Author Topic: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?  (Read 921 times)

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NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« on: January 06, 2019, 09:37:57 AM »


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/05/books/authors-pay-writer.html

By Concepción de León

    Jan. 5, 2019

Writing has never been a lucrative career choice, but a recent study by the Authors Guild, a professional organization for book writers, shows that it may not even be a livable one anymore.

According to the survey results, the median pay for full-time writers was $20,300 in 2017, and that number decreased to $6,080 when part-time writers were considered. The latter figure reflects a 42 percent drop since 2009, when the median was $10,500. These findings are the result of an expansive 2018 study of more than 5,000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditional and self-published writers.

“In the 20th century, a good literary writer could earn a middle class living just writing,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, citing William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Cheever. Now, most writers need to supplement their income with speaking engagements or teaching. Strictly book-related income — which is to say royalties and advances — are also down, almost 30 percent for full-time writers since 2009.

Writing for magazines and newspapers was once a solid source of additional income for professional writers, but the decline in freelance journalism and pay has meant less opportunity for authors to write for pay. Many print publications, which offered the highest rate, have been shuttered altogether.

The decline in earnings is also largely because of Amazon’s lion’s share of the self-publishing, e-book and resale market, Ms. Rasenberger said. The conglomerate charges commission and marketing fees to publishers that Ms. Rasenberger said essentially prevent their books from being buried on the site. Small and independent publishers, which have fewer resources and bargaining power, have been particularly hard hit. Book publishing companies are passing these losses along to writers in the form of lower royalties and advances, and authors also lose out on income from books resold on the platform.

In some ways, these changes are in line with a general shift toward a gig economy or “hustling,” in which people juggle an assortment of jobs to make up for the lack of a stable income. But the writing industry as a whole has always eluded standardization in pay. In a conversation with Manjula Martin in the book “Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living,” edited by Ms. Martin, Cheryl Strayed said, “There’s no other job in the world where you get your master’s degree in that field and you’re like, ‘Well, I might make zero or I might make $5 million!’”

In a recent call, Ms. Martin said that “the people who are able to practice the trade of authoring are people who have other sources of income,” adding that this creates barriers of entry and limits the types of stories that reach a wide audience. There is also, she added, a devaluation of writing in which it is often viewed as a hobby as opposed to a valuable vocation.

“Everyone thinks they can write, because everybody writes,” Ms. Rasenberger said, referring to the proliferation of casual texting, emailing and tweeting. But she distinguishes these from professional writers “who have been working on their craft and art of writing for years.”

“What a professional writer can convey in written word is far superior to what the rest of us can do,” Ms. Rasenberger said. “As a society we need that, because it’s a way to crystallize ideas, make us see things in a new way and create understanding of who we are as a people, where we are today and where we’re going.”

Just a few of the books I have translated (English <-> German)
 

David VanDyke

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2019, 10:33:08 AM »
Take two targets, left and right.

The average of two dead shots is one miss in the center.

Another way: the average of two actual temperatures, 32F and 112F, is a perfect 72F, but grandma soon dies at either real temp. The average is irrelevant.

That's how statistics can be misleading.

Obviously they are not counting as "authors" the approximately 5000 indies who are making livings, or the 50K more who are making part-time livings.

That's rather like only counting chain restaurants as "real" restaurants and ignoring all the independent owner-operators.

They're trying to keep up the lie that only those who remain snugly within their collapsing system are "real" authors.

Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 
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LilyBLily

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2019, 11:13:02 AM »
William Faulkner wrote for Hollywood because he needed the money. I still haven't met anyone outside a college or university who has voluntarily read more than one piece of his fiction. What's the term, "prolix"?

The article does make a valid point that the market for magazine and newspaper freelance articles has dried up. Many people used to make a decent living doing that and can't anymore. 

What the article doesn't say is that the Authors Guild survey, if it was only of its members, is likely to be skewed toward midlist and aspiring trad pub writers and indies who are at the beginning of their careers and haven't yet realized that the Guild won't do much for them. 


