Idiot, idiot, stupidity

Craig pointed to a study carried out by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society last year that found the average earnings of a professional full-time author were only £11,000 per year. “Part of the poison of these festivals is that they’ve been paying big names more than little names. If it’s a literary festival, we are all performing, we all ought to be paid the same..”

And I should get the same amount Paul Krugman does for writing a column no doubt.

Off with the fairies these people, off with the fucking fairies.

66 comments on “Idiot, idiot, stupidity

  1. So do the authors pay the festivals for the promotion of their work?

    Will unknown authors with book sales of dozens want JK Rowling to be paid the same as them? Even though JK will get thousands of attendees to see her while the unknowns will get one curious person.

    Authors with no biz sense at all. And no maths sense at all either as they don’t understand how averages work.

  2. Next we’ll have the U2 warm-up bands complaining they’re not paid the same as the main act. Except the warm-up acts know what this clown doesn’t: the big names draw the crowd and the unknowns help to catch somebody’s attention.

  3. We have already had people claim that a pair of pert breasts should be paid the same as the main star of a film.

    By the way, I do love the Social Justice Warriors going after Hollywood. Live by hatred of Whites, die by hatred of Whites.

  4. These festivals are a publicity/marketing opportunity for authors.

    What next?

    Should the assorted telephone peddlers who keep ringing me be able to put the cost of their calls on my phone bill?

    This is what happens when you have a society with a high level of leftist stupidity poison circulating in it’s bloodstream–so to speak.

  5. The only power we have as authors is if we unionise and go on strike.

    Says the author who is about to find out how easily replacable she is.

    Author Daniel Hahn said: “Many literary festivals operate as charities; they’re run on shoestrings and depend largely or exclusively on volunteers – it’s practically impossible to make a profit on these things, I know that. But what we object to is when other people do get paid and we don’t

    Easy fix: offer everybody a fiver and as many Wagon Wheels as they can eat.

    But somehow I don’t think the likes of Ian Rankin or Bill Bryson will bother traipsing across the country for that. Why should they?

    The root cause of their agita is technology. Traditional publishing is dying. The days when publishers were the gatekeepers of the literary world are nearly gone. The reason most authors make so little money is that anybody can now write a book, so many do. Amazon Kindle offers an amazing selection of books and they’re mostly either dirt cheap or free.

    And there is nothing authors can do about it, any more than scholastic monks could uninvent the printing press.

    So this quixotic tilt at literary festivals – which are pretty much irrelevant to book sales anyway – is just displacement activity.

  6. Pullman, even though he’s a knee-jerk liberal, is partially right. Though it’s important to get which bit he is right about.

    I work in publishing, and there are two separate issues here.

    The first is payment for attending festivals. The norm, in my area of publishing, is that most of the time you do indeed get paid – often quite generously. You are generating income for the festival.

    The second is payment for attending the particular festival Pullman is referring to: the Oxford literary Festival. They are out of step and do not pay. They should pay.

    However, in my opinion there is no reason festivals should pay. Festivals generate sales for authors, in the same way that bookshop visits and school visits for children’s authors do. Sometimes these events are paid. Sometimes they are not. In the modern publishing world promotion is everything, and for 99.9% of authors promotion means self-promotion. There are huge numbers of authors who would pay to go to festivals.

    Sadly the general view amongst the progressive crowd authors (most of them) is that they should just get paid, regardless.

    I come across it every day amongst my professional colleagues. The wanton sense of entitlement is quite disgusting to behold. There is a widely held belief amongst them that authors (regardless of sales or talent) should be paid to work by ‘somebody’. In fact, there is also a widely held belief that the more successful an author is the less they should be paid, as they are clearly part of the dreaded popular mainstream. There’s almost an inverse law.

    When I spoken to authors about this their thinking is extremely fuzzy on the mechanics. But it seems to run something like this: there should be some kind of literary arts Council which takes all of the money from book sales and divides it between the number of people who want to write. When you explain this is lunacy, and would mean any imbecile would be paid to write, they qualify it by explaining that the arts Council would be the arbiters of good taste. And, obviously, the good taste would include them and their friends.

  7. The only power we have as authors is if we unionise and go on strike.

    Wasn’t it a proposed philosophers’ strike in Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that prompted the quip “Who would that inconvenience?”

  8. Tim Newman – 🙂 right?

    I’ve never been to a literary festival in my puff, but I do know something about selling.

