The PRO Act is a garbage bill that will destroy my livelihood.

I typically don’t get political online. Mainly because I find it distasteful, being in the position that I’m in writing for an audience that includes a wide diversity of thoughts and opinions. I’m sure some of you would disagree with some of my core beliefs, just as I would disagree with some of yours. That doesn’t make either of us bad people. It just means we have different life circumstances that bring us to different belief systems that carry through our lives.

But this particular issue is something that directly impacts me and many other freelancers like me, and I felt compelled to state my piece on it.

Back last year, there was a lot of dust up over California’s AB5 bill, which basically limits the amount of work a freelancer can do in California before being forced into an employment situation they don’t want. This is, ostensibly, to protect the freelancer from being taken advantage of. (The main result of it is a lot of freelance writers losing some of their most lucrative clients or having the amount of work they can do severely curtailed.) But California lawmakers didn’t take into account (or chose not to take into account) that most freelancers don’t work freelance because they have to so much as because they want to. Freelancers typically choose this route—and believe me, it’s not an easy route—because it gives them something they’re looking for that they can’t find at a typical shift job. It might be flexibility. It might be more money. Whatever it is, going into freelancing is typically something you choose to do. And that comes with some trade-offs. You may decide that trading off benefits at a day job for the freedom and flexibility to work when you want and how much you want, to be able to work around whatever your life circumstances happen to be, is something that is more beneficial to you than having a restrictive desk job that gives you those benefits.

But politicians who are supporting this new wave of restrictive freelancing bills don’t seem to see it that way. You see, they are protecting us freelancers from ourselves. We can’t possibly understand what we really want or need, so these politicians who have probably never spoken to legitimate freelancers a day in their lives, on behalf of the AFL-CIO union, have decided they know what’s better for us more than we do. They know our life circumstances. They know what we need. And it’s not the freedom to work how we want.

So instead, they’re doing everything they can to gut the freelancing industry.

This morning, I read an article talking about how in New York, the state Assembly is working on a bill similar to California’s AB5 that will essentially force freelancers to become employees of a company or put themselves out of business. Many of the New York representatives in the House of Representatives (20 out of 27 of them) have cosponsored a similar bill on the federal level that pulls language verbatim from the AB5.

They’re calling it the PRO Act. And this is nothing but an attempt to regulate the freelancing field in the name of “protecting” freelancers from themselves.

Look, I chose to freelance. This is literally my choice. I live in a small area without a lot of job options, and I have no desire to move to a bigger city to find a desk job that pays better than the one I’ve got. I still have a day job, but I make more money with my freelancing now than I do at that. I like living in a small town, and I don’t want to change that because some bozos in Washington have decided they know how I should live my life and spend my time on this Earth better than I do.

I work hard to make the money I make at freelancing, but if this bill passes, it will severely restrict the amount of work I can take on as a freelance editor. This will literally gut the money that I bring in from my freelancing and destroy my financial situation.

I use a lot of my freelancing money to finance my writing and book releases. No more freelancing money means no more books to put out, because I will be spending more time working at a day job that will eat into what time I would have available to write. And I would have to be putting all that money towards bills and other obligations, which means no money to put towards prepping a book for release. So that means no more books for you guys.

The PRO Act is a piece of garbage that unnecessarily interferes with ordinary Americans’ lives and damages their financial livelihoods that they earn in the methods they chose. Please, please call your representatives and tell them not to go forward with the PRO Act. They’re hurting more people than they think they’re helping with this bill.

And if any of you are interested in my freelance editing services, please check out my website at Edits by Jessica. I’m open to taking on more than just manuscript work; if you need a proofreader or copyeditor for your blog or website, get in touch with me, and let’s negotiate a rate that works for you!

Interesting Post from Zoe Winters on Piracy

Another article of interest that’s been posted and caught my attention. So I, of course, felt the compulsion to share.

Zoe Winters, self-published paranormal romance writer (there seems to be SO many of these around now!), made a post on 6/7 entitled, “The Thing that REALLY Pisses Me Off”, where she addresses the growing issue of eBook piracy. And let me tell you, she totally hits the nail on the head. Her thoughts are my thoughts put into words that I can’t manage, because I get so annoyed when I attempt to write about it. I encourage you to read the post in its entirety, but here’s a taste of what you’ll find inside:

We are entering a world of increasing entitlement where more and more people either think what they steal doesn’t matter and won’t affect the artist or they just fucking don’t care. Because they feel entitled to free entertainment and they don’t care what happens to the person who made it, nor do they care about the hard work that went into creating it. … This idea that “piracy doesn’t really hurt anyone but instead benefits everyone” is beyond asinine. And even if the people who say this were right, that doesn’t mean you have the right to take shit from other people that doesn’t belong to you just because you want to. If someone says: “This is mine and I don’t want you to take it without paying” then taking it is WRONG. How hard is that? Are you so morally bankrupt you can’t figure that out?

And this is definitely my favorite part of the entire post and totally deserves the boldfacing:

If you steal from an artist, you are not their fan. You can call yourself whatever you want, but with some very rare exceptions those artists will look on you and your kind with disgust and contempt. And someday your action may result in that artist you stole from no longer producing work for you to steal. … Bottom line… if you like the work of an artist, you should pay for it. Whether it’s music, movie, or book. Because just taking it is equivalent to spitting in their face. Funny how nobody likes being spit on.

I encourage everyone to take a stand against piracy, if only for the sakes of those you claim to enjoy and be fans of. They have to make a living too.

On Amanda Hocking and Self-Publishing

(Here’s to hoping I don’t regret posting this, but at the same time, I do enjoy a good debate!)

