Saturday, January 28, 2012
Books and money
Someone made a comment on Meghan's post yesterday that she was concerned not so much about the awards, but about "limitations that are put on new artists and authors BEFORE their work goes into print."
Changing the rules of awards wouldn't change that, though it would change the lives of the (few more) people who won. Publishing is moving more towards books the publishers think will sell large numbers of copies. For those of us who don't write those books (though to be optimistic -- who can ever really predict which books they are?), awards have huge financial consequences. Unless we win a major one, we can't make a living from our books. We have to work at other things if we and we alone are responsible for supporting ourselves.
Yes, it would be nice to win a big, life-changing award (when THE PENDERWICKS won, the author was able to buy a house for the first time in her life!) and live on advances and royalties. Who wouldn't love it?
But if you're a published author, is not being able to support yourself from writing really that bad? Anyone who is passionate, disciplined, and creative enough to illustrate or write books can think of other ways to earn money and make them work. Yes, it takes some time and energy away from books; and for most of us there isn't as much money in it as there would be in a "good" full-time job -- but it gives you more freedom than a full-time job does.
Maybe working at other things is even good for writing in the long run? Unless we have something to pull us out into the world, for many introverts (and most writers I know are introverts! Most illustrators too for that matter!) it's all too easy to stay home, do your writing, and only see a small number of people. And what do you have to write about if you spend your life doing that? Most novelists whose work has lasted were intensely engaged in the world in some way -- sometimes in really fascinating ways (Somerset Maughm and John Le Carre both worked for British intelligence, to name just two).