Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When Writing was About Money

I've admitted it before: I used to think writing would make me rich.

True story. I was dumb. I'm a little smarter now. (just a little)

My first stumbling block? I had no idea how many people were trying to write/sell fiction. Finding an agent/publisher for fiction is enormously competitive at the same time fewer people are reading fiction.

I know...what the (insert explicative)? How does something like this happen?

Sorry. Off track. This is about writing and money, not the ins and outs of the non-reading public.

I stumbled across this bit of information from Tobias Buckell's blog. The entry is a little old, but relevant. Go check it out. Then come back, please. I have more to ramble about.

Add the grim numbers from that survey to a tidbit Brian Keene (yes, that Brian Keene) let slip in a Cemetery Dance interview re: mid-list authors having to spend their advance to promote a book, and I wonder what the hell is the point.

Well...it sure isn't money.

For the best author's, I imagine (and I could be wrong), royalties work as some grand pyramid scheme. The more you have in print (if people are buying) the more you will make (once the advances are met).

When I was dumb (or dumber than I am now), I thought writing was going to be about the money.

It isn't. I don't think I want it to be. Just like the proverbial cellist we all learned about in general psychology (the little girl who loved to play until her parents started paying her), I think writing strictly for money would kill the passion.

Wait--I know it would.

Positive feedback from readers, however, is something a writer has to earn by making the best of the words at his/her disposal. That is the challenge and the heart of my passion (i.e., translate my jumbled thoughts into something moving and complete and real, even if I made it up).

I really would rather be read well than paid well. Yes, the two intersect...and it would be nice to find that intersection.

Oh, and in light of all the self-publishing rip-off BS last week (the whole IndieReader shindig), if I ever self-publish, I'm setting the price cheap or free 'cause it ain't about the money at that point folks: it's about the exposure. Nobody's getting rich around here.

For now, I have miles to go before I sleep...


Carrie Harris said...

Heh. Yeah, I keep having friends and family ask what I'm going to do with my advance. Which kind of necessitates SELLING something, but even beyond that, I'm finding it difficult to explain that I need to set aside a nice chunk of it or maybe even ALL of it for marketing of the book. The idea that it will repay itself in future book deals and if I'm lucky some royalties doesn't quite get through.

What can you do besides keep doing what you're doing?

Well, you could quit, but that would suck. ;)

Alan W. Davidson said...

I think that you about said it all, Aaron...and I would buy your book.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I have been working in this, off and on, for fifteen years. Only recently have I made any money (or sales for that matter)doing it and it is darn little at that. I don't regret it and would do it all over again in a second. It definitely isn't about getting rich, it is about the love of the word and trying to write a better story.

Unknown said...

nothing like a cold dose of reality to start your day :^)

it is good that we can talk about these things with other writers. like carrie was talking about, a lot of non writers assume its fairly easy to make a living off it, but the truth of the situation is a little more complex

Barry Napier said...

I never even thought about getting rich with writing. If I can get enough stuff out there to have enough on royalties so that I can write full time, I'll be happy...wait, what? that's equally impossible?


Brendan P. Myers said...

I think it's less about getting rich (though who would turn that down?) than it is about being able to make a living as a writer.

I recall in one of his blog posts, Brian Keene writing quite honestly about his own income, which if I recall wasn't much more than fifty-grand a year.

But he also spoke of living within his means, living in an area with a low-cost of living, paying his dues, and most importantly, ass-in-chair time.

Would I take fifty-grand a year (a pay cut, by the way) to be able to make a living as an author?

In a heartbeat.

Rebecca Nazar said...

I understand the frustration, but I don't want to write a novel. It's too exhausting, and I'm lazy. No money in my future.

I knew going into this I'd make little or nothing writing short stories. Oftentimes I submit to markets who "do it for the love" because I "do it for the love".

K.C. Shaw said...

Writing is one helluva intrinsic/extrinsic rewards maelstrom. Writers get the intrinsic reward of finishing a work of art, the extrinsic reward of showing it off to people who will say nice things about it (like our moms and friends), then another intrinsic reward of being able to call ourselves writers and hang out with other writers, the extrinsic reward of positive reader remarks, etc. With all that going on, a little payment doesn't make much difference. No wonder so many people write. :)

Cate Gardner said...

You mean I'm not going to be the next JK Rowling? But I've already chosen my castle and my yacht. ;)

Katey said...

Interesting statistics, thanks for the link!

I said in someone else's blog comments once that feedback being the ultimate-- I totally agree. I think we only crave money because in our world it's a substitute for that, and the only validation we can really expect (or have been taught to expect, anyhow). The net is slowly changing that, though. There is satisfaction to be had, and we can know we entertained.

And that's what it's about, like you say!

Fox Lee said...

Ying doesn't want me to make lots of money. He says it will change our tax bracket and be more trouble than its worth. I love a frugal man : )

BT said...

One point - "for the best authors..." - the most successful are not always the best.

I think this is more about being fully aware that you will never make a huge amount of money from writing - until you do.

What I mean is, every big writer out there, King, Meyer, Rowling, etc, etc, started in the same (if not worse) tax bracket as all of us struggling writers.

As long as we are happy to write the stories and build a readership, then the rest MAY take care of itself when it's damn well good and ready.

I'm going to continue to write, continue to publish where and when I can, and continue to enjoy myself. If an agent out there somewhere decides I'm worth a shot in the future - then lucky them.

Keene makes 50k - My family wouldn't survive if I took that much of a pay cut. May have to wait until I retire before I can become a full time writer...

Benjamin Solah said...

To be honest, I still dream of earning enough to write full time. I know it's not that possible but I'm still not losing hope because the idea of working 9-5 for the man for the rest of my life is too damn depressing.

L.R. Bonehill said...

As a kid, I always thought writing would make me rich – come on, who didn’t? Reality sucks, it really does.

I’m still pretty much at the start of the long journey of trying to write seriously, but even now there are so many days when I think - what the hell is the point? What are the chances of getting anywhere?

But then, I’ll read a novel (I’m talking mass-market here) and just shake my head in despair at how bad the thing is. There’s so much dreck out there that it astounds me.

So, there are other days I think - why not my dreck?

Danielle Birch said...

I'd love to be able to afford to write full-time, but I can't, and I'm still going to write anyway, whether I ever earn any money from it, because I love to create the stories. But I admit I used to think the same as you, when I started writing I thought it would be different. I still haven't made any money from it, so its a good thing I'm doing it out of love :)

Jeremy D Brooks said...

I guess there was a point early on after I decided to take writing seriously, when I came to the realization that I could write to make a living, or I could play poker for a living, because income for both trades is pretty much (persistence + work + luck = theoretical income stream), and can't be counted on to keep the kids in shoes and peanut butter. At that point, and I'm sure a lot of you did this too, I had to set it in my mind that I would never make a living as a writer and had to rely on the day job; but, regardless, I would always write as if it were my job to do so, simply because I love doing it so much. Just hearing about so many writers who never earn out their advance is just depressing...