June 28, 2008

Please See Fact #2...

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming now for a teensy, tiny, microscopic rant.

I would have thought that people would know that just because I have a book out, it doesn't mean my life is suddenly stunningly different, but apparently people don't know that, so you, my reading public, are now eligible, no, gifted to become privy to facts about my life and writing that few people apparently possess.

Fact #1: Writing doesn't make you rich.

(Maybe this should be Fact #2 as well.)
Writing doesn't make you rich. It's a lot of work for a very little money, unless you tickle the public's imagination and catapult to success. And even then, it takes years for you to be able to rely solely on books for your income. Yes, it's true. Years. Really.

Fact #2: I am not rich. If you're eleven and my little sister, or at a career day type of thing or a kid under, say, twenty-one, you can get away with asking me how much money I make. There's generally a free pass for kids, but anyone else, ask this, and know that you have earned my undying enmity. It's not right and it's not polite, but it's true. I'm just saying.

Fact #3: If you owe me money, you should pay me. See Fact #2.

Fact #4: Fact #3 is mostly a joke - I know you'll never pay me. (You Know Who You Are!) The truth is, it's important for we writers and would-be writers to understand that we may really need to keep the day job for awhile. Here's why:

Most authors receive only between 10 - 16% of their total sales. If a publishing house prints 50,000 copies of your book, but only sells 10,000, then you only get 10,000 X $15 (cover price) X .16 (author percentage) = $24,000. If you have an agent -- and mine is worth his weight in platinum -- their fee comes directly off the top.

Take out the taxes, next.

Do you see where this is going? People make more than this working full-time at Starbucks with a whole lot less effort (Not to diss the barrista effort, by any means. Long live barristas. And, okay, maybe you'd only really make bank in a Starbucks in downtown Seattle or something where people really tip, but you get my drift.).

Additionally -- and perhaps most importantly -- from that first year's sales comes your advance - because you've already been paid part of what you earn that first year. The long-play name of the "advance" is "an advance against royalties." Don't forget that! If you make it to Publisher's Lunch with one of their euphonious turns of phrase that means you got a six figure sum for your advance, don't forget that you've just gotten a chunk of your paycheck a little early.

Do you see what I'm getting at? It's not a huge money-maker, at least not without a lot of sweat and consistency, and you really could, with no one checking your grammar or rejecting your turns of phrase or questioning your character's motivation or arguing about the verbosity of your dialogue -- you really could make more money as an office assistant in a really nice law firm with much less aggravation.

People who choose to write do so because they feel a drive to hold something intangible. Though they may never truly catch the fullness of what they long to express, they continue the attempt. It makes, sometimes, for some amazing books.

Don't get me wrong: I love what I do. And if you want to, may you find the courage to write, too. Just understand that it may not be blindingly lucrative, and please be nice to the writers you know, who are sometimes taken for granted as the one in the group who should treat everyone to dinner or coffee because they're "rich."

Please see Fact #2.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.


Sarah Stevenson said...

Hear, hear.

Apparently I like to also select day jobs that make very little money compared to the amount of work involved. And then there's that whole art degree.

But, per the last few paragraphs of fact #4...it's because you HAVE to. Very little else seems worth doing...

Anonymous said...

Amen, sister.

Little Willow said...

Better to be rich in spirit (energy, creativity, happiness, things that MATTER) than in money.

tanita✿davis said...

A.F. ~~ Agree. Very little else seems worth doing...

And thanks, L.W., for putting it positively. That reminds me of one of my favorite writing quotes: Better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly

Fortunately, no matter how little money I have, writing -- doing the work I want -- makes me feel rich...

Saints and Spinners said...

TadMack: I'm glad that you're rich in imagination, experiences, friends, etc. But I do hope that someday you can be rich in cash, too. :)

Gail Gauthier said...

When my kids were in high school, I was careful never to let them know what I made for an income because I was afraid they were making more working part-time at a bakery.

I think that 30 or 40 years ago there was a better understanding of writer income. There was a stereotype back then of the author/professor or author/teacher. I think that was forgotten when people like Stephen King started making big bucks.