Matthew Ingram at GigaOm takes a look at a Seth Godin interview (which is actually interesting in its own right for all the stuff Godin said that Ingram didn’t cover) to cherry-pick a comment from Godin that authors should be willing to give their books away for free as e-books and focus on building a fan base rather than trying to make money right away.
Who said you have a right to cash money from writing? Poets don’t get paid (often), but there’s no poetry shortage. The future is going to be filled with amateurs, and the truly talented and persistent will make a great living. But the days of journeyman writers who make a good living by the word — over.
That’s not to say that writers shouldn’t be able to make a living, Ingram elaborates, but they may have to be more creative about how they make that money in the future than just “sell books, get paid.” Writers aren’t competing with books that are better than they are anymore, Ingram notes—they’re competing with all the cheap or free ones that are good enough.
Ingram also points to similar comments from film director Francis Ford Coppola, noting that art doesn’t necessarily have to cost money, nor artists have to make money.
Of course, ever since the Internet and college students found each other, there has been plenty of free electronic writing out there for people who wanted to read it. Digital media has been making it harder for professionals to get paid in a number of professions (including photography). Harlan Ellison blasted “amateur” writers who work for free for making it harder for professionals to get paid.
On the other hand, this has also increased the chances that writers who don’t go through professional publishers can make a little money themselves. So perhaps it all evens out.