Christie Ridgway said...

mshellion: I confess that I haven't watched any of the new fall shows either! I've been busy this autumn... Now I'm busy reading!

MsHellion said...

Oh, and this week I'm reading: Sorcery & the Single Girl (obviously I'm going to have to wait til the third book before Jane gets a clue that David is the guy she should be bewitching.) Loving every minute.

Up next: Stephanie Rowe's series that has Satan in them. *LOL* They're supposed to be funny.

Michele Hauf said...

I love seeing that the actors are supporting the writers on this strike. On know sometimes the industry really looks down on the lowly writer. When in fact, there wouldn't be an industry without the writer!

I'm reading Queen of Fashion, the history of Marie Antoinette through clothes. Great stuff.


Keri Ford said...

I think I picked up somewhere that Ellen Degeneres (hm. sp?) refused to show up for work too. I think it's great that they're banding together to make things right.

What am I reading. Uh, can I count my own? Revisions...revisions....revisions.


Christie Ridgway said...

Keri: You so need to read the Joss Whedon comment I linked to up above. It's also about how hard writing is and that it never gets easier. May not make those revisions feel like fun, but you'll know you're in good company.

Michele: Lots of the actors (yeah) are picketing (see my blog's picture with Julie Louis Dreyfus and Wanda Sykes). Of course, many of them are writers as well and members of the WGA.

Mshellion: I went to amazon to look at the book you're reading (Sorcery and the Single Girl) and it looks great! Thanks for the tip. I love finding out what everyone is reading.

Cindy Gerard said...

Great stuff, Christie. And I knew I loved Steve Carroll for a reason - other than he's a riot.
I would love to sit down and read a book. It's been so long since I've had a chance. Instead, I'm living the 'dream' of meeting deadline with a book that does not seem to want to be written, that's driving me crazy and making me realize - in spades - just how hard writing is. I'm heading to Joe Weldon's post right now because misery loves company :o)
And don't get me wrong. I'm NOT complaining. I love what I do and feel so fortunate I can make a living at it but I do grow a bit weary of people telling me how lucky I am that I get to stay home and write because I don't have to work any more .....

Christie Ridgway said...

Cindy: I hear you. On days like that I always say I want to work retail. My buddy, author Elizabeth Bevarly, who actually did work retail before she started writing tells me I'm nuts.

But I keep thinking I could get a job at Barnes & Noble and hide myself away with a good book.

Anonymous said...

reading some blazes books

Michele Hauf said...

Christie, I worked at Borders three years. Heaven. But that's only if you don't expect to ever bring home a paycheck. It's very hard not to spend it all at the store with their employee discount. And you're around 'your people' when you work at a bookstore. They're all there because they love books. But the whole customer service thing just isn't my bag. I can find books for people and recommend reads, and really enjoy the search for 'that blue book I saw I TV last week', but the angry customers and Christmas time, and just the general 'we live to serve you' attitude of retail isn't for me.


flchen1 said...

Michele, your comments on Borders are right on--I worked at a bookstore while in college and mostly loved it but didn't take too much home in terms of the paycheck because it was too tempting to spend it all there ;)

Thanks for the info, Christie--I didn't know too much about it until today.

Just read Amy Fetzer's Taming the Beast (a nice contemporary take on Beauty and the Beast), and am deciding what to read next... Maybe Marliss Melton's Forget Me Not (just borrowed it from the library...)

Christie Ridgway said...

Must get some Blazes. I haven't read any in a while and there's nothing better than a good category romance. Thanks, anonymous!

Flchen1: I'll have to look for Amy's book. I love Beauty and the Beast stories, and it's tough to pull it off in contemporary.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Christie, what a great topic. Good writers deserve to be paid. A badly written movie sinks itself no matter what else it has going for it. A good script is the basic building block. How many times do you hear an actor say of a successful movie: "When I read the script I knew I had to be in it." The basic building block. Pay the writer, for heaven's sake.

