Been there before, but it’s risen its head again. The reason? Well, I get my first royalty cheque this week, and I’m understandably curious about it. I already know what I’ll be getting for the German deal (half of it, anyway – the other half comes my way next April), but the money from book sales is a mystery.
And last week, during lunch with a few friends, the money-issue cropped up; once they discovered how much I could earn, I was asked: “why write if it isn’t going to pay very well?”
Now I’ve answered this question before here, so I won’t go into too much detail, but if I have any motivation outside of the desire to simply write imaginative fiction, it is the motivation to see my name in print and enjoy the benefits of an extra income…
…I’m blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with a day-job that is not too demanding and allows me – at the moment – to earn a living honestly, and still pursue the dream of being a writer. It’s a secure job and it houses me, clothes me, feeds me, and provides me with a rather extravagant book and DVD collection. I’m not desperate for any more money than what drops into my account on a monthly basis – as Yoda would say, “Comfortable, I am. Steady income, I have.” So the extra dosh The Secret War earns me is a bonus.
It’s a fortunate position, and objectively, it might explain why my motivation to write is simply the joy of writing, and not purely a monetary return. Whenever I meet a would-be author who has no non-writing income at all and believes their writing will get them by, alarm bells start ringing and I can only imagine a life of hard-work and heartache in front of them (unless they become the next JK Rowling).
I know, because when I was 18 years old, I thought like that. I believed that I could write a bestseller, or become a freelance journo, or something like that. I achieved the journo part during university, but was paid in 7” singles and CDs (apparently this is not hard-currency in the real world). I soon realised there are dreams and then there’s reality, and rarely do they ever meet. Like that guy on X-Factor over the weekend (who left a high-paid job to become a singer, spent £50,000 on the dream, only to be told that he could not sing).
Yeah, respect for following the dream. But reality will always intervene…
…The simple truth – a truth that has been bandied about in countless writing sites, so I suppose I’m only adding my own voice to the chorus – is that writing very rarely pays. And it’s rarer that it pays enough money for a steady income.
And when the royalty statement drops onto my door mat, I’ll be grinning from ear to ear – sure - but it won’t mean I can jack-in the day-job.
Not yet, anyway.
In terms of the Macmillan New Writers, a bestseller has yet to rise from the ranks, but as David mentions in his blog, Brian McGilloway is perhaps the closest. His Inspector Devlin books have been snapped up by Pan Macmillan, and as David points out, he’s the first MNWer to sell rights to a US publisher.
So, yes, writing rarely pays beyond the dreams of avarice, but with his series of crime novels, Brian is on the way to living that dream...
…And you saw him first at Macmillan New Writing.