I was involved in a discussion a couple of days ago on the Indie Writers United! group on Facebook regarding Amanda Hocking’s writing, and I came out of it so incensed that I had to stop and take the time to write this post. Pardon me if I step on anyone’s toes or if any of this doesn’t make total sense, but I am making a point, I promise! (And I swear I’ll try to keep this short.)

First, I’d like to state that I am in no way envious of Amanda Hocking and her success. I applaud her for doing what she feels is best for her. This is nothing to do with her personally; this has all to do with her writing itself. Please remember the key rule of any author: criticism of the writing does not equal criticism of the writer.

That said, a little history for those of you who don’t know the story of Amanda Hocking (since it seems there are still people who haven’t even heard of her):

Amanda Hocking is a “mega bestselling indie heroine” who has, somehow, managed to sell thousands and thousands of copies of her self-published books on Amazon and B&N and has made hundreds of thousands of dollars doing so. She’s been signed to traditional publisher St. Martin’s Press for a purported $2mil advance to write a series of four YA paranormal romance novels. This is, by all accounts, the epitome of success in the indie publishing world.

Except…

It all started a few days ago when fellow indie author Ben White (of the excellent novel The Undying Apathy Of Imogen Shroud) posted to his blog an article entited, “Is it Laziness or Efficiency? Baby It’s Both: Good Writing vs Good Promotion” (go read the whole thing; it’s pretty much my thoughts put down a little more eloquently), in which he puts forward the idea that Amanda Hocking, while a “success,” is not a good writer. To quote White:

I don’t begrudge A[manda] H[ocking] her success or wish her ill or anything like that, and I’m certainly not envious of her position. When I say ‘she’s not a good writer’ I mean her sentences are clumsy, she often uses the wrong word, her characters are flat, her dialogue is cliched, she head-hops a lot and so on. … Additionally, her books are poorly formatted and in serious need of editing; just reading the sample for Hollowland I picked up dozens of basic errors.

To be quite frank about it, I agree with White. Hocking is not that great of a writer. Or perhaps I should say I don’t take her as seriously as I should as a writer, because her editing or lack thereof smacks of unprofessionalism. This segues into my point about indie publishing, though, and it’s something that I feel really needs to be said. There’s no other way to put it either, so here goes:

Just because Amanda Hocking does it, doesn’t mean you should do it.
Amanda Hocking is the exception to the rule, not the rule itself.

You as an indie author will likely never see the sales that Amanda Hocking has seen. She is a perfect case of luck and the “right place, right time” lottery. While I’m sure she has compelling storylines, I found it incredibly difficult to get through even a chapter of either of the two novels I tried to read by her, because every typo, every misspelled word, every missing word yanked me right out of the story as I stumbled to try to figure out just what she meant to say. It made it difficult to get into the story to begin with, and I found my attention drifting away from the book more often than not, rather than having it focused solely on the page in front of me and the characters and their adventures.

From the perspective of both reader and writer, this is something that should never happen.

As an indie author, you are playing the game of writer, editor, publisher, marketer, and every other -er in the business. You are your own employer, and you are your only employee. You are the only one to blame when something goes wrong with your manuscript or your sales or your marketing techniques. You can’t just say, “Oh, my editor fell down on the job,” or “Oh, my publisher isn’t marketing my book like I want them to,” or “Oh, the market just isn’t there for this kind of book right now.” You are the publisher. You are the marketer. You are the editor. And as editor, it is your responsibility to make sure your manuscript is up to snuff.

There’s a lot of talk in the indie/self-publishing world about how indie authors and indie publishers are going to take down the “traditional” publishing houses (such as, for example, Random House, Scholastic, etc.). There’s talk of the abolishment of physical books, of millions of dollars to be made and of having full control over your own manuscript and not having to worry about those pesky editors screwing with your book without permission (never mind that you are required contractually to approve of each and every change to your manuscript, even wayward commas, and if there’s a change that can’t be made, all you have to do is state your case and they’ll roll with it, because, contrary to belief, ultimately, you are the boss of your manuscript).

I’m sorry, but indie authors will never be able to “take down” the traditional publishers with the attitude that some have that “grammar isn’t important if you’re able to tell a good, compelling story” or that “typos are okay.” (While they do happen, and someone will invariably find one somewhere in this post, that doesn’t make them okay.) The traditional publishers, contrary to the belief of indie writers, do not have any reason to take most indie authors seriously with this type of attitude, because all you’re doing is putting out work that enforces the mindset of self-publishing equals sub-par. I actually had someone tell me yesterday that it’s okay to have poor editing in a book that someone only paid $0.99 or $1.99 or $2.99 for! This is incredibly unprofessional and incredibly disrespectful to the reader (you know, the person who’s actually buying your books) and a serious disservice to yourself and your fellow indie authors.

If you want to compete with the big boys, you have to offer a product that actually competes with the big boys. No ands, ifs, or buts about it.

Self-publishing a successful book, even a moderately successful one, requires a combination of creative skills and technical skills: creative in that you can tell a fantastic story with amazing three-dimensional characters and vivid settings that emotionally connect with the reader; and technical in that you can be grammatically and structurally correct, both on the high-level and low-level, throughout the entire novel. There’s no way around this. You can’t have one or the other. You have to have both, and if you call yourself a professional indie author, then this is non-negotiable.

With the attitude I’ve had thrown at me that grammar and great editing aren’t important, and with the apparent reinforcing of said attitude by high-profile, poorly-edited self-published authors like Amanda Hocking, I can honestly say that I can’t see indie authors being able to compete with the traditional publishers anytime in the foreseeable future.

I’m open to debate. Lay it on me! lol