 
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TimothyEllis

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Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2019, 12:03:07 PM »
What the article doesn't say is that the Authors Guild survey, if it was only of its members, is likely to be skewed toward midlist and aspiring trad pub writers and indies who are at the beginning of their careers and haven't yet realized that the Guild won't do much for them. 

I cant say I've even heard of the Author's Guild.


CoraBuhlert

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2019, 12:19:08 PM »
William Faulkner wrote for Hollywood because he needed the money. I still haven't met anyone outside a college or university who has voluntarily read more than one piece of his fiction. What's the term, "prolix"?

Hey, I like William Faulkner, though he's not exactly easy reading.

As for his Hollywood career, hardly any of his lines ever reached the screen, at least according to Leigh Brackett who was hired to clean up what Faulkner wrote. But the studios still gave him credit and paid him anyway, because he was a Nobel Prize winner and big name author and therefore brought in a lot of prestige.

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idontknowyet

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2019, 12:47:54 PM »
William Faulkner wrote for Hollywood because he needed the money. I still haven't met anyone outside a college or university who has voluntarily read more than one piece of his fiction. What's the term, "prolix"?

Hey, I like William Faulkner, though he's not exactly easy reading.

As for his Hollywood career, hardly any of his lines ever reached the screen, at least according to Leigh Brackett who was hired to clean up what Faulkner wrote. But the studios still gave him credit and paid him anyway, because he was a Nobel Prize winner and big name author and therefore brought in a lot of prestige.
One of my college professors loved him and Frost. If I recall reading him wasn't about just the words on the page, it was more about thinking. The complexity was the purpose of the books. Not just telling a story but getting the readers to think about it and discuss.
 

idontknowyet

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2019, 12:56:02 PM »
I do think that those numbers seem generous. It seems like the majority of writers don't make money writing.

Not to say that they can't, but in today's market it takes more than a good book to be successful.  It seems to be that the people that have an all around good business sense combined with the ability to write quickly and a decent book do the best. People that write an amazing book but stink at the rest can build a market slowly for their work but it takes time and many many books to build a organic market.

Some of it also seems to be random chance added in. A writer from the other board did everything wrong, but he wrote well and his first release was a best seller in his genre and he still looks like he is doing well.
 

angelapepper

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2019, 02:56:59 PM »
I always tell people I make my living as a publisher, not a writer.

I just happen to write the material I publish, but I'm under no delusion that it matters very much whose work it is.

The only advantages to using my own work are that I (a) enjoy writing, and (b) don't have some other author hounding me about their sales figures.
 

dgcasey

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Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2019, 04:01:18 PM »
I do think that those numbers seem generous. It seems like the majority of writers don't make money writing.

I think that's the case with a lot of people that start their own businesses. I am also an artist and there are a lot of artists that want to go full-time and earn a living. Maybe one in a thousand makes it. I would assume those numbers would be comparable to self-pub authors.
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Anarchist

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2019, 01:56:07 AM »
I wonder what the numbers would show if they focused exclusively on authors catering to market segments large enough to generate significant revenue.
I keep a stiff upper lip and shoot from the hip. - AC/DC
 

LilyBLily

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2019, 03:24:58 AM »
I do think that those numbers seem generous. It seems like the majority of writers don't make money writing.

I think that's the case with a lot of people that start their own businesses. I am also an artist and there are a lot of artists that want to go full-time and earn a living. Maybe one in a thousand makes it. I would assume those numbers would be comparable to self-pub authors.

Most home businesses are in the red if the person actually does all the calculations about time and resources spent. That's why some of the very low prices editorial and design service providers offer have to be from foreign countries where the dollar goes farther (also, everything on fiverr).

A lot of people try to push every young person into STEM careers, but those can be very iffy and yet rigid at the same time. Some people simply are meant to be in the arts. Hopefully, all of us can do more than one thing to earn money since we can't always make a living doing our art. 

