I had another post planned for this month, but a post from essayist and novelist Ann Bauer derailed my plans. The post was titled “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from. It immediately began making the Twitter rounds.
Bauer makes some excellent points. We all pretty much know that most novelists aren't millionaires. We do assume, however, that truly successful writers have more money than they know what to do with. It's what we all aspire to, right?
But as Bauer's post points out, many successful novelists fall well short of a working income. It takes me back to a comment someone made when I first started out. I posted on a forum that I just wanted to make enough to quit my job.
"Most writers will never be able to quit our day jobs," she wrote in a personal email to me. "Sorry."
At the time, I thought it was an odd assumption for her to make. She had no idea what my situation was. I could have been making poverty-level wages as a state employee (I pretty much was!). I could be satisfied living on next-to-nothing. I could have been married to a super billionaire. Okay, on that last one, I probably would have been able to quit my job without a writing contract, but you get the point!
In her article, Bauer mentions authors who inherit fortunes, marry spouses who support them, and work full-time jobs to support their careers, even while they're assumed to have "made it" as novelists.
Most published novelists I know have full-time jobs. Those who don't are moms, married to husbands with reliable incomes. Some, like me, make an income writing or editing to pay the bills.
Should writers disclose the truth about their incomes, as Bauer suggested? Or is it better for us to assume that anyone who hits the bestseller list is set for life?
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