"Can you make a lot of money as a writer?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

the young man in the fifth row asked. I'm always asked.

They want to know, these aspiring writers, if they can make a living at this crazy word stuff, and so we talk about what "living" is, about commercial books and literary ones, about big advances and zero advances, about being one's own best advocate and looking ahead to new books. "You write your book, you advocate for your book, and then you keep creating," I tell them. "A writer's primary job," I reiterate, "is to keep dreaming and creating."

But what's a royalty check? they want to know. And when you get them, do you celebrate?

This, my dear readers, is one literary writer's royalty check.  Not a whole lot, you say? But consider this: The book was written and the book was made. It contains a part of me, a stretch of days, that might otherwise have been forgotten.

12 comments:

Caroline Starr Rose said...

If I can pay for boys' braces and someday recover the couch, it will be icing on the cake.

Q said...

Aha! But you earned out your advance! Good for you/your book. :)

Lilian Nattel said...

Any royalty check is worth celebrating. It represents sales over and above the advance, and books still being sold. That's a good thing.

Susan Taylor Brown said...

Oh Beth, you are inside my brain today! Thank you for putting in perspective, again. I added up all my royalty checks for this season and they don't even total $200. So I needed this post. :)

Liz said...

You earned out, and that is fantastic!!! And the book's still in print, even better ....

Beth Kephart said...

My dear friends, I must correct the perception. This book is no longer in print. They sold all copies but 200 and then, alas, a big machine ate those before I could rescue them from their chewing death. And it was a very tiny advance.

But it was still a book I loved and was glad to have written.

Amy said...

I think to see your name on a book on a shelf in a store or in someone else hands or in their house must be an amazing feeling.

To be able to call yourself an author and know what it means that is wonderful.
Of course, you need money to live....

Anna Lefler said...

I think it was very sensitive of you to photoshop asterisks over all the other numbers.

And the big chewing machine scares me.

XO

A.

Patty Chang Anker said...

Love this post, Beth. You have such great perspective on it all. I feel guilty paying for childcare to write, when what I'm earning doesn't always cover it. I feel guilty for taking the time to reflect and craft, when there's so much living that demands to be done with the kids. So I end up with little blocks of time that are never enough. I love that you said that your book captures a stretch of your life that otherwise would have been lost. That makes writing it an investment on every level, financial, emotional, logistical, etc. that was very much worth making.

Melissa Sarno said...

haha, I love that. And, hey, it's enough for a glass of champagne to celebrate your awesome-ness! Maybe a bottle if you go for the cheap stuff :-) But seriously: "The book was written and the book was made. It contains a part of me, a stretch of days, that might otherwise have been forgotten." That says it all.

smoki2 said...

At school visits, I'm always asked, "Are you rich?" my answer is, "Yes - in a lot of ways... Not so much in money." You've said it well, Beth. While the royalty checks are cause for celebration, none can compare to the celebration of seeing your book on a store shelf, in a library, or my favorite place - in a child's hands.

KFP said...

OMGosh. You, too?

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