Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Making ends meet in the modern writing world

by Rick Blechta

With a new novella release at the end of this month, I’ve been thinking about book contracts, advances against royalties and how much I actually make at this game.

First, I’d like to recommend that you read this blog post by Ros Barber, a writer in the UK: Authors and the Truth About Money. She has some straightforward and honest things to say. It is damn hard for writers to make money, be in no doubt of that.

But this isn’t news. You can call me a defeatist, but I can accept all of this, even if I don’t like it. Unless your works sell in the tens of thousands, don’t expect to make much money.

I often hear authors complaining about the paltry level to which advances have sunk over the years. As I (and many others on Type M) have stated before, the original idea of advances was to allow the author to be able to support her/himself while crafting their work. Most of us get excited these days when given a $5000 advance. In this day and age, that might give the average person two months to write and not have to worry (too much) about income.

I understand why this is. Publishers don’t want to be hemorrhaging money over their publications. Several books a season that drop like stones after release can put a company’s financial health in real jeopardy.

But near the end of her piece, Ros brings up the subject of patronage. This used to be far more common in the past. Beethoven (among many other musicians) survived only because of support he received from the wealthy. In those days, there was great support for the art among the well-to-do.

Nowadays, the wealthy tend to support established charities or endow universities or hospitals. With artists (of all stripes) just as ill-equipped to create while they’re barely able to survive, we’re actually in a worse financial situation than our brethren of the past. At least some of them were able to find patrons.

However, Ros points out in her two last paragraphs that patronage seems to be making a modest comeback via crowdsourcing on the internet of all things. Patreon.com is a novel way of helping to get the money needed to create art of all kinds. Donors don’t have to be wealthy and best of all, you can help fund a favourite artist (and that includes us authors) to give you more of what you enjoy.

I don’t release books very often because I have had to earn a living and that proved to be a time-consuming (and creative juices-sucking) business. I have to admit that I’m often jealous of writer friends who are independently wealthy, retired with a decent pension or have a partner/spouse with an excellent-paying job to support them. I’ve got none of these and never will. Even though I’m now drawing a meagre amount from my meagre pension, it’s become pretty clear that I’m going have to keep working a bit to keep body and soul together.

Damn it! I just want to be able to write!

Maybe patreon.com is the answer.

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