 

PJ Post

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2019, 04:52:04 AM »
I think the important point about the article is that, once we take off our Indie-colored glasses, is that incomes for creatives are down - across the board. And that narrow ledge at the top is more competitive than ever, not to mention eroding from below. The sad result of this is that we have fewer full-time creatives devoting their working hours to Art. And that's how we got most of our amazing books, music and art - full time creatives working on their craft, not part-timers trying to make a little extra cash. Unfortunately, this is our new normal - at least for now.
 

Shoe

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2019, 06:20:34 AM »
It seems to be that the people that have an all around good business sense combined with the ability to write quickly and a decent book do the best.

The article is lamenting the fate for literary writers, not pulp authors.
Publishing since May 2017. Writing full time since January 2018 general fiction and satire.
 

David VanDyke

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2019, 08:44:03 AM »
I always tell people I make my living as a publisher, not a writer.

I just happen to write the material I publish, but I'm under no delusion that it matters very much whose work it is.

The only advantages to using my own work are that I (a) enjoy writing, and (b) don't have some other author hounding me about their sales figures.

That's a good idea.

I guess then you have to fend off the breathless queries of "Oh, are you interested in publishing my book?"
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

David VanDyke

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2019, 08:46:17 AM »
It seems to be that the people that have an all around good business sense combined with the ability to write quickly and a decent book do the best.

The article is lamenting the fate for literary writers, not pulp authors.

That's true, but only obvious once you dig into it. A cursory reading seems to say it's bad for all authors. They really need to have at least one counterbalancing section that says something like "One segment of authors who aren't suffering are those dedicated indies writing genre fiction."
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

GeneDoucette

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2019, 05:22:39 AM »
RE: the article. I feel like I've read a version of this every year for the past five years. That said, if they're looking at the same pool every year and seeing it trend downward, it's a real trend. The question then becomes whether writers as a group are getting paid less and less, or whether the industry is no longer supporting the writers who the Authors Guild surveys every year. Is the tide going out for everyone, or are they looking at a tidepool that isn't getting water anymore?

RE: Faulkner. I love Faulkner, and voluntarily read him. He's been a huge influence on me.
 

David VanDyke

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2019, 07:55:59 AM »
I suspect they're only looking at the tidepool. It's a flip of NIMB syndrome--Only In My Backyard (does anything matter).

They're lamenting the dismantling of an ironclad Guild system and trying to say all craftsmen are losing business, when really, only the Guild craftsmen are losing business.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

PJ Post

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2019, 09:50:43 AM »
Let's see, here's a short list of articles about musicians getting screwed and making less and less, regardless of popularity...

Beyoncé may be the world’s highest-paid musician—but only 10% comes from the music itself -
https://qz.com/1071783/apple-music-is-so-popular-musicians-are-making-less-money-than-ever/

Ironically, the entire music industry is now winning — except for the artists -
https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/04/03/spotify-wins-artists-lose-questions/

Information is Beautiful has updated their comparison of artist payments on streaming services, estimating that 2.4 million plays on YouTube will net a whopping $1,472 for an unsigned artist. That's $0.0006 per play! -
https://boingboing.net/2017/07/19/how-badly-do-streaming-service.html

“It isn’t a level playing field,” said one executive at a major music label who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk, “because ultimately you’re negotiating with a party who is going to have your content no matter what.” -
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/why-musicians-are-so-angry-at-the-worlds-most-popular-music-streaming-service/2017/07/14/bf1a6db0-67ee-11e7-8eb5-cbccc2e7bfbf_story.html

For example, Bette Midler has written some popular music. She recently tweeted that she made $114.11 on 4,175,149 plays of her work -
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/musicians-say-music-streaming-leaves-them-broke/

“I’ve lost half of my income because of these clever fellas,” says David Crosby. “I used to make money off my records, but now I don’t make any” -
https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/as-spotify-prepares-to-go-public-music-industry-divided-on-royalties-118197/

When YouTube approached the popular cellist Zoë Keating with their new music streaming service earlier this year, they delivered an ultimatum: sign the contract, or your artist channel will be blocked -
https://www.careersinmusic.com/why-independent-artists-should-stop-streaming/

It's happening everywhere - to all creatives. How is it that Indie writers are immune?
 

