Authors get advances. Writers get day jobs.

Authors get advances. Writers get day jobs.

This is a guest post by CalebJRoss as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. He will be guest-posting beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contacthim. To be a groupie and follow this tour,subscribe to the Caleb J Ross blog RSS feed. Follow him on Twitter: @calebjross.com. Friend him on Facebook: Facebook.com/rosscaleb

The professional author pie is a small one, with author advances all but extinct and author royalties shrinking. I’m way too lazy to link to sources to validate that statement, but trust me, it’s true. Yet despite this negative trend, the number of wannabe authors remains strong. Why?

The simple answer is that many writers think of story-telling as something innate, or something not motivated by money. In the same way that visual artists (painters, sculptors, Bedazzlers, etc.) are contemporarily portrayed as jobless dirty people, authors would suffer the same problem if not for the strange acceptance of a supplemental day job. For a writer to have a day job is like a Thomas Jefferson having a slave; we don’t like it, but it happens so we have come to accept it. A visual artist with a day job is still just a dirty person. Academia excluded (visual or textual artists all have equal weight as university professors) a “normal” day job isn’t given the same respect in the world of paints and clay.

The complicated answer is that so many writers hope to be the exception. Some writers don’t mind authoring for money; I’m not talking about these wonderful people. Some writers want to make money by textualizing their philosophies. Is this possible? Has any author made a living only writing what they want, with absolutely no concern for money? I want to say “yes,” but I fear the answer is “no.” Examples please.

Published by lenavanelslander

Lena Vanelslander swam many waters. History, Comparative Culture Analysis, Languages, Mythology, Literature, Poetry, too many to sum up. After a life of tribulations the turning point came in her mid twenties: she started to write actively poetry in English. Her melancholic and darkminded nature colour her poems to an individual signature in both time and space. Poems got published in the Stray Branch, Savage Manners, the Delinquent and The Sylvan Echo. Her first chapbook ‘Ma Chanson de Rien du Tout’ has been released in September this year. Her first book of poetry, written with Marilyn Campiz, Quills of Fire, will appear in November 2009. Currently she edits writers' profiles for http://www.gloomcupboard.com and http://www.outsiderwriters.org

4 thoughts on “Authors get advances. Writers get day jobs.

  1. I suspect Christopher Paolini hit the exception by publishing his boyhood fantasies when he was still in his teens and financially cared for by his parents, then spinning his bestsellers into a career in which he can do whatever he likes and probably outsell most of us.

  2. Hi Caleb. Like the post, but have to jump in with just a side thought, pest that I always am: based on my admittedly very small exposure to things, but also on keen peripheral observations, I really don’t know about the idea that sculptors, painters, visual artists etc. having job-jobs is something frowned on or not as accepted as a writer having one, nor that they are looked at as dirty people. From my personal experience, I find I’m often a little put off that when some job-job worker mentions how they’re a painter or how they do collage work or short films (especially abstract or animated) it’s like they’ve revealed a motherfucking super power, people (not financially, but in a personal rapport sort of way) elevate them, think of them as Artists and are sure their talents are wasted doing X day job (same is true for people who design clothes of any kind, even scarves and shit you wouldn’t think is so impressive). But, tell someone you’re a writer, it’s like saying “In my spare time I halfway masturbate because I lack even the ability to finish that out properly”—it’s like saying nothing, saying “I wrote a book” is the same as saying “I read a book”—in fact, mentioning you wrote one often leads to only a nod and the person being talked to then saying “Hey, speaking of books, I just read a good book the other day.”

    Anyway, just thought I’d give a slant based on my obsessive self-and-outward observational penchant.

    As to the other question, yeah I can think of a few—more filmmakers and musicians—but writer-wise start with Patricia Highsmith, Scott Smith (though he hasn’t writ a lot, just seems he does his thing), hell even it seems old Bret Ellis never exactly wrote anything but what he felt like and di alright for himself that way (he had help from circumstances, but I think that only accounts for his first in). I imagine you want names more or less in the contemporary scene, though, because back in the day what you’re asking about wasn’t a rarity, really, more the way things were (no one mega rich, no one mega poor from writer, just people could get by with it mediocre, while nowadays it’s mega rich or nothing, the middle has vanished).

    Cheers. Keep the tour truckin’.

  3. Thanks for the examples. I would still be interested, if I had the opportunity of course, to dissect the true motivations of these writers. I guess my point was that no profession writer’s motivations can be completely absent of monetary goals (otherwise, why would they be professions or trying to be professionals – ‘professionals’ as in money-making careerists?).

    Perhaps I was off with my opinion that day-jobs are completely shunned. I suppose I was thinking more from the perspective of a writer. As a part-time writer with a full-time day job, I often deflate a bit when I learn that some of my favorite writers have day jobs, as in “wow, if they can’t even escape the grind, then I have no chance at all.”

    You are a great humbler predicatemag.

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