It’s all too easy to get *depressed about one’s prospects for making any serious money in the writing racket. Publishers who used to market books now expect the author to get out there and sell unsupported their book at their own expense. How many of us have the stomach and the time for pounding the ‘rubber chicken’ circuit of Probus meetings and their ilk to ‘brand’ ourselves to all and sundry who might show up to hear us? Not every writer is a card-carrying extrovert aching for any human contact – for many of us the speakers route can be like water torture. And a writing advance is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, so a wannabe author needs a real day job.
While fiction can still stand on its own merits, non-fiction writers are expected to have credentials in the subject before a publisher will even glance at the first page of our manuscript. Lifelong learning may be all very well, but if it is not accompanied by a bona fide certified qualification or a past or, better, present job assignment in the subject, it counts for nothing in the hardscrabble world of manuscript submission. Editorial fact checking is tedious and expensive so why take the risk that the author might not really know his stuff? And getting a grant as an author to write about something beyond our resumes is a non-starter. Without high level credentials in the knowledge arena we write about we have no reality there. Anyway *“it’s not the job of literary prizes to keep an industry afloat”. The hottest area in non-fiction today is memoir writing – perhaps the only non-fiction genre where the only credential needed is a read-worthy life.
According* to the Writers Union of Canada, the average annual income from writing in this country is $12,000. Pocket change like that makes being an author only a consideration for those who have the time to treat it like a hobby, one that occasionally produces a small cheque, but mostly just costs. When our reward is restricted largely to the spiritual plane, doesn’t one have to be a special kind of obsessive to keep those fingers at the keyboard day after day?
By Ian Keith Anderson