Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

That Writer Confession Thing.

if anyone has been passing various livejournals and blogs, they'll have come across an article in salon that is the confession of a semi-successful author. to be quite honest, i've never gotten into reading salon, cause, you know, so much of it is just wank. this article, too, is wank: a anonymous confessional by a supposed midlist author, dropping hints to her awards, her critical raves, and her $150, 000 advance as an unproved novelist in 1994.

there's the line, after her huge advance (which, mind you, could have done some nice investing and other financial usefulness to prepare for her uncertain contractual future) where she ghostwrites a celebrity bio to "keep daughter in Nikes while writing short-story collection." isn't that a nice thing, buying expensive shoes for her daughter? no wonder that advance didn't last...

(and hey, lets not get into the general belief that short story collections don't sell as well as novels. i mean, i've published neither, but it has been drummed into me that a novelist can expect to sell about half of their novel print run in a collection.)

and then, of course, for her fourth book in 2002, she gets an $80, 000 advance. sure, with her third novel, she only took a $10, 000 advance (the money for the ghostwrite is never listed--so much for confessions) but after the flop of her first book, surely she couldn't expect to keep her huge payments? and lets not forget that she's getting advances here. a lot of author's work without advances for first novels. this whole article is, essentially, one long wank where the poor author bemoans her situation because she had huge chunks of money, was once a golden haired childm and ohmygod is my career over because i have to suffer through it...

(which, you know, doesn't happen to anyone in any career. just those poor upper middle class novelists.)

it occurs to me that if you put a bit of work into it, you'd be able to figure out who the poor author is. maybe check out her books, and maybe mutter about that fifth book not being published... but fear not, for i am sure there's bound to be the supposed confessional book that she'll write based off this article, in which she goes into lurid detail about the evil of editors, the loss of the family publishers (they're still out there. they're called the small press and they don't give you $150, 000), and the sheer upper middle class grit she displayed in making sure that her daughter had a nice clean pair of nikes to play in.

as i said, it's a wank. but that's just my take on it--feel free to go and check out other people's opinions:

john scalzi

charlie stross

nick mamatas

making light

neil gaiman (who seems to think that she should have put her name on the article anyway)

there's more, i am sure.

and, if you still doubt the total wank of this, i have copied the final lines from the poor endangered writer who, after mentioning her amazon sales rank, tells you to support independent book stores, to think, enjoy, read and create culture (but only for money? shouldn't you try to create culture despite the amount you get given? oh no, perish the thought, let me count my big fat first novel advance again--it made culture so much easier to produce), not buy big airport novels, and finally,

If you're outraged because you work in the publishing industry and this story has made you want to change the circumstances under which it operates, take a stand -- whatever stand you can. Remind the numbers guys that the blockbusters will go on paying their salaries even if they pay midlist authors a living wage -- even if midlist books don't earn back their advances. Remind yourself that if you don't make a place in the bookstore for the Stephen Kings and the midlist authors, readers' choices -- and the culture -- will shrink just when it most needs to expand. Then find a midlist author with something to offer, and offer her something that'll make you both proud. Unless Book 5 has sold by now, feel free to start with me.

EDIT: just a small aditional note that this is all about the american publishing industry, which is a much larger one than australia. locally, everything is much smaller, with less money, and no midlist even close to the states, simply due to size.

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