My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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big bucks in literature

I joke with my starry-eyed students about the lack of remuneration in the writing world.  I draw a symbol, a dollar sign with a red circle around it and a red line through it, that they should keep in mind if they’re considering quitting their day jobs to write.  

And yet I have spent time today filling out contracts to receive cheques – one from the wonderful “More” magazine which has just bought another essay of mine at $1.00 a word, and, even more exciting, a tax contract from my publisher so I can receive a royalty payment for the book.  Yes, a royalty payment.  I, who was expecting nothing, am to receive $497.28.  (I almost wrote “American!” but unfortunately that doesn’t mean much any more.)  
I know that if you consider that the book took 25 years from start to finish, that’s a little under $20 a year for my labours. But the fact is I was doing lots of other things during those 25 years, including having babies, getting a Master’s degree and buying a lot of vintage junk and all of my clothing at Goodwill.  So this money is just gravy, really.

Seriously, I could never have devoted that kind of time, not to mention paying for the flights to New York, Russian translation, xeroxes, reference books and so on, if I hadn’t been receiving child support.  I had no grant for the book, but I did have an ex-husband who kept the household solvent enough that I could work part-time and do research, write, and raise two children the rest of the time.  
Very few make literature pay – and I’m not talking about the superstars like J.K. Rowling, just the ordinary novelists or memoirists who hit the right chord at the right time and sell some books.  But the millions of others almost always need someone in the background,  a loving spouse, a loving parent, a loving ex, or a loving government granting agency, to keep them at work.  Not to mention finding a real job, like driving cab, or getting paid to teach people that there may not be much money in writing, but there can be an enormous amount of satisfaction.   

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2 Responses to “big bucks in literature”

  1. Lynnie says:

    So true, isn’t it? Jen Lancaster, a successful author, had this to say to a blogger who was complaining about her:

    “Alyssa, please send me your address so that I can return the $2 I earned if you purchased both of my books.”

    (Source: http://www.jennsylvania.com November 16, 2007 post)

  2. beth says:

    Lynnie, I’m laughing through my tears.
    b.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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