Shoe

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2019, 11:06:28 AM »
How is it that Indie writers are immune?

We determine the cost of our product and control our distribution.
Publishing since May 2017. Writing full time since January 2018 general fiction and satire.
 

notthatamanda

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2019, 12:27:53 PM »
I always tell people I make my living as a publisher, not a writer.

I just happen to write the material I publish, but I'm under no delusion that it matters very much whose work it is.

The only advantages to using my own work are that I (a) enjoy writing, and (b) don't have some other author hounding me about their sales figures.

That's a good idea.

I guess then you have to fend off the breathless queries of "Oh, are you interested in publishing my book?"

I tell people I'm self employed.  They don't ask anymore questions.  My assumption is their assumption is I'm peddling some MLM crap.
 
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PJ Post

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2019, 02:12:21 PM »
How is it that Indie writers are immune?

We determine the cost of our product and control our distribution.

I don't follow.

1) We operate in a zero marginal cost industry, and 2) the various distribution channels available to us control our profit through strict pricing policies - just like Youtube or Spotify - the same channels that also control our visibility. Musicians have the exact same industry and distribution parameters. What am I missing?
 

Shoe

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2019, 02:51:32 PM »

 What am I missing?

Can musicians tell Spotify or Youtube what to pay them per stream? I don't know, but I don't think so. I know on Youtube people (anyone who uploads a video with content rights and joins their rev-share program) are paid a percentage of advertising revenue earned by their channels.

In my case, I determine the price of my book. I determine where to sell it, based on the available platforms.
Publishing since May 2017. Writing full time since January 2018 general fiction and satire.
 

PJ Post

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #22 on: January 09, 2019, 09:36:00 AM »
Can writers in KU tell Amazon how much to pay them per page read?

In my case, I determine the price of my book - within the profit parameters dictated by the available distribution channels.

I'm not trying to be a jerk - just pointing out that there really is no difference. We publish by the grace of these corporations (of which, Amazon, Google and Apple, are three of the top four most valuable companies on the planet, all of them clustering around a $750 billion Market Cap - much larger, by the way, than Spotify). And it can all be taken away, or the deal altered without recourse at any time. We've consistently followed the music industry's trends down the drain, there's no reason to believe that will change. And musical artists are getting royally screwed - even the mega-stars. Taylor Swift and Adele reluctantly put their stuff back up on Spotify because they were losing too much money. Distribution channels shouldn't have that much power - but here we are.

What happens when Amazon starts paying us in 'store credit'?   :shrug

Enjoy it while it lasts - but, make no mistake, the end is nigh-ish.
 

Marti Talbott

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2019, 01:07:04 PM »
Did you catch the part about the publishers making up their losses by paying the authors less, or did I miss-read that.

I agree with whoever said we've heard this before.
Author of over 50 books available everywhere, even Walmart.
 

angelapepper

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #24 on: January 13, 2019, 02:51:45 AM »
I always tell people I make my living as a publisher, not a writer.

I just happen to write the material I publish, but I'm under no delusion that it matters very much whose work it is.

The only advantages to using my own work are that I (a) enjoy writing, and (b) don't have some other author hounding me about their sales figures.

That's a good idea.

I guess then you have to fend off the breathless queries of "Oh, are you interested in publishing my book?"

Oh, that's easy. I'd say, "Sure. I'd love to publish your book and give you a reasonable contract. Is it finished and ready to publish?"

Then they would look at their shoes, mutter something about refreshing their drink, and wander away.
 

Solitary Dan

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #25 on: January 13, 2019, 03:34:03 AM »
I always tell people I make my living as a publisher, not a writer.

I just happen to write the material I publish, but I'm under no delusion that it matters very much whose work it is.

The only advantages to using my own work are that I (a) enjoy writing, and (b) don't have some other author hounding me about their sales figures.

That's a good idea.

I guess then you have to fend off the breathless queries of "Oh, are you interested in publishing my book?"

