Often I think there is a book inside of me, but at the moment the Doctor suspects it may be kidney stones. If there really is something of literally value inside you the prospect of fame, and fortune via the written word may be illusory for most of those hoping to make a living off it. Perhaps some at least know not to enter X Factor with their vocal talents. But maybe, with a few Retweets by authors of your blog posts you might think yes – I have what it takes. Maybe you do – but even so:
According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers – the first comprehensive study of author earnings in the UK since 2005 – the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 if adjusted for inflation), and well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living. The typical median income of all writers was even less: £4,000 in 2013, compared to £5,012 in real terms in 2005, and £8,810 in 2000. [The Guardian]
Still, perhaps it is only a matter of handing that manuscript to the right person at the right time. Like JKR …
Joanne Harris, best selling author of Chocolat, made this observation:
The general public has been led to believe by success stories like JK Rowling’s that authors are fabulously well-paid for doing a job that’s easy and fun. But stories are always more than they seem to be. Those people who assume that it’s just a little story about wizards are completely missing the point.
It is a fair point. Writing a book that can hold someone’s attention for two, three hundred pages is not as easy as it sounds. The amount most writers have to live off is pitiful compared to most jobs. Living off your royalties in luxury is most unlikely. You will be exceedingly lucky if the advance pays you the minimum wage for your efforts.
What Joanne Harris said has been lost in translation by media headlines, and it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. The Independent:
Which is not what she said at all. The Daily Telegraph had:
The Daily Telegraph has since changed the headline – but the previous title still appears on a google search.
It has led to such comments as these by Kate Hopkins:
It is important to set the record straight for what Joanne Harris said. Not just for accuracy, but the message. Making an income to live off writing is becoming increasingly hard despite being in a technological age where it has never been easier to get your written work out there. In a drowning sea of digital e books, blogs, and established print media making professional material available for free.
Books are more than a collection of printed words. They are portals to other worlds. To another time whether past or present. A gateway to a place beyond imagination. You always remember a page turner. It is like a pet on the book shelf, where just seeing the spine sends tingles up your own as you reminisce about the story that wrapped you up in another universe.
In this media age people think they can be celebrities with no noticeable talent, and live off being a sensation from their 15 minutes of fame. We are also in an age where people expect to get content for nothing.
Joanne Harris needs to be heard on this. If we cannot give a lifeline to writers, rewarding their talent, then our literally culture will be in poor health.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog