Going on the Account: Chasing Them Doubloons *

So someone forwarded me an article from Forbes on the world’s highest paid authors.  I’m not sure if informing me was out of a belief that there’s an interest on my part to see what other writers are making (and when isn’t there one?), or as an act of evoking inadequacy on my part, but for whatever reason it was certainly one to make you think.


In ways you may not have considered…

(Which means that no, I’m not going to gripe about the biz like I did when last year’s list came out, so keep reading…)


First off, I don’t begrudge the earnings of the three writers profiled.  They have a product, there’s an audience willing to meet their prices for it, and that’s how the system works.  There’s no animosity on my part against James Patterson, J. K. Rowling or the ‘sparkly-vampire-lady’ whatsoever.  None, not a bit.


Seriously, I’ve already referred readers here to a piece on Patterson’s success and can’t deny the amount of work he puts into what he does.  And I think anyone that does that amount of work has probably earned what they have coming to them, whether James Patterson or Amanda Hocking, whose output certainly is of note.  And if I had a lot more energy, that might be the way to go; either that or sustain myself until I have enough of a back catalog to keep me alive on regular sales, which at this point may be around June of 2053…


The thing about these top earners pieces, though, is how they focus on the top of the bandwidth, while missing the median.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for writers as of 2008 was $53,070, which puts James Patterson at about 1,584 times ahead of the median writer, or to put it in perspective, about four and a half times the gap between CEOs and median worker wages as figured by Executive Paywatch.


Yeah, that does say something’s messed up with the distribution chain, when you think about it.  OK, maybe I’m not willing to avoid the mopes that much…

But then again, there’s that median quoted by BLS, which should make you wonder about the sensationalist press that concentrates on the high end earners who are maybe 3.4 AUs above the rest of the pack.  People forget that for all the focus on the rich (a whole other topic that’s a diversion into huge swaths of vast country) there’s still the working writer that may or may not be making much of a go at the craft depending on the market the writer lives in, if that figure comes to that person in a place where that money can go farthest.  And to be honest, most of the writers I know fit into the starving writer stereotype like a fist edition into its dust jacket; so many of them could not make a go of it with just income off words and need to hold another trade, which has been the case for most writers since Guttenberg invented write-for-hire…

(I kid, really…)

I haven’t forsaken supply and demand (though I wonder what’s come between the two of them), but it’s not hard to see how so many people can look at the upper echelons of the writing game and think it’s a means to get rich quick.  I keep telling people, if you want to write, you should want to write for the love of the craft, not for the money.  If you have a vivid imagination but are in it for the cash, just use your talents to develop a doomsday device to hold the government for ransom.

And these days, you don’t need that much imagination to hold the government hostage…

*  BTW, if you’d rather do things the old fashion way and seize doubloons, with the price of gold quoted as of this writing, doubloons are each going for  $391.04.

Heck, if the Sweet Trade comes back to the Spanish Main and the good old days are back, I may put aside the writing thing altogether for a while…

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