03 Jun Empowering writers to keep writing
It’s always sobering when I meet a well-known journalist who once earned a decent salary tell me he’s really struggling. For many in the field, regular writing gigs have dried up and the rate per word has gone down. Or it hasn’t gone up in 5+ years.
And then to hear a major Australian publishing house recently offered a novelist $1,000 for her advance. Yes, $1,000. Yeeks.
Or to admit to some women in business that an average Australian writer earns $11,700 from writing-related income. Many earn around $4,800. Most supplement this with other work or they keep their day job.
‘Why do it?’ They said. ‘Why would you get out of bed for that?’
Ask me during the Sydney Writers’ Festival (SWF) when I‘m flying on the wings of words and the pier is abuzz and I say, because I love it. Ask me on other days, and I wonder why, too.
We all know that publishers, media companies, journalists and writers are navigating a new world. The old model is no longer working. Or perhaps it never really has.
As successful author Joanne Fedler recently blogged, ‘It’s a shocking business model. Publishers know this, and authors have always known this.’
She continues, why spend, ‘Two years writing a book on advances that are Benjamin Button-ing their way back to point zero, and then hope like Buddha that somehow you’re going to EB James the hell out of the market?’
Like Joanne, I realise that in order to survive writers need to get cluey on the business side of things. This is alien territory for me. Budgets; systems; cash flow analysis make my eyes glaze over. But I’m determined to get across it in order to keep writing.
The mantra is more than just making money as a writer, it’s about EMPOWERING writers to feel like they can charge their worth and banish the ‘writers must live in a garret’ mentality. This only perpetuates poverty consciousness.
It’s no good for us as creators or for our industry.
At the SWF, as part of their Literary Friendship series, I did a panel with the hilarious travel writer Walter Mason. That week Linda Morrison at the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story, saying how the ‘friendship between writers can be some of the most nourishing and sustaining of a lifetime because they know your deepest fears.’
This support helps us keep going. It comes through social media, going to each others’ events and collaborating on ways we can all survive.
It’s just how we get sassy doing that. For me, this year is all about collaboration and helping each other through the down times. I’ll keep you posted on my plans.
Any ideas how you empower yourself as a writer, let me know.