Getting paid for doing…Nothing?

There was an interesting letter to the editor in the Dallas Morning News the other day. The writer, Rob Lofland from Lindale, Texas, addressed the issue of jobs and the way business is managed today. He said, “There has been a colossal shift in the way management, especially management of large, publicly -traded companies, view their responsibilities.”

He goes on to say that in the past 20 0r 30 years management has shifted the focus of that responsibility away from the product, from consumers, from workers, to “asset management and creation of wealth for stockholders and management.”

Later in his letter he writes, “Much of the effort of those who run the large companies and all the effort of those on Wall Street and related business actually create nothing. They are getting paid exorbitantly to move money around.”

Loftland acknowledges that there is nothing inherently wrong or evil in that, but he does wonder about the impact on jobs and consumers.

I wonder, too.

If the focus is always on the bottom line and profits to shareholders, the worker and the consumer get short-changed. And those are the people who are more important to the long-term success of a company than the shareholder. Without the worker to produce the product and the consumer to buy the product, the company would cease to exist. And that would be bad news for the shareholders.

As I mulled this all over deciding whether to blog about it, I couldn’t help but see the parallel in the business side of writing. For the past 20 or 30 years the focus has shifted from the books and the writers to profits and marketing. The days when authors were appreciated and rewarded for writing a good book are gone. Now they are appreciated and rewarded for having a platform, for being a good salesperson, and for having a hot new concept.

Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, but I liked the old days better.

7 thoughts on “Getting paid for doing…Nothing?”

  1. It does seem that the old days were better. So much responsibility falls on the writers today. They have to write, edit, market, promote and do a lot more than they used to have to do. But I don’t see things reverting. To my way of thinking, one of the hardest parts of all this is staying on top of it all and on top of the changes taking place daily in the publishing world. It can be tiring just thinking about it.

    Straight From Hel

  2. As a fairly new writer, and over 50, I find the whole business end of writing overwhelming. I can feel the hot breath of highly competitive 25 yr. olds on my tail in addition to what I call the “publishing game.” Honestly, I’m not sure I want to play that game. I do love to write and I want my work to be read, but when I look at conventional publishing and what is expected of writers beyond writing it makes me rethink the whole career thing. If I’ve got to do all the work and still give up to agents and publishing houses @ 15-30% of whatever profits my book might garner, then I’m inclined to just hire a good editor, and self-pub.

    And then I change my mind. There is a certain allure of being “accepted into the club” when you are published in the traditional way.

    Right now I’m trying to learn the craft, keep up with the changes in publishing, and finish the book. Then most likely I’ll give the game a try.

    I just don’t like the game.

  3. I would have to agree that in the time I have been involved with writing and the publishing industry, I have seen that a lot is asked of writers. I think everyone is interested in earning a dollar, afterall without it a writer can’t continue to write, although I question how that dollar is being acheived and what is valued in earning it. Within this new circumstance, if a person has all those things that are desired to bring in the big money, they will get it despite the writing. I have to say that in addition to this trend I have found in my own experiences a strong sense of selective conformity in the writing industry. Feedback like ‘It has to be written a certain way’, ‘Did you write this to make money?’, and ‘The genre isn’t popular’ when people have in fact liked the writing and the genre. And add to this, comments from successful authors who themselves have said that regardless of how well written your book is, it won’t get anywhere unless you know someone in the business. So, besides being an apparently elitest industry based on a certain amount of conformity, now there exists a push of work and responsibility down to the author. Money, money, money… but where in this discussion is the value in the writing iteslf? What seems to parallel the fast food industry in providing the same exact product time and time again, the industry is now aksing the author to jump through many more hoops in obtaining personal assets (platform, prettiness, salesmanship, …) to have the chance to put their name on the next Big Mac that will be pushed through the market. I have to wonder if anyone is considering the impact this even more commercial approach to books is having on readers? The term dumbing down is being used more and more and the last time I checked so many people simply are void of decent communicative ability. Reading the writings of authors is a fundamental cornerstone of learning, or at least it used to be, but in this new era of profiting from books, the business formula will work in creating wealth at the expense of intellectual faculties. To objectively watch it, it resembles a Mel Brookes satire.

  4. Very interesting points you raised, Beth and Frank. As you might have guessed I abhor the whole game but recognize that I have to play it if I want to stay in the traditionally published realm. The only thing that really helps is to laugh, and I will think of Mel Brooks every time I have to do some marketing/promoting task. Thanks for that, Frank.

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