|Scrawls in the Dust - John Booth||
Well, let’s be clear about this. For the vast majority of us it isn’t for the money. Just to give you some idea, the average income of those able to get a traditional publishing deal is less than $1000 a year. For ebook writers and the self published in general, the average is somewhat less.
Think of writers much as singers. For every Miley Cyrus there are a thousand acts in bars around the world earning just enough to pay their costs. And many are doing it for less than their costs.
We don’t write because it is easy. Writing a novel is hard work. Not only do you need a plot, but you also need to create a cast of characters. Characterisation is tough. Not only do you have to keep track of what they’ve done, you have to let them grow with the story.
Even once you have mastered Plot and Characters, you have to decide on narrative. Narrative is a medium size word for a massive stumbling block. What ‘person’ are you going to write in? Once you start you can’t go back and change it when it gets difficult. JK Rowling chose Close Third Person, past tense for HP and that means her narration could only see what Harry saw. She cunningly invented telepathy through dreams (of Voldemort and his snake) and the pensieve so she could cover backstory without boring her readers silly with ‘And then Harry read in a book…’ Though she did do ‘Harry talks to dead people’ in the final volume.
Narrative also covers how the story is told in scenes and chapters. You can tell a story linearly, linearly with flashbacks, or all over the place. Most novelists start fantasy stories in the middle; hidden and mysterious past events which must be deduced while your heroes hopefully stay alive. When you think about it, detective stories are usually about discovering the past by searching for clues in the present.
And last, but hardly least, writing takes up a lot of time. That’s time that we could have spent, reading, going to the movies, having sex, getting drunk. Or even, as a last resort, doing paid work. Put it like this, the vast majority of writers would earn more on minimum wage for the hours they put in writing their book than what they earn from its sales.
Then we charge you the price of a coffee for our work and a lot of the readers out there bitch that we are ripping them off. Authors should give their works away because it cost ‘nothing’ to download it. Forgive me if I choose to disagree.
So why do writers write? There’s a bit of ego in it. But that tends to wear off after the first book. The first book you get published is special. However few or many you sell, you can go around claiming to be a published author and every copy for which you get paid makes you a professional writer.
But mainly we write because we want to tell readers good stories right along with telling ourselves. A reviewer recently wrote that one of my books was good, but could have been better. To which I reply; That’s true of all of them. I do my best.
I don’t give my books away (except for the odd special offer) because I think that devalues them and me. If you are not prepared to pay me the price of a cup of coffee for my work, then you don’t respect me or my writing.
What I hope is that after you have paid the entry fee you get hours of enjoyment from my work. That you will laugh out loud, feel like crying, and get a sense of fulfilment, at some point in every single book I’ve written. What do you get from that cup of coffee and how long does it last?
Not every reader will like my work. That is true of every book written by every writer. I just wish a higher proportion of those of you that have read and liked my work would put a positive comment on Amazon. I can dream.
For those of you waiting for news on Wizards IV. I’ve written it, I’m currently giving it its first line edit. It will be published later this year, most likely in the summer.
John Booth 14th April 2014