January 11, 2019

Life of a writer getting harder

NY Times -Writing has never been a lucrative career choice, but a recent study by the Authors Guild, a professional organization for book writers, shows that it may not even be a livable one anymore.

According to the survey results, the median pay for full-time writers was $20,300 in 2017, and that number decreased to $6,080 when part-time writers were considered. The latter figure reflects a 42 percent drop since 2009, when the median was $10,500. These findings are the result of an expansive 2018 study of more than 5,000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditional and self-published writers.

“In the 20th century, a good literary writer could earn a middle-class living just writing,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, citing William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Cheever. Now, most writers need to supplement their income with speaking engagements or teaching. Strictly book-related income — which is to say royalties and advances — are also down, almost 30 percent for full-time writers since 2009.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But most writers didn't do that well during Faulkner's or Hemingway's time either. Most writers are, by definition, of only average ability. Why should people spend their money to buy mediocre work, whether by a writer, a painter, or some other craftsperson.

To take an example: Jean Auel, like Rowling, is not really a writer. She had an excellent idea for a 6-book series, but the quality of her writing fell off sharply after the second book. The same thing happened to Rowling's series. Good idea, increasingly bad follow-through, appealing only to those who don't really care about plot, character development, pace, or logic. Fortunately for such authors, if not for the rest of us, there are evidently many people like that.

Compare the work of those two fantasy authors to that of the late Sir Terry Pratchett OBE. His 41-book Discworld oeuvre was of consistently high quality, which he maintained even while the visual part of his cerebral cortex was wasting away and killing him. Only his last book, released posthumously, was rough because he died before he could finish editing and polishing. He was a real writer and no mistake. And, unlike Auel and Rowling, his sales were not the product of publisher hype, but rather of word-of-mouth. His work earned him three distinctions: the most-shoplifted author in Britain; the only known author whose books appealed to a readership ranging from smart 10-year-olds through senior researchers at major universities around the world; and the only known author for whom an increasing number of computers around the world now emit an extra header line in every message sent: "X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett" (a reference to his book Going Postal).