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The Writers Guild of America is on strike. (Some writers blog the strike here.)

I'm not a member of WGA. I write books not screenplays or TV scripts. In the book biz we don't have a union. No health plan, no retirement plan, no union rep to defend our interests. Then again, my ownership in a book is pretty straightforward. I get various percentages of the cover price, depending on whether we're talking hardcover or paperback, big sales numbers or small, generally between 6% and 10%.

I don't think most screenwriters would argue that they deserve as big a piece as book authors get -- in a movie or TV series the director, the actors, the various other writers, and others, all have a claim to a piece of the pie. But right now writers get less than a nickel from a $20 DVD and nothing from a download. Call it a quarter of a point.

A quarter of a point. Versus a book author's 10 points. My cut from my writing work is 40 times bigger than a WGA member gets off his work.

Granted that no one thinks the writers of House or Desperate Housewives have quite the claim on their shows that book authors have on their books, a quarter point is still a travesty.

So, here in the North Carolina branch of the kidlitosphere, we are supporting the WGA. We will buy no DVD's or downloads, and will do what we reasonably can to punish major network ad sponsors, until the strike is settled.

This is simple. The writers are right.

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  1. Blogger Pastor_Jeff Says:

    I don't have a dog in this fight, so I tend to take your word for it. I just wonder how the different economics might be different due to varying distribution models -- you have a one-time sale per customer in hard copy, screen (and especially TV) writers get paid on repeat showings (residuals). Am I right? Or is that the issue, that writers aren't getting a fair share of the residuals through DVDs?

    In other words, is part of the difference that you have a higher margin on a lower volume product, while screen writers might have a lower margin on a higher volume product? Just curious to understand the dynamics.

  2. Blogger Randy Rogers Says:

    Like Jeff, I have no dog in this fight. If they'd written anything I enjoyed watching in the last 15 years, I might be more interested. As it is, I find the internet more entertaining and less predictable.

  3. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    It all depends. (That least satisfying of answers.) Sometimes a book sells a million copies and the DVD sells two thousand.

    In almost every case the cost of actually producing a DVD is lower. But promotional costs can be higher.

    What the writers are looking for (as I understand it) is money on each DVD sale or download, not on each play. So, Fox stamps a DVD for 50 cents, spends a buck promoting it, grosses $10 wholesale, sees a profit of $8.50 and sends the writers a nickel. The writers basically want a dime instead of a nickel. (All figures pulled more or less out of thin air.)

    On the downloads it's a bit different. The cost to the studio is as close to nothing as you can get. They sell ads to insert in the download, pull in revenue, and then send the writers nothing at all.

    I should point out I'm not a communist, here, I understand the studios put up money, accepted risk, and that entitles them to profit. But the writers also should get a piece of the enduring value of their own creations, to profit if what they've made is especially successful.

  4. Blogger Randy Rogers Says:

    That doesn't strike me as being the least bit "communistic" but rather extremely capitalistic. And rather sensible when thought of like that, particularly when they are now getting zip for downloads.

  5. Blogger Transplanted Lawyer Says:

    The writers' demands are modest, particularly as Michael phrases them. Giving the writers a reasonable piece of the pie is in the entertainment industry's best interests, so it is baffling to me why things have come to this.

    Without good writing, a movie or a TV show will never succeed. Yes, there are many more pieces of the puzzle than that; I posit that good writing is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a profitable entertainment venture.

    Just about anyone can write schlock. But the audience doesn't respond to schlock. Not just anyone can write a good screenplay. I've tried and it's a lot harder than it seems at first glance. Without a strong incentive to write something good, the good writers will take their talents elsewhere.

  6. Blogger Alan Stewart Carl Says:

    I tend to believe that writers always get screwed. The novelists, the TV writers, the movie writers, the journalists (the real ones that actually write) and even us lowly ad copywriters. In a nation where the vast majority is literate, everyone thinks they can write. Because everyone thinks they can write, writers are considered less special than most other skilled artists. I'm in complete solidarity with the WGA. Let's see what shit hits the airwaves without the writers. They deserve a their fair cut.

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