Brief Thoughts on Choices, Wealth and Publishing

If you have a print copy of any of the self-published editions of the WOOL series, you may have noticed something strange on page 99 of each book. Doesn’t matter which book in the series, they all have as the page number: 99%. That’s the rest of us. Of course, another writer pointed out to me while we were crafting this open letter that he and I are now in the 1%, but I don’t think that’s true.  We get to choose which side we stand on; our income doesn’t decide for us.

–Hugh Howey

Over the past couple of days, I’ve come across two articles that mention the one percent of wealthy folks and the remaining 99 percent of us (yes, I am definitely among the lower 99).

For some reason, a pitchfork seems like a better way to go down than this.  Source: Wiki Commons.

Hmm, squeezed to death or pitchforked? Tough choices ahead for the wealthy, according to billionaire Nick Hanauer, who thinks something akin to this is inevitable. Image Source: Wiki Commons.

The first article wasn’t about the top one percent, in specific, but it is where the Howey quote above originated. I like the idea of choosing where you stand. There’s an entire industry of self help books that discuss how important choices are in life. Only, the more desperate one is (as is too often the case with people struggling to survive economically), the harder it is to see the available options. The choices the desperate see most readily tend to be at the extremes, rather than the middle. This leads me to the other article I saw. In it, Nick Hanauer, a billionaire, expressed concern over a coming revolution where the rich would be pitchforked.

Pitchforks and revolutions? Yikes. I do hope Hanauer is wrong about the eventual outcome, but I think his article and Howey’s quote express a similar sentiment: choosing to do the right thing, even if it seems to temporarily put you at a disadvantage, is generally the right thing to do in the long run. For those who didn’t click through, Hanauer is a proponent of a higher minimum wage ($15), believing that when workers have more money to spend, they can support business. He believes a healthy middle class is the cause of a thriving economy, rather than the result of it.

I found Hanauer’s article interesting in light of the recent Amazon-Hachette negotiations as well. (Here’s some info on the dispute, if you’re not familiar). Traditionally published authors have generally placed blame for the negotiation failure at Amazon’s door, and self pubbed heavy-hitter Joe Konrath has criticized these authors, saying they’re basically in it for themselves. He contends they’re trying to preserve the status quo so they can keep their big advances and favorable contract terms, even though most new writers and midlisters get horrendous contracts and can’t make a living wage.

Konrath and Hauer’s views are eerily similar.  This is probably a bad thing, if  people in different industries are getting the same vibe — a revolution vibe. Revolutions are never easy, especially if they involve pitchforks.

And this brings me back to choices. Not about choosing sides. But, about choosing how we react. That’s the other thing about self help books. They ultimately  understand what anyone who’s been down on their luck knows: we rarely choose the exact circumstances of our life, but we do choose how we react to those circumstances.  Yes, choices lead you to where you are, but if where you are isn’t where you want to be, how you choose to react to that is going to determine where you go moving forward. (Or as the rapper Drake says in one of his songs: “No matter how dirty your past is, your future is still spotless.”)

I think in business–whether publishing or some other facet–we should choose to value people’s worth, and give them the same consideration we would want them to give us regarding our worth.  Choosing to minimize the worth of another in order to inflate one’s own worth is a recipe for disaster. And while I’m sure no one in a position of power cares, I do think I plan to practice this from now on. Too often, I’ve looked for a bargain that devalued the worth of someone else, and that’s not sustainable.  Not when it comes to sustaining people’s souls or the economy.

P.S. I still think it’s OK to enjoy a good bargain, but there’s a difference between that and devaluing others’ worth. Want to give a quick shout out to Natalie McNeal, aka The Frugalista, as I originally saw the Hanauer article on her personal Facebook page. Her book, the Frugalista Files, is a great example of how she made choices that changed her life. It’s a quick read, and quite interesting.

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at http://rjcrayton.com/subscribe.
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8 Responses to Brief Thoughts on Choices, Wealth and Publishing

  1. Personally I think it is in the best interest of every society if families and individuals earn a living wage, whatever amount that might be. This, not only to support business and the larger economy, but to allow everyone to live in dignity without starving. I’d go so far as to say such a practice would reduce crime as well. Note, I said ‘earn’. This may mean some work more than others – each according to their capacity, not sitting back collecting while doing nothing. The opportunity to work is also a way of adding to the dignity of the citizen. Given the choice, most people will work, given the opportunity.

  2. DV Berkom says:

    The Hanauer piece was fun to read. Pitchfork sales are skyrocketing here (but, I live near Seattle, so that happens often 🙂 ) Having been a small business owner (and still being one as an author), I was torn by Seattle raising the minimum wage to $15–I knew it would be good for the workers and the economy but also knew some smaller businesses were going to suffer–although I leaned toward wanting it to pass. I’d like to believe Hanauer’s argument–and I do, for the most part–but there’ll be some major growing pains if/as it’s instituted. Once the higher wage requirement normalizes, I’m just as certain people will look back and wonder why we didn’t enact it sooner. Change is always hard, especially when it involves money.

    • RJ Crayton says:

      I think $15 hourly is a huge jump, so it’s going to be hard for some businesses to absorb– and maybe it needs a step implementation. Though, ultimately, I don’t think it’s an absorbitant wage for a city. I think the key point from Hanauer wasn’t the exact amount, so much as the general theory. Our parents teach us the Golden Rule when we’re very little, yet ask a lot of business people to practice that, and they’ll laugh in your face. For them it’s about being ruthless to squeeze out every penny of profit. That’s sort of the reason why minimum wages started to begin with. Left to their own devices, many businesses owners opted to screw their workers over, rather than treating them the way they’d like to be treated in that position. I think higher wages will help in the long run, but you’re right, the growing pains are not going to be fun. I worked for a small newsletter publisher who was really great to employees. The salary was average, maybe even a little below. But, he appreciated his employees, and he provided a really good health care plan that he kicked in plenty toward. His business was fairly successful and employees worked hard for him; then he sold the business (he was in his 80s) and it went downhill from there. So, I really appreciate small businesses and their struggles, and applaud those who look out for their employees. It’s ironic that the corporations that could most afford to do this on their own, don’t and cause laws to be enacted that require everyone–including those businesses least able to afford it–to up their wages.

  3. “a proponent of a higher minimum wage ($15), believing that when workers have more money to spend, they can support business. He believes a healthy middle class is the cause of a thriving economy, rather than the result of it.” –

    Henry Ford believed it, in the face of his competitors and social peers, and was right. 🙂

    • RJ Crayton says:

      Yes, he did believe in it and he was right. He valued his workers and they in turn valued him and bought his products. It’s a circle of life sort of the thing, I think. The more you value others, the more you’ll be valued. Even though it seems counter intuitive that paying your employees more will help your bottom line, it tends to work. (By more, I mean what they’re worth, not the minimum you can get away with when unemployment is high.)

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