I read a fair number of blogs about writing, reading and the publishing industry.
No surprise there.
If you read a lot of these blogs, you'll notice that there are certain themes people like to return to. One of the favorite ones is how unlikely you are to make money as a writer. I wanted to add the phrase "especially lately." It's true that the economic downturn has people focused on money and lack thereof, but I've been hearing this lecture since I started writing back in the late 90s.
Exhibit A: http://pimpmynovel.blogspot.com/2010/07/you-aint-in-it-for-money.html. I generally like this guy's blog, but what he's saying about keeping the day job is pretty standard. You might make some money, but not enough to live on, is the message. At the same time, the big news last week was that Janet Evanovitch, author of the wildly successful Stephanie Plum series, now up to 16 books, asked for $50 million for her next four books. Well, her agent, who is also her son, asked for it. Same thing? I was shocked by this number until an editor on Twitter told me Evanovitch got $40 million for the previous four.
Still, she says, that's a raise of $2.5 million per book, which is asking a lot in this economy.
So, I'm going to leave alone the concept that someone who's already received $40 million could then want another $50 million. This is a world I don't live in. I understand this gets to be like movie stars, where prestige rests on the price tag. I just keep thinking that once I buy the beach house in the Caribbean, what would I do with the rest of the money?
But that's neither here nor there.
I'm wondering where the middle is?
There must be something besides "you won't make enough to live on" and "I need $12.5 million per book." The zone gets fuzzy because everyone thinks they need a different amount of money to live on, but still...
For most writers, the goal is to make enough money to ditch the day job and write full time. This seems like a reasonable ambition. After all, nobody practices law on the side while working as a checker at the grocery store. Nobody tells you when you go into environmental consulting that you should really plan on just enjoying it as a hobby that supplements your real income.
I'm beginning to suspect this is a bit of a "stay away" gambit. Well-meaning, perhaps, but I think a lot of these writers are seeing their pool glutted. Especially the ones who aren't making enough money to live on. I've never heard Nora Roberts or Janet Evanovitch give this cautionary tale. In fact, I once heard Anne Rice announce that she was getting something like $1 million for her next book (I know - Janet was giggling) and that if she could do it, anyone could.
The upshot is: I'm tired of this particular saw and I don't intend to listen anymore.
Our finances are good. I pay attention to where my money comes from and where it goes. We have no appreciable debt beyond our mortgage, which is solid because we bought at the bottom of the market. I know what I need to live on and what's gravy. I think that's just being financially savvy. We should all know where we stand and what we need. From there it's perfectly reasonable to set income goals from our writing.