The M Word

piggybank I don’t really like talking about money. I don’t even like thinking about it, which is perhaps one of the reasons I ended up in this profession. You might say I was saved from total penury by my inability to write poetry. But anyway, I was very happy to see two other writers going public on the M word recently: Val McDermid and Joanne Harris, both excellent and successful authors have spoken up on behalf of those of us lower down the food chain.

Harris made the point that the J.K. Rowling’s rags to riches story has given the public a very inaccurate idea of what a writer may expect to earn. £11,000 a year is apparently the average, which cheered me up no end. By a whisker I’m a, ahem, higher-earning author! I’m also a beneficiary of Ireland’s income tax exemption for artists whose earnings are below 40,000 Euro a year, a ceiling I avoid without even stooping.

McDermid addressed another difficulty faced by writers these days. Publishers have little patience with slow-burning careers. There was a time when you could depend on your publisher to stick with you through lean times. If they believed in you enough to publish you in the first place they kept the faith. No more. If your sales figures have been poor they put little or no money into publicising your books. So your sales figures continue to be poor. And then it’s goodbye.

This is now my waking thought each day. It’s only July but in January I’ll be out of contract, and January seems to be approaching at the speed of a bullet train. There is the electronic self-publishing option. I entertain it more seriously than I used to. There is the diversification option: I have writer friends who teach, or edit, or mentor (whatever the feck that is). Or I could start a completely different career, such as…. hmm, I’ll get back to you on that.  And in the meanwhile pray for a movie option. Just one little teensy-weensy movie option.

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