Friday, April 3, 2009

The Author Myth

It's funny how things work out in life. Yesterday I'm on the phone with a lady from my insurance company. Someone rear-ended my SUV a few weeks ago. No one was hurt and the damage to my vehicle was very minor, and we're trying to get the claim settled so we can get it into the body shop to get the bumper repaired. She wants to schedule me for Monday, and I'm having to explain to her that I can't do it on Monday as I am starting a new job on Monday.

"What?" she replies. "I thought you were an author. You mean you have to work another job?"

Ah yes, The Author Myth. Everyone thinks we authors are all very rich. And while I'd love to be J. R. Rowling or Danielle Steel, the reality is that most authors are regular working folk. Sure, we may have a certain degree of fame because from time to time we do interviews with the media. But very few us us are raking in millions of dollars in royalty checks.

I think that myth probably got started by TV shows like Columbo, which had at least one episode about a rich author living in a huge mansion. Then there was Murder She Wrote. As I recall Jessica lived in a modest New England home, but she was living off her book royalties and doing well enough to go out and solve murders better than the cops could. TV programs like this really help perpetuate the "Author Myth."

From time to time I get emails from total strangers who tell me they have great ideas for a book. They of course have no money, but they want me to help them write their book, and since they can't pay my they offer split their book profits with me because they know they're going to get rich. Then when I have to explain to them that getting a major publisher to buy their manuscript is nearly impossible, and if they opt for partnership publishing they'll be lucky if they earn a few thousand dollars a year off their royalties, they are never heard from again.

The insurance lady went on to tell me she had read my books, and apparently she enjoyed them.

"So I guess writing books must be a real labor of love for you then, right?"

Yep. It sure is. Still, I want to be J.R. Rowling.



Jeffrey said...

Ah, but Gayle, you are more interesting than JK Rowling!



Definately more interesting than old JK. recently a friend of mine sent me some old letters from 1949, written by the western pulp writer Chuck Martin and it seems he too was having the financial blues.

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