Saturday, May 20, 2017

The cost of being an Author

No, folks, we aren't all rich. That's one myth demolished. And no, I don't do this as a hobby. That's number two shot down. And three - we don't all swan off to lunches with publishers and hire picture perfect cottages to commune with our muses - er, WHAT muses?

There are some authors who are lucky enough to have an independent income (or their husband's) to support them. They don't have to conform to the pressures of the industry. There are some who have taken the wild leap into Indie Publishing, or self publishing, as it used to be called. Those who have done it properly, with proper editors, cover designers etc I admire tremendously. I haven't got the energy. And those of us with old fashioned traditional publishers are not taken to lunch once a month, or given publishing parties. No, we flail around working out which industry do will be most worthwhile. That is, if we can afford to go.

Parties and conferences can be great fun - ARE great fun. But they're expensive. And if you're a traditional author who relies solely on the income from his/her books, they are frequently out of reach. It isn't just the cost of the event itself, it's the travel costs and - ahem - the drink.

Please understand I'm not complaining and/or whining. I consider myself extremely lucky, as I said in my last blog post, to be supported by my books, but as one after another friend in the business asks me if I'm coming to this or that function and I say no, I felt I should explain. I'm not going on the annual jaunt to Turkey either, because if ever I do manage to accrue a spare £1000 it will have to go on a new laptop. I can feed and house myself, the cats, occasional boomerang offspring and the odd guest. I can run a car and wifi. But that's it. Much like anyone else working below the minimum wage - or maybe a bit better because I don't have a mortgage.

As I said, I'm not moaning. Just remember that I'm an ordinary member of society doing a job. As I say boringly, when people ask,  "Well, it's better than stacking shelves at the supermarket."

13 comments:

Jane Risdon said...

Much like the Music Business Lesley, everyone too busy making a living to earn any money. So many artists end up broke, living on next to nothing, yet everyone assumes because they've sold records, they are rich. There is many a slip twixt cup and lip, especially when self-employed and in the creative arts. I get you, I've seen it.

Lesley Cookman said...

Don't I know it! Old man and I were permanently broke when the kids were little - and not so little. I remember not having enough to buy them an ice cream at the end of a caravan holiday we'd scrimped and saved for.

Charlotte McFall said...

Only a few ever make a lot of money. I have been told by my mum and brother writing isn't a job and I should do something else. I have chosen not to go to the confrences because i would have the extra expense of a carer for hubby. Not sure why people assume that you are rich when you right books. Occassionally you come accross writers who gloat they have a better contract than you and in the next breath complain about the publisher.

Elaine Everest said...

So true, Lesley. We work long hours and blooming hard for what we earn.
I've just been accosted on a forum for people in my home town as it seems I'm not working class and earn a fortune as I'm an author. Really? Twenty years doing a job I love but I've had to write all sorts of things to earn a penny and have never relied on my husband. If the going got tough I took on a temp job or went out and pitched more article ideas. xx

Arabella McIntyre-Brown said...

I remember - a good 10-15 years ago - being shocked when I heard that a successful mid-market romantic novelist was having to go back to work at the pub to make ends meet, despite getting what we all thought was a stonkingly good two-book deal. By the time she carved off a chunk for the taxman, a chunk for the agent, spread the money over two years and took away the costs, it was nothing to write about, home or elsewhere.

But I'm surprised that with your amazing back list you are not better rewarded. All that effort should be paying you back by now. Is it the supermarket/Amazon super-discount syndrome that's taking a toll?

Jane Lovering said...

I can't afford heating or hot water. I can barely afford to run a car. I can't go on holidays or to parties or 'writing retreats'. My day job provides me with cut-price (short dated) food, otherwise i probably wouldn't be able to afford to eat either. And yet, so many people assume because I'm a published author, I am rolling in money! No, I am just very good at 'keeping up appearances'...

Lesley Cookman said...

I know exactly who that author was, Arabella, and I was shocked, too. Jane, the only reason I can do a couple more things is the lack of mortgage or rent, as I said. Charlotte - writing IS a job. I admire your residence. Elaine, I've seen what you do - and I know your home town! And aren't we all good at keeping up appearances.

Sue Barnard said...

How true, Lesley - and everyone else who has commented. I'm still amazed at the number of people who think that as an author I'm raking in the millions. And don't get me started on all those who assume that they're entitled to free copies of my books just because they know me!

Natalie Kleinman said...

We've just come back from holiday (courtesy of my husband) and met several people who went all gooey-eyed when I said I was a writer. Also, I gave a talk to a local group of non-writers a couple of weeks before we went away. In both circumstances I astonished my listeners by telling them how little the majority of writers earn. And that some don't earn at all - not from their writing anyway. Nor did they appreciate the man hours involved. I too am not complaining. I couldn't stop if I wanted to unless it was to find a way of putting food on the table. Like you we are fortunate in not having a mortgage but we have to be very choosy about what we spend our money on.

Gabrielle said...

I echo everyone else here. I did make a living completely from writing for about a decade, but I'm not talking Ferraris and gold bath taps type of income! Now I combine writing and teaching fiction with my other 'day, evening and weekend' job of freelance journalism, and am very grateful to have a partner who works full-time in an '8 to 8'five day a week job. It's always been a gripe of mine how poorly rewarded the artist of the written word is compared to say, a musician who has just one hit record.
That said, I enjoyed my holiday more last year as I'd saved up to pay my share.
Be that as it may, there's no denying, I think, that we all love our craft and wouldn't give it up for anything!
Gabrielle x

Carol Hedges said...

Yep....fed up of people assuming I am rolling in money. I couldn't and never have been able to support myself on writing alone. And I work BLOODY HARD on social media to get the sales I do get!

andiesenji said...

I'm not a writer but for years I supplemented my income from my regular job as an x-Ray tech by doing art work.
I had similar comments made about the fees I charged for my pieces.
I did engraving in glass and crystal. I had to first produce a drawing from which to work and then draw the image into the glass freehand with diamond engraving instruments.
I remember one rather wealthy woman who asked why I charged the same per each (goblets) when "usually" if one bought in multiples, there would be a discount.
I tried to explain that each was a one-of-a-kind piece not duplicated and the time spent doing the engraving by hand (9 to 11 hours) was part of the calculation for pricing. She had provided me with Bacarat goblets and wanted the heads of 6 of her Arabian horses engraved on them.
I am in awe of authors and have known a few during my 78 years. Writing is hard work and requires far more tenacity than I have ever been able to generate long enough to write more than short stories.
People see the mega success of writers such as J. K. Rowling and apply that to all writers. They don't want to hear the truth.

Lesley Cookman said...

Thank you so much for the non-writer's point of view - although you say you write/have written short stories. Believe me, most of us would be in awe of your talent engraving glass and crystal - I am - and you are so right about the JK Rowling effect!