I'm missing my almost daily doses of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," but those guys are the first to say that without good writers, there's no show. They're writers, too. Jay Leno helped out on the picket line.

What kinds of shows go on without writer? News and reality stuff. 'Nuff said?

I sometimes wish we could organize somehow. We have no security, no protection. We're like farmers--the ultimate independents.

Christie Ridgway said...

Kathleen: From what I understand, the WGA is also trying to get the reality TV writers under their umbrella too. Those writers want the same kind of protections (health and pension and collective bargaining) that the WGA members have.

Playground Monitor said...

I sympathize with the writers but darn, it's gonna mess up Desperate Housewives. That and CSI are the only non-reality shows I watch, and there's only 2 reality shows I watch. Not a big TV viewer.

I'm reading ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT by Suzanne Brockmann right now. I'm not sure what's next in the TBR pile. I read a lot of category but have switched lines since my old favorite changed their guidelines and I don't care for them anymore. I've stumbled onto Blaze and love them! And *blush* I still have Cindy's last three Bodyguard books in the TBR pile.


Christie Ridgway said...

Marilyn: You can't go wrong with Cindy's books!

Sympathy on losing the rhythm of your fave shows. I like CSI too, but confess I haven't yet tuned in this season.

I took ON THE LOOSE with me today to the gym. Made the treadmill time go by much faster. The soaps were on the TV and I don't follow them any longer...hey, I hadn't thought of that. Guess the soaps might be affected too.

Helen Brenna said...

I LOVE that the actors are jumping on the bandwagon. It'll make a diff!

Kaitlin said...

Lessee...I don't read just one book a week. I read to fast for that. So far I've read...(let me think about that a sec)

Creation in Death by JD Robb
Kiss of Midnight by Lara Adrian
The first two books in a series by Christine Warren
There are at least a dozen more.

500 pages in 2 hours. Not something I'm proud of, but there you go. So far, Kiss of Midnight is amazing! I'm not very far yet, but Ms. Adrian writes a very well-written book. :)

Kaitlin said...

I've been watching a couple of new shows on the fall season. I'm totally in love with CHUCK. If you like well-thought out stories with zippy humor and an adorable hero...well there you go. I've been watching Heroes too, but mostly it's DVRd until I have time to really sit & watch it. :)

Um...yeah, not a whole lot of watching TV...maybe I'm growing up? Nah! LOL!

Christie Ridgway said...

Kaitlyn: We need to talk. Son 2 has a ton of reading this year and while he's not a slow reader, he could use some of your speed!

I wonder if you took a course or just are naturally fast? I'm also a pretty quick reader, but I don't think up to your caliber.

Enjoyed Creation in Death a lot!

Cait London said...

FWIW: Somewhere I read something about going to sleep more easily and it had to do with not watching TV just before bedtime. They recommended taking an hour or so before bedtime and really laying back, meditating, divorcing yourself from the world troubles. I always sleep better, go to sleep easier after putting in some reading time before bed. I've just finished A Caress of Twilight by Laurell K. Hamilton. Love her Meredith books, not her vampire series. As for writing for pay, writing to deliver for a paycheck, novel writers are in much the same place, because a contract is a legal document to deliver. I see the Writers Strike as a really positive business move. There's a huge percentage of people who do not see writing as a profession from which a living is garnered. The strike is making a really good point and I'm glad the actors have joined.

Christie Ridgway said...

Cait! Great to see you here.

I used to always read before sleep, but the dh loves to watch TV. I visited my mom two months back and slept in my old bed in my old room and turned on my old light at night to read before sleep. Wonderful! Best rest I've had in a long time.

I haven't tried Hamilton's other series. I loved the early Anita Blake books but then they got too much for me.

Kaitlin said...

I just read naturally fast. Believe me, if I could slow down I would. *sigh*

I'm reading Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian right now. Let me just say, the lady knows how to write a love scene! *fans self*