Thursday, November 30, 2006

There's Something Zenny Here But I'm Not Sure What It Is

The L.A. Times carried an article by Marianne Wiggins on judging the National Book Awards. Linda Sue Park did a piece on the same subject at her journal.

Here are two sentences from Wiggins article that jumped out at me:

"How many hardcover copies do you think Philip Roth or Cormac McCarthy sell? 100,000? Think again. A first novelist's average advance? Less than what a TV writer takes home in a month."

They jumped out at me because they support my belief that there is a great misconception about writing and income. I run into a lot of people who think there's big money to be made writing books. Seriously, I've known people who needed some extra money so they thought they'd just write a book and that would take care of everything. They don't realize that many highly regarded writers are not wealthy people. Many writers, probably some we've all heard of, scramble to make a living.

I have no problem with a first-time novelist getting an advance that's less than a TV writer takes home in a month, by the way. The fact that there are people who make more money than writers do shouldn't be a value judgment. It's just a fact. We get paid on the basis of what we can sell. That's the way it is, and I accept that.

I think people considering going into writing need to understand this. Many people in the arts have to support their art with some other kind of work. I don't see why we should expect to be different.

With writing, you really have to try to value what you're doing instead of valuing your compensation for doing it. Otherwise, you start worrying about what people like TV writers make per month.

No comments: