Monday, 10 March 2014

Rose-tinted Thinking?

Two things happened to me over the last week that got me thinking about the world of writing.

The first was this. A friend informed me that I was wearing rose-tinted glasses if I thought I could make a living as a writer and that I should just get a 'normal' job. This wasn't a personal slap-in-the-face but rather this person's opinion of writers in general.

Secondly, a worried writer friend sent me the link below. The article that had so chafed on her emotions appeared in the Guardian, From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author's life? by Robert McCrum.

This article uses the story of a handful of successful authors (Rupert Thomson, Paul Bailey, and Joanna Kavenna) to discuss whether it is profitable, or even sustainable, to write for a living nowadays. With the onslaught of Amazon, the ongoing worrying financial climate, the growing popularity of ebooks and the increasing availability of free material online, can writers support themselves financially through their literary creations?

"All I want is enough money to carry on writing full time. And it's not a huge amount of money. I suppose you could say that I've been lucky to survive as long as I have, to develop a certain way of working. Sadly, longevity is no longer a sign of staying power." - Rupert Thomson

It's a fascinating, if a tad downcast, article, which led to a lengthy discussion between my worried friend and me. She has two novels under her belt and another one being written. She still has a 'day job' but would love to support herself solely from her writing.

I'm still working on my novel but my writing income comes from the plays I pen for my business Murdering The Text. It doesn't bring in an incredible amount of money but I love it, and I'm lucky to have a supportive husband.

We all know that to sell our books (whether self published or traditionally published) and writing, we are expected to self publicise, often imaginatively and diversely. Very few of us expect the massive advances that existed pre 2008. Magazines look to their readers for much of the material they would previously have paid for and many of the new online magazines don't pay at all.

So what does that mean? Well, unless you have a millionaire for a partner (or are already a millionaire yourself), there has to be a back up plan. Mostly, that plan is to keep the day job or create one for yourself (several writer friends offer editing services and do extremely well out of it). There's no reason to be a starving artist these days.

So am I wearing the proverbial pink lenses? No, I don't think so and having spoken to other writer friends, I've come to the conclusion that most of them have binned their tinted spectacles too. Writing, in many ways, is no different to life in general. It requires effort, imagination and a realistic attitude. In my view, that's nothing to be depressed about.

4 comments:

  1. I'm lucky that my husband makes enough money to support us and that I continue to make more money each year from writing and editing. So far so good. I don't care if I never make millions from writing. I love my job, and how many people can honestly say that? I consider myself wealthy in that aspect.

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    1. I completely agree with you, Kelly.

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  2. Writers wear rose-coloured glasses, eh? Ouch!
    Am thinking mine have a rather more blue tinge to them. Not depression, more realism.
    This is an exciting time to be an author as the rules are changing fast. Suddenly being published traditionally isn't so much of an advantage, as the authors in McCrum's article are now finding. But writing is a business. Like any other business, some will be successful, others will give up. And that goes for 'normal' jobs too.

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