Tolerance is a skill we should cultivate

Hello, fellow pessimists. I read a lot of the interwebs this weekend, and saw the huge number of comments attached to Nathan Bransford's post about how much publishing houses make off a book relative to the author. And, after reading 200 plus comments, I can safely say (not to any of my readers, because you are all perfect, but to the larger world):

Author folk: you need to chill out.

First, the conspiracy theories have to go. Publishers are not trying to lose money (even when it appears otherwise). And although some of you might be able to do a good job "saving the industry," you are not working in publishing, doing that good job.

Second, while writers make very little money, people in publishing also make very little money. I know people who have worked for travel stipends and for no benefits (those ones are me). I know people who have been working in publishing for years and are technically interns, making an hourly wage (or working for friggin free, people. For free).

The moral here is that yea, mid-list writers make almost no money. But most people who work in publishing make almost nothing. Ten years of publishing experience pays slightly less than a 21 year old college graduate working in finance (did your stomach just curdle? Mine did). And almost everyone in publishing has to stretch that salary in New York City, the most expensive city in the country.

So chill out, drop the conspiracy theories, and don't take it out on the people trying to make a living in publishing. No one goes into book publishing for profit. They do it for free books and the chance to read for work.


  1. THANK you.
    Gah there's so much whining sometimes. Listen, we all want to be rich, but chances are, we're not going to be. The sooner we all accept that, the sooner we can all start to be happy with the way our lives are and the things we do have. I'm sure for the vast majority of us, things could be so so so much worse.

  2. The problem, Laura, is this:

    Five years in publishing = five years as a writer = almost nothing.
    Ten years in publishing = slightly less than ten days in finance = okay wage.
    Ten years as a writer = almost nothing.

    Also, health insurance.

    I love the -people- in publishing, but if you really think that nobody goes into publishing for profit, you're naive. That's the sole motivating factor for the people who own the publishers. That's all they're interested in. And one way they maximize profits is by minimizing expenses. Expenses = writers and editors and assistants.

  3. bingol--people who own and people who work for are very, very different groups. The people who own are basically investors and financiers who are not in it because it's books (and there are very few of them), but because they want cash, and the people who work are mostly poor folk who love los books as much as the writers.

    You might as well say that people go into painting for money because the people who own Sotheby's are loaded.

  4. We don't read NB's comments any more because they make us suicidal.

  5. I know Rejectionist was probably kidding (maybe), but I have drawn a similar conclusion recently. After following Nathan's blog for nearly a year now, and faithfully reading through the plethora of comments (aka, wading through a bunch of shit to find one edible mushroom), I've decided not to read the comments anymore.

    Let me make this clear, I STILL READ HIS POSTS. I find them extremely informative and I've learned more about this business than I imagined possible in a relatively short period of time, but THE PEOPLE COMMENTING THERE ARE DRIVING ME NUTS. Period. No more reading comments for me, and to be honest, it has saved me time better spent reading about the many different uses of a waffle iron, and browsing for a good batch of whiskey.

    End of rant.

  6. Sure, I'm not saying that the owners and the editors (for example) are the same people. I'm just saying that if you don't realize that the motivation behind the very -existence- of (most of) publishing is profit, you're headed for a nasty fall.

    Most of the people are great. And we _all_ get screwed, sometimes. But the fact that you're getting screwed doesn't mean I'm not.

    That said, I don't read Bransford's blog or the comments--I'd probably agree with your reaction if I had. I'm just a little tired of hearing 'nobody's in publishing for the money.' The whole friggin' industry is here because of the money.

    And so am I.

  7. Touche, bingol. You can be on my realism team when the zombie apocalypse happens. I too would heart some profit.

    And R, if you kill yourself, I will steal your new blog template. Be warned.

  8. And I'm being totally grumpy today for some reason. Please excuse me--it's this friggin' career!