Sunday, April 19, 2009

Money, Honey

So we've all know about J.K. Rowling and Dan Brown, the gold-rush phenoms who struck it rich seemingly overnight (emphasis on seemingly). Some of us have sat in workshops or attended signings at which the presenter was introduced as having X million books in print and done a little royalty math in our heads. There are success stories out there and, oh, what successes they are. We hear them and our agile imaginations place us on our private yacht in the South Pacific, plunking idly away at a book we certainly don't need to write for financial reasons and generally having a smashing good time.

But the reality for most of us is more accurately represented by the immortal words of Macaulay Connor, the struggling writer turned reporter from The Philadelphia Story (arguably the best movie of all time, and by arguably, I mean that you can argue with me, but you would be wrong). Connor, in a moment of brilliance says, "You know, that book of mine represents two solid years' work and it netted Connor something under six hundred dollars." Tracy's reaction to those words couldn't be truer: "But that shouldn't be!" And yet, it is. Allowing for inflation over the last seventy or so years, those numbers seem about right.

Don't believe me? Brenda Hiatt debunks the Publishing Your Book = Winning the Lottery myth on her website by posting anonymous information on how much authors in the romance genre are really making these days. There is a wide variety, but the average numbers might surprise you.

Think it's only the debut or midlist authors who are rubbing pennies together? New York Times Bestselling author Lynn Viehl demystifies the earnings of a bestselling novel in this blog post: (And I cannot thank her enough for being so forthcoming. Where did this stigma against copping to the financial realities of life as an author come from? Are we trying to foster an illusion of wild success in some misplaced positive thinking? Or is it that they - whoever they are - think we won't put ourselves through the emotional rollercoaster of publishing if we don't have the mega-millions dreams to spur us on? Trust me; most of us would write anyway. We are writing junkies. We don't do it for the money. Which isn't to say we would turn down money...)

So how is a writer to make a living at this nasty biz?

One alternative to starvation is to be fiendishly prolific. Write like a mad thing (maintaining a high quality, of course) and publish enough books a year to wallpaper the palace at Versailles.

Option two is to marry well - I am in a small minority of romance writers who are not also loving wives and carpool mommies. And I am wildly jealous of them for their bringing-home-the-bacon-hubbies (although admittedly, I have exponentially more time to devote to my writing since I am not tasked with taking care of anyone but myself).

The third tried-and-true technique is to be lucky. Really, really lucky. And talented. And determined. And lucky. And skilled. And... did I mention luck?

Option four... well, I'm still looking for a fourth option that doesn't include a forty hour week in the accounting department. That is where I am stuck at least until my “patron lady bountiful” comes along. Suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Suggestion: Old, rich dude.


Vivi Andrews said...

Why does it have to be an old rich dude? We don't discriminate against the young and unnaturally wealthy.