In yesterday’s New York Times there was an opinion piece by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Here’s a quote:
“Even highly gifted and relatively successful writers, artists and musicians generally are not able (to) earn a living from their talents. The very few who become superstars are very well rewarded. But almost all the others—poets, novelists, actors, singers, artists—must either have a partner whose income supports them or a ‘day job’ to pay the bills. Even writers who are regularly published by major houses or win major prizes cannot always live on their earnings.”
— New York Times, The Real Humanities Crisis
You know this is true as well as I do, and it speaks to several larger truths:
◾ the low regard most creative artists who are not “superstars” generally command in our society
◾ the lack of leverage most creatives have in dealing with corporations who license their work
◾ the disempowerment of writers who are not “bestsellers” and who, by and large, are poorly compensated for their work
Stable jobs with dependable income involve helping the wheels of commerce keep turning, or unavoidable occupations like road building and health care.
But try making a living as a poet, a writer of histories, a novelist, a short story writer, a playwright, or any kind of writer whose work isn’t essential to making a living, and you better not give up that day job.
We don’t need to comment on the values this reality expresses, but we do have to deal with the consequences.
Now, with all the new tools of publishing, we can take a bigger role in our own publishing careers than ever before.
Talking to authors—and especially authors who have already been published by big traditional publishers—you can see the excitement and anticipation when this subject comes up.