    I’d be shocked if the upside – to an author – of attending a book festival equated to more than hundreds of new sales. Probably tens of books for the average struggling scribbler.

    The real value is probably in networking and promotion opportunities. Getting to meet a Grauniad or Times journo and hopefully have them plug your new novel is a great opportunity for most writers whose names don’t start with “J.K.”.

  9. Steve,

    Absolutely spot on. My cousin has written some cracking military sci-fi (well, I and enough people bought it that he’s kept at it – check on Amazon under “Phillip Richards”, first in the series is “C.R.O.W.”) but he’s effectively self-publishing through Kindle.

    He’s also got no illusions that it’ll let him leave the Army and live the life bohemian as an “author”, writing is a hobby he enjoys that he gets satisfaction and a little money (in that order) from). And no, I’m not on commission, he’s just a good example.

    But if he “went on strike”, who here apart from me (who’s waiting for #5 in the series) would know or care? There’s lots of competent fiction – as well as a lot of dross – coming through that route, just as Spotify gives you access to anything from Motorhead’s catalogue through Charlemagne (with Christopher Lee’s vocals their USP) to some dismal stuff, for very little money. When people will produce art for enjoyment rather than pure profit, you need some unique point to be able to demand more cash for it.

    I’d love it if someone would pay me big money for my astute geopolitical writings, but as it is I’m paying the university to tell me how clever my essays are…

  10. Jason – check on Amazon under “Phillip Richards”, first in the series is “C.R.O.W.”

    Just did, thanks for the tip.

    I’m a mil-scifi fan and can never get enough good books. Best part is, C.R.O.W is on Kindle Unlimited, so I don’t have to pay a penny beyond my existing monthly subscription, yet the author still gets his monies.

  11. ‘Should the assorted telephone peddlers who keep ringing me be able to put the cost of their calls on my phone bill?’ – Mr. Ecks

    I got rid of the telephone peddlers last year. It was simple: I had my phone line disconnected. I was paying $35 a month so that jerks I don’t know could call me and say all sorts of things I didn’t care to hear. Like my second marriage, I wonder now why I didn’t end it way sooner.

    I use my smart phone only now. And it gives me weather radar, camera, stock quotes, Google Maps, NFL rosters, etc., too.

  12. I like the idea. I haven’t been offered a dime for the first 13,000 of my magnum octopus, despite it being posted for months now.

    Mind you, based on the site stats it appears Arnald might be the only person besides meself to actually have read it.

  13. “…but he’s effectively self-publishing through Kindle.”

    Which lets you try a sample. Which is a brilliant idea, and means I only buy the good stuff, and it’s never a gamble.

  14. Three easy ways to rid yourself of telemarketers:

    1) If they’re calling a residence, tell them they’ve reached a business in error.
    2) If they’re calling a business, tell them they’ve reached a residence in error.
    3) If they are calling your wife, tell them she died of cancer two weeks ago and this horrible phone call is bringing back all the pain of her untimely death.

  15. Dennis – your work starts off well (“it was a dark and stormy night”), but you’re not leveraging what’s hot in books at the moment.

    And by hot, I mean BBW Paranormal Shape Shifter Romance.

    If you could write in a character who’s a hunky billionaire fireman who turns into a sex-crazed squirrel, you’ll get some of that sweet, sticky 50 Shades of Grey moolah.

  16. JuliaM – Indeed.

    She’s also the author of Bearfoot and Pregnant and the delightful erotic festive tale Scrooge Me Hard.

    I haven’t read Scrooge Me Hard, but I like to imagine it’s about a hunky miser who is visited by three spirits on the same night – with sexy results.

    If he wasn’t such a preachy Victorian, Charles Dickens could’ve been a New York Times bestseller.

  17. What about: Having The Dinosaur’s Baby: A Paranormal Pregnancy Of Convenience Romance ?

    The first review contains this gem: “I liked Vel he was not what I was expecting in a dinosaur, he was very caring”.

  18. Having worked in The Arts (theatre) my impression is that the less useful someone is in a practical sense, the greater their feelings of entitlement (a kind of reactive justification). Even within theatre, the less commercial the production, the more extreme the sense of entitlement among the people involved. Subsidised theatre in this regard is considerably worse than commercial theatre e.g. West End.

  19. Steve,

    “Says the author who is about to find out how easily replacable she is.”

    People have never understood the (good) purpose of unions. It was to allow people with little choice of where to work to wield some power – they could all go on strike and close down the factory. That was the whole fricking point. Because while they had no choice, their employer also had no choice of workforce. The union was the way to balance things, to extract more wealth, but not so far that you put the place out of business. Once people could move goods around more easily, and employees could change jobs, you didn’t need them.

