Publishing in Cloud-CooCoo Land

Years ago, when I was a raw beginner, I lived in a small mountain town where most of the inhabitants were artists or potters or the like.

At the time, I was struggling to sell a few short stories a year, and I remember repining against fate, and getting very upset because all these beginning potters and artists could sell their learning product directly to the public at street fairs and arts and crafts shows. Meanwhile, my net was zero or worse, as I sent stuff out and it came back rejected.

Well, old me is jealous of new me. Nowadays a lot of the young writers I advise are getting paid for learning. Sure, most don’t make a lot, but most didn’t make a lot under traditional publishing. And a lot of them make more than I ever did, not just as a beginner.

So imagine my surprise at coming across this article, in which someone calling himself an author laments the inability to make a living from writing.

His post is so full of fallacies that it demands, nay, begs a thorough fisking.

I have no doubt that almost all of you in this room struggle with a central question in your lives: Why is it so goddamned hard to make a living as a writer today?

No, Doug, actually we don’t. Oh, maybe the people you were talking to, who probably think of writing as a vaguely romantic calling in which you struggle and live in a garret and write deeply meaningful stuff that is “too advanced for our time,” but definitely not most writers.

Indie seems to have provided an answer to that question: write a lot, improve your writing, write what customers want to read.  In other words, run your business like a business and not like a lecture hall. I confess I haven’t done very well since my career is still mostly traditional and health and other issues have prevented me from doing the full indie.  But I’ve seen my fledglings live very well indeed at a point in their careers where traditionally they should be making a few hundred dollars.

A recent study by the Authors Guild showed that from 2009 to 2015, the average income of a full-time author decreased 30 percent, from $25,000 a year to $17,500 a year. For part-time authors, the average income decreased 38 percent, from $7,250 a year to $4,500. Full-time authors with more than 25 years of experience saw the greatest drop — a 67 percent decrease from $28,750 to $9,500.

Do keep in mind that the Authors Guild is an attempt at a writers’ union. I did join it briefly on the promise of health insurance.  They didn’t deliver. Instead, they delivered things like this article and agitated for prestige and recognition on behalf of “authors.”  For us, working writers, they were about as useless as tits on a boar and twice as dumb.