Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Joys of Being a Writer??

Last week Helen Ginger put this link on her blog. Lynn Viehl has a book in the top 20 New York Times Best Seller List and this is her royalty statement. It was one of the most depressing things I've ever read.

I have a good writing friend, author of 13 books, who is of the opinion that writers are always at the bottom of the food chain. Every time you turn around there is another thing that the writer must do. Make a website and maintain it. Hire your own editor. Attend every possible type of book marketing event known to humanity. I am currently vicariously following Petina Gappah's meteoric rise to fame. It is giving me nightmares and cold sweats. She is enjoying it and I am so happy for her, but if I had to go to cocktail parties with Zade Smith and sit on panel discussions with Micheal Ondaatje I think I would stop writing. It sounds all nice-nice, but I know me, I've lived with me for 45 years, and if I had a choice between that and Chinese water torture- I know which I'd choose.

The point I'm trying to make is I want to be a writer (a writer writes- right?) . I am actually willing to do my share but that share should not keep changing. And, though I know my books right now don't make much money (maybe because you'd have to be James Bond to find one on sale-ANYWHERE- that is another issue) but I sort of hoped that in the future things would get better, but now I wonder if that is even what I want considering what that is likely to mean.

13 comments:

SueG said...

I'm with you. i seem to spend my life between being able to convince myself not to worry about it all and just keep writing, and not to being able to convince myself. But either way, the torturous issue is always there. And now that I've added a full-length play to my list of things I'm trying to do, it's worse. If I manage to get it on the boards, I know I, as writer, I will be the last person to get paid. It's enough to make me think I'll never write for the theatre again. But even thinking like that about any genre infuriates me.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

That is so strange. I never thought of writing for the theatre- we have very little indigenous English theatre here. But I do write for TV and the money is actually not bad. Perhaps you might think of that, I would think it is quite similar.

I also don't like the economic realities to direct what I do- that's why I still write novels and short stories. I think I write everything else to support my fiction.

I think what COULD scare me off fiction is a novel becoming so famous I must do all of the things Petina and all the others must do.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I hear you! As a "writer" all I find all this business of having to be a "performer" and self-promoter is so intimidating.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

I don't mind so much talking about my book- I know i- but if you want me to start being an expert on all things literary then I'm out.

groovyoldlady said...

I find all the talk about marketing VERY intimidating. I like to WRITE...

Selma said...

My inability to promote myself is why my agent and I parted. She got me a deal with a big name publisher but I quailed about the contract I had to sign stipulating the amount of promotional work I had to do. It was a full time job. I couldn't do it. My agent dropped me, accusing me of being a diva. The publisher ran. Since then I have lost the nerve to submit all the other novels I've written because I know I still can't do all that schmoozing. It's really hard to get past it. Why can't it just be about the writing?

daoine said...

I'm the same as Selma. These days I write more for the sake of writing than for publication. I don't bother to submit my books anymore. I don't know if I'm prepared to submit (excuse the pun) to a load of non-writerly work for the sake of a few dollars.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Selma- I never knew this- I'm so sorry you had to go through that. They were fools to pass you up. Book signings all over the world would never sell as many books as you could through your popular blog. I think the publishing industry needs to make that shift. I absolutely agree with you- why can't writers write? We get 10% of the money and yet the book is 100% of the product-why now must we do all of the marketing? It almost pushes one to self publish. Printing the book is the easy part- I was a printer for 10 years.

Maybe the Kindle is going to change things for us writers.

PGinGeneva said...

What a pity, Lauri, that you are using what you think is happening in my life to make such broad generalisations about what a writer has to do to get her book bought! And what a pity you could not have asked me directly about my experience. If you are ever interested in knowing what exactly I am doing (hint, I am not on a book tour:)) and how I feel about it and whether my publishers are holding a gun to my head, you know how to reach me:)

Very best wishes.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

What's the deal Petina?
You are not the only author I know. I referred to your current activities as things I would not be keen to be doing to promote myself- to create that ubiquitous 'platform' we're all supposed to be building.

All authors must help with marketing and as the fiscal loop tightens the burden placed on the author increases, but as the royalty statement points out, the money doesn't. THAT was the point.

Tania Hershman said...

Lauri,
it's all so true, it's not just about the writing, as I talk about in my interview on the excellent How Publishing Really Works blog. Frankly, the shock and stress of what was involved in book promotion - and I am geographically remote from my target market so it was mostly only - actually made me ill. It was so unexpected, I felt very exposed by it all and it felt like I HAD to do it or else my book would sink without trace, which I sort of expected it to do anyway. I had on clue whether I was doing the right thing. Still don't! But am happy now, 7 months later, to be trying to work on my next projects. But it ain't all about the writing, as Selma sadly discovered. Meeting with 2 agents this week, I made sure to mention how much promotion I did myself, knowing that this is a part of this business. Shame, but that's reality.

Tania Hershman said...

Ps I mean it was mostly "online" not "only"!

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Like you've said Tania it is the reality and somehow we must strike a balance.

Meeting with agents...that sounds fun....

I can't help but mention this- my word verification word is answity- I'm assuming that is what is required when that literary journalist we'e all scared to death of asks-
"And what do you think is the role of fiction in the broader context of the world? And make sure you answity!"