Friday, February 28, 2020

Some reflections on fiscal matters...

The Guardian piece Louise posted on my Facebook Timeline, The Guardian, might appear, at first 
glance, to suggest that we're all rich. You know - the classic rich, white, middle class majority. 
Oh, whoops! Did I say majority? Well, them, anyway. And believe me, as the writer says in her 
piece, there are entitled, middle class hobbyists out there, supported in a variety of ways 
including working husbands, but also many, many writers who have other jobs. The only reason I'm 
able to do this job is because I was lucky enough to have no mortgage to pay, as my late husband's 
aunt had paid it off when she died. But the reason I HAVE to do this job is because I have no 
other income. 

Late DH and I were never brilliant with money. We did some smashing jobs, but none of them 
actually paid well. Our children have followed faithfully in our footsteps. And frankly, I consider
myself bloody lucky. Most of the time I can support myself and even any boomeranging 
offspring that appear for the odd fortnight.

Just occasionally, this all gets a bit on top of me. Such as learning that my new publisher won't 
be paying me until July. Now I know received wisdom states that it is terribly non-U to discuss 
money, but sorry, folks, sometimes you have to. I need people to know why I can't do things 
sometimes. Like go on holiday. Or to conferences. Or even to speaking gigs, which the 
organisers always tell me will "raise my profile" and that I shall be able to sell some books! Well, 
the amount of books I'd probably sell would maybe pay for a cup of tea and a bun, and rarely do
these bookings offer to pay, even the fairly well known book festivals. Yes, it's wrong, and at the 
beginning of my career as an author (not as a writer - that's different) I'd willingly go dashing off
to various parts of the country without even getting expenses. But now? I would rather keep 
what I have to pay for essentials and the moderate comforts of home.

For instance, today my PLR has come in. This is Public Lending Right, which we get once a year
for all the borrowings of our books made over the last twelve months. It has saved my life more
than once, and today I immediately paid for my recent delivery of coal, my car tax for a year and
booked an MOT for next week. Oh - and my granddaughter's birthday present. Very self indulgent, 
all of them. But this why I write books - because I can actually afford to buy coal, keep my car on 
the road (just) and buy my grandchildren birthday presents. I can manage to pay for the landline, 
keep my mobile topped up, pay my Sky subscription and my gas and electricity bills and my council
tax. I can even indulge my small vices - not to excess, but a bottle of Scotch a week? - and until fairly
recently, buy a few new clothes. (Warning - don't lose a lot of weight unless you're rich. Your wallet
will not love you.)

So there you are. The real life of a writer. I'm not moaning - as I said, I consider myself very lucky. If 
I have to work, at least I'm lucky enough to do this. But this is also why I, and a lot of my fellow 
authors, worry like mad with every new book. Will they like it, the publishers? Will I ever get another 
contract? Will I be able to eat next year?

Frankly, it's a bloody silly way to earn a living...