Writer Declan Burke: A Sad Post

Woe Is Me, Etc: A Failing Writer Writes

It really is becoming as stark as that. I decided over the weekend, after interviewing James Ellroy, that it is actually immoral of me to steal time to write fiction when I could be writing freelance material that will actually earn real money. And that’s not even factoring in the time I steal away from my family on the ‘writing’, a catch-all word which includes, these days, reading and blogging too. Someone who liked my books asked me over the weekend, rather facetiously, how come I haven’t sold a million books. I said, rather facetiously, that it was because no one put a million dollars worth of advertising spend behind them. It’s not quite that simple, of course, but there’s a significant element of truth in that.

I can’t argue with his priorities in this post.

However, he acts as if he’s some obscure bloke no one has ever heard of.

Hell, I haven’t read him yet — but I’ve heard of him. I’ve seen him cited or mentioned by writer after writer in that genre!

Sarah Weinman beat me to a post about this, so I get to link to her too: On Giving Up the Fiction Ghost

Like her, I hope he’ll change his mind.

This is a tumultuous time in publishing. People such as myself won’t buy print any longer. I want digital. So do all those others out there who have spent lots of money on Sony Readers, abominable Kindles, other crappy eInk devices, as well as the sleek iPhone and iPod Touch. We don’t want to have to decide which damned paper brick to lug around. And we’re too smart to be suckered into paying exorbitant print prices for lightly-tarted up text files under the guise of ePub for Seniors. This is seriously hurting many writers who are innocents in the crossfire between the pearl clutchers of print who won’t publish most writers in e at a reasonable price and a new marketplace with demands that are bound to change very soon.

For all writers who are contemplating throwing in the towel: Just keep writing. It will all work out.

5 Responses to Writer Declan Burke: A Sad Post

  1. You’re right. It is sad. The most sad thing about it all is that authors earn so little from their efforts. Of course booksellers and publishers have their ‘overheads’ but those costs include their own salaries. Their profits come on top of these costs. A writer doesn’t get to pay him or herself a salary and then negotiate for how much of a share of the profit they’d like on top of that.

    As a new author myself, with a book coming out next year in an e-book edition *only* (yes, no print edition is planned) I’m happy to embrace the change to digital and be an early mover in this e-only trend – but I suspect it will mean even lower returns than if I’d gone with print (even though I have a good royalty deal with my publisher) just because the e-book market is so much smaller still than print.

    Perhaps people like Burke should start selling their out-of-print work direct to the public. Jo Konrath has some great posts on his blog about how this is working for him.

  2. jenn topper says:

    i am married to my day job. i have to face it. i have two kids and a mortgage, debt up to my ears, and that’s it. i’m not even trying to maintain any kind of fancy quality of life. i ate ramen noodles for lunch today. you get it. so when i hear writers all bummed out because they’re not making a living writing, it is heartbreaking indeed. but let’s face facts–even with the barriers to mainstream publishing so high, it hasn’t diminished the volume of content pumped out: good, bad, or otherwise.

    someone just yelled at me for my $10 thing i said earlier; he was pissed that he spent 20 years writing a book and here’s me, some dick advocating what he deems to be a low pricetag on his work, valuing it less than a sixpack of beer.

    if we writers didn’t piss away our earnings right back to publishing companies for no apparent reason, maybe that $10 isn’t so bad. but i hate to sound like a wall street asshole, but if the marketplace doesn’t value a product, why would the producer keep the pricetag high? competitive pricing, we are in a business.

    which brings me back to your post: we write, i think, because we love to do it. it kind of sucks that it “steals” time from our families or real paychecks. but like any art, it’s not about the money. i eke out my 1000 words a night in bed on my laptop with my two snoring toddlers on futons on the floor of my bedroom every night. EVERY GODDAMNED NIGHT. i’m missing bill moyers now because i’m blogging. i can’t not do it. i have a story to tell.


  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by mikecane: NEW POST: Writer Declan Burke: A Sad Post http://tinyurl.com/yj9b9z9 @jafurtado @sarahw @DeclanBurke @MoriahJovan…

  4. Robkaay says:

    Good words of advice there. I think this extends to all pieces of creative art. If you’re good at writing music, drawing, writing, whatever… The only thing that will stop you connecting with fellow Human’s is your lack of creation. Although, of course, it still has to be top quality for people to tell others about it. No one likes mediocre. It wastes their time and money.

  5. […] could writers make money? Posted on November 16, 2009 by switch11 Mike Cane writes about writer Declan Burke giving up writing, hopefully not for long. Declan Burke writes – I […]

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