Monday, March 12, 2007

Not the best time to be an author ...

According to an article by Cole Morton in The Independent this weekend, things really are as bad as we think.

Check this extract:

Authors do love to moan, don't they? There's no heavy lifting or wiping other people's bottoms for a living; it's just sitting there going tap-tippety-tap all day, complaining about how little you're being paid, isn't it? And yet... new research just published shows they (we, to be honest) may have something really worth moaning about. Something shocking is happening in the world of publishing that means we could end up with very few books at all except the ghost-written memoirs of airhead footballers and models.

The average author earns about £16,000, a third less than the national average wage, it is revealed. So what? They're doing what they love. But hidden behind that figure released by the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a grimmer truth: when you take away the superstars who are earning shedloads, the actual figure for the rest is closer to £4,000.

That's less than it was last time anyone looked, seven years ago, and far less than the distant days when the Net Book Agreement kept prices high. Forget living on baked beans in a garrett; this is barely enough to buy stale bread and a tarpaulin for shelter.

And it is only for the lucky ones: fewer authors are being signed up unless they're famous, advances are shrinking, and those who sell only moderately well are dropped, ending careers early.

You can check out the whole article here. Sigh ...

But hey - we always said no one should write simply in order to make money.

Write because you have a story that has to be told.
Write because you simply can't imagine life without a creative outlet.
Write because it's a compulsion.
Write because you love to do it.

Whatever the reason - enjoy! And maybe look at alternatives to traditional publishing?

(Thanks to Steve for drawing my attention to this article. Now get your own bloody blog!)


Unknown said...

Most of us are wiping bottoms of some description, holding down one, two, maybe three, jobs in order to do what we ENJOY!
In a moment of possible boredom, I worked out how much Coven of One would have earned me had it been paid at my hourly working rate. To make it fair I put myself on the lowest scale (non-professional) but kindly gave myself a bit more holiday (unpaid). The figures nearly doubled my yearly income but what was more horrifying was the actual number of hours spent writing. Top that off with the fact that I run a house and family and you are looking at some sort of wonder woman!
Does anyone, apart from a bestselling author, actually manage to pay a mortgage without have a day job?

Unknown said...

OMG - I am now so depressed I need to eat a carton of chocolate before leaping into the space pod and returning with all due haste to Novapulse where creativity is truly appreciated.

I guess this means I have to give up my dream of being published and rich and famous? Nah... the alternative is too gruesome, I'll hang on to the dream and do lots of positive visualisation. Alternatively, I could just set Granny on recalcitrant publishers.

Debi said...

Minx - now work out the real hourly rate! Anyway, hours spent writing are never horrifying. They're bliss! As for you being wonder woman, why yes of course. But the answer to your last question is definitely 'no'.

Aty - oh please don't be depressed! You have the gift of being able to write. We should feel so lucky and privileged to have that even without the £££.

That was the point I wanted to make - that getting published must never be our only motivation. That way madness lies ...

Anonymous said...

I love being an unsuccessful writer. All I had to do to be one is not pay attention to what I really write and then have a manicured appearance, give the impression that I can actually hold a conversation and get me a well earning corporate chick to take care of the rest. It's worked out well so far. Do wish I had my own money every once-a-once, though. With blogging n'all it's actually cool to be able bitch n' moan about not making it as a writer. On the other hand, not giving a hoot what publishers think about what I write is very liberating, especially when I check out the shelves of new publications in book stores. I think. Wrote something about publishers once in a drunkin' stupour. Wanna give it a go?

Anonymous said...

Sorry if I screwed up the link in my first comment. I promise this will be the last. The link to my post is in the name above.
Nice blog, btw.

Anonymous said...

Think of the positive aspect - we scribblers are so poor we can't afford to buy guns (or even bullets) to shoot ourselves. Can't afford to buy tickets to get to places with respectable suicide bridges or cliffs. Certainly can't afford poison. Beggars take one look at us and offer us money. No one is jealous of us. We aren't blinded by TV cameras. We are really quite lucky.

What, Debi? Get myself a blog and then have to put up with posters like me?? Not bloomin' likely.

Debi said...

Yeah. And when the binmen come round to collect the rubbish, we ask them to LEAVE 2 bags.

Welcome, Tommi. Checked out your blog. You'd better hope Minx doesn't read your post re witches ...!

Unknown said...

I ate a crate of chocolate, got fat, broke out in zits but decided I wouldn't desert Earth just yet.

Writers write because we must, it's a passion, a compulsion and obsession. If we get rich off it, then we're extra lucky - as you say, to be blessed with creativity in the first instance is a wonderful gift in itself.

Right, now point me to a willing publisher so I can negotiate a six figure deal.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Debi--

I'm here 'cause I saw Maxine recommended your blog and she's my heroine of the blogosphere.

Just did our taxes and I earned about $6,000 as a writer in 2006. On the other hand, everything I wrote was about something that interested me -- essays on writers I like, book reviews, a short story that I actually got *paid* for (shockorama -- all my other ones have paid in copies), personal essays.

I also worked a real job as a copy editor and that paid the bills. I know lots of writers and only two of them are making a living off their books, and that didn't happen until they were (respectively) on their third books. Both are literary writers, so they're my models.

But I love to write -- I learn so much I didn't know, especially when I'm working on fiction. Never give it up, Debi, or any of the rest of you. Writing and reading are good for the soul.

Oh: Good jobs to support a writing habit are editing and teaching (I'll be teaching memoir at the Phila. Writers' Conference this summer). Once you've published a few things, you'll find it's not hard to get jobs that are also word-based. Blogs are good, too, for keeping your hand in every day. (I keep a journal. If I were to ever start a blog, I think it would be the end of my personal essays. I would just have them all on the web!)

Anyway, this is a great blog. I shall be back.

Debi said...

That's better, Aty. Chocolate and writing - 'because we must'. The keys to life ...

Susan - how lovely to see you here! Thanks to Maxine for her wonderful words. I feel incredibly lucky that the editing has given me a means of earning money from writing - even when it's not my own! I love doing it and feel really privileged.

Unfortunately for many writers, these sorts of jobs are still very hard to access if they haven't been published. Harsh but true. I never ever take my blessings for granted!

Sure we can't persuade you to start a blog of your own???

Anyway, I look forward to seeing you here more and thanks for commenting.