Oh, that's easy. I'd say, "Sure. I'd love to publish your book and give you a reasonable contract. Is it finished and ready to publish?"

Then they would look at their shoes, mutter something about refreshing their drink, and wander away.

Why even offer them a reasonable contract?  On the off-chance they do have a book written, you don't want to end up actually having to consider it, do you?
     
 

angelapepper

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #26 on: January 13, 2019, 09:23:25 AM »
I always tell people I make my living as a publisher, not a writer.

I just happen to write the material I publish, but I'm under no delusion that it matters very much whose work it is.

The only advantages to using my own work are that I (a) enjoy writing, and (b) don't have some other author hounding me about their sales figures.

That's a good idea.

I guess then you have to fend off the breathless queries of "Oh, are you interested in publishing my book?"

Oh, that's easy. I'd say, "Sure. I'd love to publish your book and give you a reasonable contract. Is it finished and ready to publish?"

Then they would look at their shoes, mutter something about refreshing their drink, and wander away.

Why even offer them a reasonable contract?  On the off-chance they do have a book written, you don't want to end up actually having to consider it, do you?

Oh, that's easy. If they have a book written, next you ask them what genre the book is.

Their face goes through a bunch of different expressions while no words come out.

Then you shrug and gently say you kind of need to know what genre it is so you can, like, properly market it.

 

guest153

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Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #27 on: January 13, 2019, 09:38:03 AM »
Quote
NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?

*checks bank account*

Yup.  :cheers
 

Solitary Dan

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #28 on: January 13, 2019, 01:19:54 PM »
I always tell people I make my living as a publisher, not a writer.

I just happen to write the material I publish, but I'm under no delusion that it matters very much whose work it is.

The only advantages to using my own work are that I (a) enjoy writing, and (b) don't have some other author hounding me about their sales figures.

That's a good idea.

I guess then you have to fend off the breathless queries of "Oh, are you interested in publishing my book?"

Oh, that's easy. I'd say, "Sure. I'd love to publish your book and give you a reasonable contract. Is it finished and ready to publish?"

Then they would look at their shoes, mutter something about refreshing their drink, and wander away.

Why even offer them a reasonable contract?  On the off-chance they do have a book written, you don't want to end up actually having to consider it, do you?

Oh, that's easy. If they have a book written, next you ask them what genre the book is.

Their face goes through a bunch of different expressions while no words come out.

Then you shrug and gently say you kind of need to know what genre it is so you can, like, properly market it.

I guess you can't really win.  If you say you're a publisher, people will want you to publish their book.  If you say you're an author, people will want you to write their book for them and split the profit.
     
 

okey dokey

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #29 on: January 13, 2019, 02:26:39 PM »
It is true we can price our product.
But at 99-cents, or free?
Then don't cry that the distributer is making more money than you are.
If you produce ebooks, then price them so YOU make money.
Want to produce paperbacks, then price them so you make more money than the printer.
But your best, and most profitable way to produce paperbacks?
Become your own distributor.
Don't let Amazon stock your paperback. Just let them list it and sell it and email you the buyer's address.

That way you ship your book and Amazon will pay you about 65% royalty. And pay you in just 14 DAYS.

But you can continue to sell your ebooks for 99-cents, or sell (sell?) it for free.
And let Amazon be the paperback distributor and let Amazon make more money than you do, and HOLD ON to your money for 60 days.
Just don't cry about it.
 

David VanDyke

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #30 on: January 14, 2019, 03:06:08 AM »
Yes, an offset print run and shipping yourself is definitely the way to go, if you sell a lot of print. It takes more work, but gets you 2x-5x the money.

For me, I only sell about 1/2 of 1% in print, 93% ebook, the rest in audio. So, it's not worth the work for me.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.
 

Matt Godbey

Re: NYT Article: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?
« Reply #31 on: February 17, 2019, 11:33:49 AM »
William Faulkner... I still haven't met anyone outside a college or university who has voluntarily read more than one piece of his fiction. What's the term, "prolix"?

You've got to be kidding, right? You're pulling our collective leg.