This post at Jan Mag might be of interest - it is somewhat depressing

http://januarymagazine.com/2008/02/highs-and-lows-of-publishing.html

But for every 10,000 authors there's 1 James Patterson

Ali

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Sounds like there's two million authors for every James Patterson. But thanks for sharing, Ali.
Yes, interesting and probably quite true. But wouldn't we be all a lot poorer if all the books were by Patterson? I think the problem is that publishers publish too many new authors and take no care with any of them, except perhaps the few that sell well right off the bat. That still impoverishes readers and fills our stores and libraries with nothing but mediocre knock-offs of a few best sellers.
Yeah, but you didn't get into poetry for the money, did you? No, must have been the fame... ;)

I remember twenty years ago (yikes, could be twenty-five) when I was trying to write screenplays because I loved the movies. Then the gold rush attitude took over (pretty much around the time of the big screenplay sale for Die Hard, I think) and then everything became about the huge option money, the 'pay or play.' The late 70's already brought the intense interest in opening weekend box office, and even though everyone said, "oh sure, but how much money it makes isn;t a reflection of how good it is," it's all the movies are about these days. If I was seventeen now I'd go into video game design....

Sometimes I think the gold rush attitude, the desire to be the next Patterson or write the next Da Vini Code is what keeps crime fiction stuck in the genre rut.

I know we're only joking about it here, but I kind of think about it the way people think about poetry....
I agree with your third paragraph.

As far as video games go, even if you were 17 now, the golden age is long past for video games. Now it's all about how good the graphics are instead of how good the gameplay is. Which is why SNES is still considered the best console ever.
If the reason people write is to make money, they should see either a shrink or a financial adviser.

And thank god there are people who write good books without trying to sound like Patterson! The world would be a terrible place indeed. I'm feeling sick, sorry, have to go...
If someone wants to write to make money, there's nothing wrong with that. It's his/her decision.

It's fashionable to look down on Patterson, probably more because of his immense fame then the quality of his writing, because let's face it; if he's selling millions of books, there must be a lot of people who think his writing is really good. People who with less success always say well, those guys got lucky, but I don't know why so many people buy their books, because the writing is awful, which implies that the naysayer is better qualified to judge and perhaps produce better writing than the bestseller author.

For all the criticism against Patterson, he seems more honest about what he does and why he does it than 99% of the writers I've come across.
Aren't we devaluing ourselves if we don't believe we deserve to make a living at it?

Screenwriters and TV writers believe they deserve a good wage for what they do, why should novelists be any different?
Just because you're doing what you love, doesn't mean you don't deserve to profit from it. For most of us, writing a book takes a lot of work, passion and time, and I believe we deserve more than minimal wage for that.
I love to write and create stories - and, yes, I want to make it my career and earn a decent living from it. The money aspect is out of my control, so all I can really do is concentrate on writing the best books I can and hope the reading public embraces them in large enough numbers that I can pay some of these f***ing bills.

As for poetry. I have had a few poems published in my time and being accepted by poetry magazines was a real high for me. No, I didn't write them for the money (in fact, it didn't even cross my mind) but I did want them read. As writers, I believe we have this need to be read (otherwise why would we go through the painful process of rejection after rejection after . . . well, you get my drift. We could just send a copy to our mothers if we just wanted praise). The market for poetry is tiny, so making a living at it is next to impossible, but as fiction writers we can reach a much larger audience. And that's probably the bottom line: we want to be read, and if we can be read by tens of thousands or millions, we can make a living at it. Wouldn't it be cool to know that (like Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury) that 5 million people have bought and read a copy of your book? Wow!

After all, even if we write for ourselves, don't we all want to share it with the world?
Oh, I'm all for making a living. My goal is to make as much from writing as a high school teacher makes (which was pretty much my other career choice, but I got rejections from teacher's colleges more than I got rejections from publishers).

It's the get-rich-quick attitude that I think has affected the work quite a bit. I understand movies are for kids, it's just they didn't have to be. I sure hope that books don't try to please the most amount of readers all the time. I used to hate a movie poster that said, "Something for everyone," because I didn;t want to sit through the 80 minutes for everyone else to get to the 10 minutes for me. With books I can still find entire novels that feel like they were written just for me. I'd hate to lose those....
Agreed.
I would like to pay the bills and have a bit left over for a nice holiday and to attend a convention or two -- of course, even that is a dream at the moment, but hopefully a dream that can be made reality.

And judging by the rejections I've received, I'm definitely not everyone's cup of tea ;-)
I don't think anyone argues whether authors "deserve" to make a living; we have to remember we're not entitled to it. There are lot more people who want to write books than there are sales to support them. So long as that is the case - and, since that has ALWAYS been the case, I see no reason for it to change anytime soon - authors will make less than they deserve.

I'd like to make some money from my writing someday, but anyone who is in it just to make some money, or who assumes having to keep a day job for supplemental income constitutes failure, is in for major disappointment.
I think I would probably survive without selling books. I know I can manage while selling them cheaply. Of course it's not right that I don't make a year's living expenses from each novel when it takes me a year to write it. And I write full time, 7 days a week.
But unlike many writers I have the freedom of not having to write stuff just because it sells. I write genre, yes, but I want to be proud of my books, and I am happy that genre still allows me to write well. Let's hope that the market doesn't shut us out completely.
You're actually writing 40 hours a week?

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