I got interviewed recently about money and books for the Vancouver Sun. Being a writer, since I obviously didn’t know anything about money, they decided to talk to somebody else. No, not really, but you get the idea. Money and books have always had an uncomfortable relationship. Kind of like oil and water, two things that really shouldn’t mix, but when they do, you hear about it — generally with some kind of bad news — like the Exxon Valdez just ran up on the beach.
I suppose this uncomfortable relationship might have something to do with the collision between art and commerce, but I suspect it has more to do with people, or more precisely, the notion that certain people are good at certain things, and what makes a good writer, isn’t necessarily the same set of skills that makes you successful in business. History is replete with examples of writers who have died penniless. Melville comes to mind, but the point I want to make is that the historical inability of the writer to make a living crafting words is quickly changing. And the writer’s historical inability to make said living, may have had more to do with the status quo and the mass communications systems of the time, than any particular deficiency on the writer’s part.
Amazon has provided the tools that make it possible for the average writer to make a normal living, say as much money as a plumber or a bus driver, without taking a second job doing the plumbing and driving as they would have had to in the past. Of course this paradigm shift means that a lot of the people who were making money off of the writers efforts, i.e. traditional publishers, are seeing their revenue models change — and that, in a nutshell, is what all the screaming and moaning in the publishing business is really all about — resisting change. Well you know what Darwin said — it isn’t the strongest, or the most intelligent who survive, it’s the most adaptable. So to anyone bemoaning the chaos that is publishing today, I say get busy adapting. Because I think it’s OK if a writer can make as much money as a plumber. If you want to know what else I have to say about money and books, read the Vancouver Sun article here.