Saturday, April 05, 2008

News Flash: Being a Writer has NEVER Paid Well

I'm not sure I can call this a rant or not, but here are my thoughts on writers and pay.

There are regular writers and there are highly paid writers. The difference between the two is simple: highly paid writers are highly paid somewhere else. They are the Donald Trumps who decide to write, the Madonnas who think "I can do that", the ex-wives of baseball players who have some really specific inside knowledge that no one else on the planet has.

99.999999654% of the rest of us are regular writers. But guess what? We are in great company because in our camp we have the Mark Twains, the Hans Christian Andersons, the Anton Checkovs, the apostles of the Bible.

I know that I should be advocating for More Pay For Writers! And I am. I always will believe that the better the writer, the more she should be paid. But that does not make "writing" a more valuable resource. That makes "good writing" more valuable.

The US Bureau of Labor Stats has something to say on being a writer:

How much does this job pay?

Half of all writers and authors earned between $31,720 and $62,930 a year in 2004. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $23,330. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $91,260 a year. Earnings for technical writers were somewhat higher. Half of all editors earned between $33,130 and $58,850 a year in 2004. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $25,780. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $80,020 a year.

But the part that got me thinking was this line:

A writer or editor must have a college degree.

And there's the rub. So not true. You do not have to be a college graduate to be a writer. And guess what, the jobs that require a college degree will always pay more.

To top it off:

There will be a lot of competition for writing and editing jobs. This is because so many people want to become writers or editors.

When the internet was born (or when Al Gore created it, whatevah) a whole new publishing world was born. Because basically, putting your words on the internet is publishing them. Suddenly information was published at light year speeds compared to before. It was suddenly possible to have a thought and have it published seconds later.

When Mark Twain had a thought it was a lot longer than that before someone else got to read it!

Back in Twain's days, homes were passed down through generations, people grew gardens, there were no credit cards, you could live on pennies a day. The issue of getting paid well for your writing was moot. You were a writer, that was it, you wrote, you got some money, you kept writing, you got some more money.

Twain worked as a printer's apprentice, a steamboat pilot, a miner and a soldier and married into money. He worked as a journalist but it was not for high pay. In fact being a steamboat pilot was the most lucrative job he ever had. He wrote because it was a job and it paid some bills.

And he's called the writer of the great American novel.

I hear many writers decrying the horrible pay in the publishing industry. And for good reason when you hear things like HarperCollins experimenting with new pay structures that pretty much suck onions for writers.

I hear writers who write for low pay referred to as "bottom feeders" and "hobbyists". These are comments generally come from people who write full-time and complain regularly about low-pay, lack of opportunity and the decline of the industry.


Pay isn't rising. Never has. Probably never will. That's why I advise writers to do more than writing, develop yourself. Learn to edit. Write eBooks and market them. Teach others. Learn new writing skills.

Change. Adapt. Evolve. Survive.

Who says I don't believe in evolution?

1 comment:

H.E.Eigler said...

I ain't got not college edjamacation. I still write though.