Before we dive into today’s article, I have a quick fun note for you.
There is a Springtime in Surrey Art Contest going on right now. All the details may be found on the Wild Blue Wonder Press website.
I hope you’ll have fun bringing to visual life the characters or setting of your favorite Springtime in Surrey novella!
Friends, this article has been percolating in my mind for two years. I knew I wanted to write it, but I didn’t want to rush it. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to pray over it and contemplate my feelings and what the Bible says and make sure the two matched up before I moved forward.
After seeing a negative trend taking stronger shape in Christian independent publishing, I feel a responsibility to speak up, so now is the time to write and share this article.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase “business ethics”?
I think of transparency, honest wages, and fair treatment.
But that isn’t at all what I’m seeing from a variety of individuals and groups in the Christian independent publishing field at the moment.
Certain individuals and groups, which will remain unnamed, have chosen to stop paying their writers for the stories they write. There are no royalties paid, even though they paid royalties on previous projects (and in some cases, royalties were never paid on previous or current projects). I heard of another such independent publisher a couple of weekends ago, and it broke my heart that this negative trend is spreading like wildfire among Christian circles.
Why did I find this news so devastating?
Because it is unbiblical, or un-Christian, behavior.
Jesus said, in Luke 10:7 (NKJ), that “the laborer is worthy of his wages.” If that was true of missionaries He sent out, it ought to also be true of writers. “Laborer” means “one that labors (works),” according to Merriam-Webster. That would be any person who does any job for any company or person or group of people. That includes writers who write stories that are published in anthologies.
Paul repeated this sentiment in 1 Timothy 5:18 (NKJ): “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and, ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.'” Clearly people hadn’t taken to heart what Jesus said about paying the laborers if Paul felt the need to reiterate this fact. Either that or he was emphasizing it to make sure people remembered what Jesus said on this point.
James went further in James 5:4 (NKJ): “Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.” Not only were the laborers crying out to God, but the wages themselves were also. I feel this must also be the case in these current-day scenarios where the writers are not receiving any pay for their hard work, that even if the writers aren’t crying, ‘Foul!’–their wages are. And if God heard the cries of the reapers’ wages in James 5, He will certainly hear the cries of the writers’ wages today.
Notice that James said the wages were held back “by fraud.” That is a strong term, one that indicates intent to rip off someone. To basically steal the money that was meant for the worker. To take advantage of the worker. To use someone else’s work to earn money for oneself. By choice–not by accident.
That doesn’t sound right or fair or just to me.
It also doesn’t sound like how Jesus instructed us to treat one another.
“And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” Luke 6:31 (NKJ)
The verse the Golden Rule was based upon. Remember learning that one when you were little? I certainly do. It was my first lesson on how business ethics work, long before I even knew what business ethics were. Honestly, it’s how all Christians should live their lives, not only in business but also personally: to treat others as they want to be treated.
If we apply this Golden Rule to publishing anthologies, the question becomes: Would I, as the publisher, want to be paid for my work if I were one of the writers? The obvious answer is yes. Why, then, is the trend in Christian independent publishing to not pay a fair wage to the writers–without whom they would have no book to begin with?
The answer to that may be found in 1 Timothy 6:10 (NKJ): “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
The “love of money” and “greediness” are the only reasons I can perceive that a person, group of people, or company would steal wages from their workers. The saddest part of the situation is in the rest of the verse, that the greed and the “love of money” can indicate a straying from the faith. That’s the second wave of heartbreak for me (the first being that the workers are not being paid but rather, abused and ripped off).
No amount of money, and definitely no love of money, is worth losing one’s faith.
They say that money can’t buy happiness; well, it doesn’t buy a place in Heaven either.
But treating people fairly and giving the worker the wage they earned (because they are “worthy of [their] wages,” as Jesus said) can prove a person’s faith. They can prove that a person trusts God to provide for their needs even if they themselves earn less per book for needing to pay the writers they hired to write stories for their anthology.
Let’s turn around this trend, friends.
How may we do this?
If you’re a writer like me, you can refuse to participate in anthologies when fair wages (usually a small percentage of the money earned when the book sells) are not given. This is something that should be told up front and written into the contract you must sign in order to participate in the anthology. (If there is no contract, that is a HUGE red flag; don’t participate then either.) Personally, I have refused to submit the fruit of my hard work (a short story or novella I had written) to collections for which the authors were not receiving any royalties.
If you are an independent publisher of anthologies or other collections, you can pay the writers of the stories you’re publishing for their work. This payment is usually an equal pay-split among the authors, with the company getting a small cut as well, to recoup the costs (eventually) for putting the anthology together (which can include formatting, cover design, ISBN number, and other elements that go into publishing a book).
Note: Sometimes the contracts allow for the royalties to be split from the beginning, while other times they are split only after the initial publishing costs are recouped. I personally prefer the former, but I have participated in projects that fall into both categories, as the intent of the publishers is to pay their laborers (writers).
Lord, this message was not an easy one to write, but it’s one You’ve pressed into my heart for two years. Please help my readers hear Your heart through the words You’ve given me today. Please help this negative trend of greed and unfair treatment of writers to stop in its tracks. Help us, as writers and independent publishers in the Christian publishing business, to follow Your Golden Rule of treating each other how we would like to be treated: with respect and fairness. It is my hope, my prayer, that You guide each one of us to follow Your example, Your instruction, in these matters. In the sweet name of Jesus Christ, Your risen Son, I pray. Amen.
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