Monday, April 28, 2008

Ah! More Dismal Statistics

One of the last posts on Tess Gerritsen's blog (she has withdrawn from blogging because she found the environment increasingly hostile and humorless) was on the topic of a survey undertaken by Novelists, Inc. Never heard of NINC? Neither have most people. To join, you need not only to be published, but multipublished, and the presses publishing you need to pay a hefty minimum advance on all books they acquire (not just yours), and so on. Joining isn't easy.

So, this is an association of rather successful novelists. You should probably hop over and read the original post; but if you can't be bothered, here's the bottom line. NINC did a survey of 100 of its members. The median number of novels published by this group was 16 books per author(!). The response rate was 100%.

The question asked was if they could support themselves through their writing.

31% of them answered "Yes" or "Probably yes."

69% of them answered "No" or "Probably no."

So, for all of you who gave up your dreams of being poets so you could pursue something more practical, such as writing novels...

...poetry doesn't look all that bad after all. And at least no one wants to know why your poem hasn't been made into a movie yet.


Janet said...

I will, humbly, point out that "making a living" has different definitions for different people. I will be content if I can do better than a McJob.

Jen Ster said...

Hear, hear. I have a job, which I like and is reasonably well-paying. It'd have to be one hell of a multimillion-dollar bestseller to get me to quit. I mean, besides gas and food and mortgage payments and all that, we'd be talking health insurance for the rest of my life here, or at least until Medicare kicks in. Even Big Steve had to land quite a few blockbusters before he could afford that.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Janet--

You're certainly right about that--"a living" is a pretty slippery concept. Also, many of those people might be able to make enough money, but not be able to cope with the uncertainty.

Still, most writers don't even get into the McJob category. About 10 years ago, someone did a survey and found that the average income from writing of people who classed themselves as professional writers was a little over $4,000 per year...

David Isaak said...

Hey, Jen--

Yeah. I've been paying for my own health insurance for about 14 years now, and it's no fun at all. And it's going up...and up...and--well, you get the idea.

Tim Stretton said...

There is a big mindset difference between writing because it's fun and writing because otherwise you starve. I'm not sure I'd find it easy to maintain the playfulness I need to write if my home were dependent on it.

The ideal writer's lifestyle may be the Greg Egan model. He alternates spells of freelance consulting with full-time writing - although I suspect you need to be a consultant in something fairly lucrative to be able to live off part-time wages. Egan has published half a dozen novels which is unlikely to have generated a life-changing sum.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Tim--

I don't know that 'playfulness' is the word I'd apply to my own process (though I wish it were), but I know exactly what you mean--treating it like a business would be deadly!