Or How Much Money Am I Ever Likely to Make?
I love to write. I’ve always done it. I can’t not. I have tried a few times but those words and stories keep ricocheting around in my head and won’t stop.
But I also have bills to pay. The usual stuff. Nothing fancy. Mortgage, bills, car, food, haircuts, gin. So although it might not be fashionable to say this, I would sincerely like to earn some money from writing my book. Proper money.
Just typing those words feels like a betrayal. I know us creative, arty types aren’t supposed to be interested in anything so vulgar as being paid. The joy of creation, the outlet for our expression is supposed to be all the sustenance we need. But I can’t eat air. I can’t build a house from air. And as un-arty as it might sound I like to wear reasonably nice things and go out for dinner once in a while. Not much to ask. I don’t hanker to throw teles out of the window or bathe in champagne. But even the most basic pleasures I can’t do on creative expression alone.
But no matter how many Google searches I do. No matter how many books and blogs on writing I read, no one, really no one, ever mentions how much money books earn. I have written all my life with the one golden goal of getting published and I have no idea whether I would earn £10 or £10,000 or £100,000 (fingers crossed for the latter). Can you imagine retraining as an aromatherapist or a life coach or an interior designer without knowing what your earnings are likely to be once you’re qualified? Yet I seem to be content to give up my evenings, weekends and annual leave to get my book finished with no idea whether it will be worthwhile.
Why is that? I know there are those at the top of the publishing tree, super authors who can light their Cuban cigars with rolled up fifties so much have they earned through their writing. And I am not expecting that (not going to turn it down either. I have heard Cubans taste so much finer having been lit with a freshly printed fifty) but there must be the next two or three rungs down the ladder. Maybe one good seller, a couple of modest ones. How much do those books earn?
I see that Gillian Flynn is in the amazing position of being one of the world’s top earning authors (see my previous post on learning to be happy for authors more successful than me). But where was she on the list before Gone Girl? Digging around in bins at night searching for food or chugging along happily going on a fancy holiday once in a while?
How many books would I have to sell to be able to clear my bills and have enough left over each month for a hair cut and colour and a bottle of Gin Mare – it’s the simple things I would be grateful for. Just to write books and be home to take my girls to school and collect them. To not have to schlep into London every day on a stuffed commuter train. Modest ambitions I would say.
It’s a curious conundrum. A mystery. A dark art. If anyone has any answers I would be grateful to know. In the meantime I will just have to wait for a scrumptious surprise or a stomach churning shock when I finally start negotiations with a publisher.