Monday, April 14, 2008

A Thought To Ponder

About three weeks ago I read an article in Homeschooling Today called something like, "Thrift or theft?" I had planned to comment on it weeks ago while I still had the magazine (I have since returned it to the library) to reference and quote from, but like other posts I have started and not yet finished, this one fell through the cracks.

This article talked about all the ways we homeschoolers can be thrifty with our curriculum without thinking about the fact that we may be taking bread right out of the authors mouths and sinning while we do it by (albeit unintentionally) stealing.

I know that I have been guilty of this. I have purchased one set of consumables to use multiple times in my household via my trusty copier/ printer. In my mind I was getting the most for my money. In reality, I was cheating the author and publisher. Now that being said, quite a few authors will allow you to do just that. But frankly, I never bothered to check and see what the copyright details were.

This article hit me the hardest when I made it personal. My longtime and dear friend The Tutor has been feverishly writing a science curriculum for a while now. Her "blood, sweat and tears" so to speak, are in this project and she is hoping for a good return on her work. If I were to buy the book and then pass it along to every other homeschooler I know who needs a science curriculum that would diminish her sales. She is not some big corporate conglomerate, she is a homeschooler with four children.

The article went on to talk about the various allowances that publishers and authors allow with their curriculum to help homeschoolers. Many are quite generous, but it certainly made me think twice about reproducing those consumables in lieu of buying each child their own. We may be helping our own bottom line, but we are hurting someone else's.


Mrs. Sam said...

You go!!! For sure, I agree, stealing is stealing...its like the limit 4 per family Tide but you send the husband and 3 kids each in their own checkout so they can be a separate family...Christians need to live in victory all the time, not just when its cheap to do so.

Carolyn said...

I never thought about it that way. Thanks for posting this.

TheTutor said...

I was actually convicted about this at the start of this year, but through the back door. I decided that I needed the time and organizational sanity of just buying everyone their own books/ printouts/ whatever more than I needed to save a few pennies making copies myself. (Selfish, still, but sometimes - often in my case - God turns sinful motives into sanctified gains... or as Bono puts it, "Grace make beauty out of ugly things.") After signing my writing contract a couple months later, I saw the impact that my making copies of consumables was having on the creators of those products.

Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mind and The Well-Educated Mind has written a great post on how royalties are attributed. The short story is, she receives about 13% of the sale price of every book in the form of a royalty; my own contract is for 10%. So, if each text I write costs $20, I will see $2. If a private school classroom orders 20 student texts per year, I will receive $40 in royalties for those books. Because I am self-employed (even though I have a publisher, I am considered an independent contractor) I have the privilege of paying income tax (federal and state) and Medicare and Social Security taxes plus I have to pay the employer's portion of Medicare and Social Security taxes since the self-employed count as both employee and employer. (This is true for anyone who is self-employed, not just writers.) So, of the $40 in royalties for that classroom of books, about 30%, depending on which income bracket I fall into, goes to pay quarterly taxes... or $12. (Oh, and if you read SWB's post, you will know that I could be paying those estimated quarterly taxes up to 6 months before I get paid. Since I am just starting out, it could be a year before I see my first royalty payment. Makes for some creative money management.) So from a $400 sale, I see $28.

Now, before it sounds like I am complaining, I am not. I never imagined I would be given the opportunity to write a book... much less four (and maybe 10, if you all and the publisher like the first four *grin*). I love science, and it turns out I love writing, too, so I feel very privileged to be doing what I am doing. I am sure every writer feels the same way. However, few writers are independently wealthy and write purely out of love and passion. They need to make a living at it or, at the very least, be compensated for the time and resources they spent working. And authors of homeschool texts and curriculum are often homeschoolers themselves, and so are working two full-time jobs... the paid job of writing and the unpaid job of homeschooling. On top of that, their families have sacrificed a lot to allow the writer in their family to do the work that she does. I know mine has given quite a lot, and I am indebted to them for it.

So, as Angel said, check the copyright page in front of your consumable workbook. Many homeschool texts allow you to make as many copies as you need for your own children. If that is the case, copy away! (And go ahead and let your last student write in the book. Don't resell the unused workbook... that does violate copyright law.) If you aren't allowed to make copies, while you are buying multiple copies of each consumable book, think to yourself, "I am providing a week's worth of milk, swimming lessons, or a consumable book for the author's family." Trust me, she thanks you for it. *grin*

Thanks, Angel!
(oh, and I hope I got all the html right; I haven't done html code in awhile)

Anonymous said...

Thank you!

I am the author of the article you read, and you'll probably not be surprised to learn that it is both the most popular and the most hated article I've ever written. Honestly, I've had more reprint requests for that article than any other, and I've received more hate mail as a result of that article than any other.

So reading blog entries like yours, and comments like these, is more encouraging than you realize.

TheTutor made some great points, but I would like to add to them. The 10% in royalties comes out of the publisher's actual SELLING PRICE of a book. This means that, if the book normally sells for $20 and it is purchased by a distributor that gets a 55% discount, the author's royalty is on the $9 selling price, which means the author gets a whopping 90 cents on that book. Since the vast majority of every publisher's sales is at wholesale rather than retail, the author (And the publisher, obviously) really does need every sale that can be made.

And then there are the return policies by which bookstores can return to the publisher any books they don't sell - and the publisher then deducts the returned books from the author's royalties. Fun.

This, of course, is why most authors buy copies of their own books and hit the road, selling them. As expensive as such a course is, it's the only way they can even hope to make serious money writing. Well, unless they're someone like John Grisham.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

TheTutor said...

Hey! John Grisham lives just on the other side of town! Maybe I can get some tips from him... or ask him to buy a book. LOL! (I just thought it was funny that Tammy mentioned the one popular offer who actually lives in my town. Too funny.)

I am glad that Tammy pointed out what I meant to mention and forgot... about where the percentage comes from. I was assuming buyers purchasing directly from the publisher since many do at homeschool conventions. I have started buying directly from the publisher whenever possible to allow the publisher and the author the greatest profit.

Thanks, Tammy.

Blessings to you, Angel!

TheTutor said...

Sorry for all my typos in both posts. Yuck. I need to proof better before hitting "submit".