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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ride Out The Storm

My head hurts. I was going to post this on Saturday, but that's Valentine's Day for heaven's sake. I'm not going to dampen anyone's spirits on that day.

From Joe Nassise at Genreality:

• In 2004, there were roughly 1.2 million books in print.
• 80% of those books sold fewer than 100 copies.
• 98% sold fewer than 5000 copies.
• Only a few hundred books sold more than 100,000 copies.
• About 10 books sold over a million copies.

Read the rest of the post here.


And from Mark Terry, read his post on being paid by the word.

When you break it down by word, it makes you wonder if it's all worth it. Most authors I know make a few thousand here or there. Very few (that I know personally) break the 50k mark.

And I worry about the lucky few who make more than that because now they are under the gun to deliver or else.

Publishing isn't known for its generosity or giving second chances. And it has a very short attention span. There's always some new shiny author out there waiting in the wings.

Let's do the math. If you make 3 cents a word for a 100,000 word novel, it comes out to…$3,000.

Still want to write? Even the poverty level (yet professional rate) of 5 cents a word is only $5,000.

I'm not trying to dissuade anyone. I just hope people understand what's at stake and know that they'll be investing an ungodly amount of time to reach that golden ring.

A lot of writers say that they do it for the love of writing. All that is well and good, and more power to you for following your bliss.

I know none of this is news to the authors who've been doing this for a while. They know what they bring home. And I thank them for opening my eyes to reality.

Unless you already have a stable income coming in, writing is at best a side gig.

I wish I could say these guys were wrong, but they're not.

And to completely cool your jets: It's been reported nearly everywhere by now that HarperCollins will begin layoffs. They posted a 6.4 BILLION dollar loss. It has since closed its Collins division.

Okay, so it's not pretty out there. But people still want to read. And we still want to write.

Nothing lasts forever--including upheaval.

Go forth and write. We'll get through this.


Marianne Arkins said...

I never wrote for the money... that was just a side bennie -- if I make enough to pay for my habit, I'm a happy camper.

But, yeah, things tend to be cyclical. So, I'm hanging.


Maria Zannini said...

Ref: cyclical

I've been preaching this for years. The only absolute in life is change. You can count on it.

Mallory said...

I think you have to ignore the stats. As a writer you have to go for what your instinct asks for. Keep in mind that 'publish' was never about money - it was ALWAYS about putting before the public - money is a late comer to the game.

The idea is how many writers are being read? Sales do not track readership at all - what you don't see are materials that are passed in email or posted for free on websites. Success should not be determined by a single metric and writers should be writing for audience - not for money. Money may come or may not come but the writer, just like the artist, will still buy paint instead of bread cause being skinny isn't as bad as being unable to create.

Maria Zannini said...

Mallory: I can't ignore those stats. Writing is a business, first and foremost. While I might enjoy it, the first thing on my agenda is to get paid.

Ref: Keep in mind that 'publish' was never about money - it was ALWAYS about putting before the public -

Again, I disagree. I'm not in it for the glory. But I refuse to submit to the common fallacy of art for art's sake. I was an artist for well over thirty years. Money came first there too.

It's a business, pure and simple.

To tell a writer what he should be writing toward is grossly unfair. If someone wants to write to soothe his creative spirit, go for it. But that is not to say that people who do this for a living are less noble.

I truly feel that it's this attitude that keeps writers from earning a decent wage. So many want to give their work away and publishers will greedily take them up on it.

Anonymous said...

Well said, baby. I do write for the bliss of it and I'm generally indifferent to making money from it. I feel like publishing itself is the bar, and I'd like to make the cut. But if I don't, I'll still write for the joy of it. That said, I completely agree with you that it's the "art for arts sake" attitude that allows publishers to take advantage of writers.

Maria Zannini said...

I've seen it happen on the visual side. But I was appalled to see writers so ill-treated.

Most artists would never give away their work as blithely as some writers do.

Marian said...

"So many want to give their work away..."

Sadly, a lot of writers don't think of it this way, as them selling their rights of first publication.

They see it as the publisher doing them a huge favor by putting their work into print (especially if the publisher doesn't charge up front). So vanities and amateurs have a field day. I've read of one which even made writers sign over their copyright.

Maria Zannini said...

I've been fortunate in that I've had the experience of working in another creative field before entering writing. Added to that I've also had many excellent writing mentors who always watched my back.

I can't bear to see anyone bamboozled into thinking the publisher is doing them the favor for publishing their work.