Getting paid for writing

bookpriceChartWriters in traditional publishing models receive 10% of the cover price. 5000 copies sold is a best seller, cover price is $30.00 = $150,000 (by the way this almost never happens to more than a handful of Canadian writers, but we’ll use the maximum rather than the minimum)= $150,000 in royalties for a book that usually takes two years to write. So $7,500 divide by 52 weeks = $145.00 divide by 5 days =$29 divide by 7 hours = $4.25 an hour. Now stand this up against what anyone in a printing company earns and you have a clear picture of why writers believe they should be paid for the use of information, ideas and inspiration in their work in schools and universities including textbooks for those who choose professional careers.
While ebook royalties can be as much as 50%, it is still a small, though growing market. And yes, I pay for the music and books I download, even though as a poet I will receive $500 from my publisher for the 800 copies that were printed. The printer received $2,5000, and the publisher didn’t pay himself. So rather than take exception to an extreme analogy like the riposte by Margaret Laurence to a brain surgeon at a cocktail party responding to his comment that he thought he might write novels when he retired was “Oh, that’s interesting, I’m taking up brain surgery.”) just buy a book, online or in a store, printed or a digital version, hey its Christmas get one for everybody on your list!  There is a study (god, isn’t there always) that shows that people who read develop a sense of empathy for people who may be quite different than themselves. Scotland actually gives every doctor a copy of a book “50 poems for doctors” as a graduation gift, to help with bedside manner I surmise, and the program is being expanded to other professions as well. Envoi is looking at this.
Professionals usually show strong support for the arts, but I offer the example above to draw attention to the importance of arts funding. For a successful writer to make $10.50 an hour (minimum wage where I live) s/he would need to earn about $21,500 annually, take away the $7,500, means s/he needs to find $13,500 in public support annually. This also rarely happens, but it is possible. A study I’d love to see is one calculating the value of patronage, spouses of writers and artists, provide. It would be huge. Meanwhile get thee to a bookstore, or order online – both preferably sourced locally, or from independents like McNally Robinson who also handle online sales, or that other famous bookstore, City Lights in San Fransisco. A lawyer I know made it an important stop on her last visit and brought home 21 books as extra baggage.  Now if every lawyer in Manitoba bought 21 books ……..
City Lights images
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