    I’ve seen graphic designers signing manifestos about not going in for “no fee” competitions and I’m like “OK, so someone else will take your work”.

    The problem for a lot of “creatives” is that they simply aren’t good enough. It’s why I quit bands when I was 17 that tried to take it seriously. I was listening to Prince doing his things and realising that I wasn’t even on the same planet, let alone country or league as that guy.

    I’d write a book if I had nothing better to do and even then, expect it to sell nothing because there’s a gazillion books out there already, and a lot of them by the likes of Edith Wharton and Dorothy L Sayers make mine look like a steaming dog turd.

  20. I wrote a novel in the 90s. No publishers were interested. Looking at it with the perspective of time, I could understand why; it was terrible. Writing is easy. Writing that other people like is hard. Hence the significant rewards from the marketplace if you can write something that many other people like. I will always remember the first sentence, it not referring to nights whether dark or stormy, and how at the time I thought it was awesome-

    “Under the blood red sun of a forgotten world, somewhere near the rim of a galaxy that was almost as old as time itself, lay a beach the colour of cigarette ash”.

    It managed to get even worse from there.

  21. Wife, who has moved in these kinds of circles, interfaces expertly the nail with the hammer:

    – the big names are doing the festivals a favour by being there.
    – The festival is doing the little/no names a favour by letting them be there.

    Look at where the value add is occuring, which tells you who should really be paying whom and how much.

  22. @ IanB – That’s not bad at all compared to my efforts! (a dreadful, Catch 22 knock-off written by an extremely stoned 19yr old me)

    Stuck Record – The author types you mentioned in your post – what kind of books are they writing? Lit-fic?

  23. To be fair Ian B, that probably isn’t bad for a first shot. I think it was our host who pointed out to us on this here blog that writing, like anything, takes practice. Unless you’re one of those geniuses who writes something brilliant on the first attempt, simply getting something written is half the battle. I’ve read some early Dashiell Hammett and found it pretty mediocre. The skills need honing, assuming there is some talent there.

  24. As has already been noted, their whine is borne of a childish sense entitlement. I’d suggest they exercise their freedom as self-employed adults and assess for themselves whether its worth doing the gig or not. If it is, shut up and do it; if it’s not then don’t bloody go. Either way, there’s no point moaning because no-one cares. Authors aren’t forced to do them, unless they’re contractually obliged – in which case, hey-ho.

  25. Ian B:

    “Having worked in The Arts (theatre) my impression is that the less useful someone is in a practical sense, the greater their feelings of entitlement (a kind of reactive justification).”

    1. I expect they were ‘educated’. Any sort of higher education seems to create an automatic entitlement to a comfortable living, even if you do nothing useful.

    2 They are in the theatre, so are self-centred egocentrics anyway.

  26. Oh, and 3. They see self-employed working class people (plumbers, builders etc) making money and they are angry and bewildered that they aren’t too.

  27. Ian B – “I wrote a novel in the 90s.”

    Stick it on Kindle. I would buy a copy. As long as it was 99 pence or so.

    “Writing is easy. Writing that other people like is hard.”

    Apparently not. A surprise success on Amazon has been dinosaur romance novel slash porn. Apparently what other people want to read is stories about bears who like fatter women and won’t take no for an answer.

    Who would have guessed?

    So just put some rape-y wildebeast under that blood red sky and you’re golden. (Actually that is a good idea and I might try it. If only so I can use the line “Is that a gnu in your pocket or are you just happy to see me”)

    Tim Newman – “I’ve read some early Dashiell Hammett and found it pretty mediocre. The skills need honing, assuming there is some talent there.”

    Hammett had the enormous advantage of working for an actual real detective agency where, apparently, every single unnecessary word was struck out by his boss who then made him retype it. I can’t think of a better way to produce the sort of prose that Hammett did.

  28. SMFS: “Actually that is a good idea and I might try it. If only so I can use the line “Is that a gnu in your pocket or are you just happy to see me””

    *snorts whiskey over keyboard*

  29. Ian B – I read frackloads of sci fi, and that opener isn’t bad at all. I like it.

    I like the strong visual image. Obviously you don’t want to descend into purple prose (and one of Tolkien’s maddening habits IMO was interminable descriptions of minor geographic features) but there’s nothing wrong with setting a scene. Blood red sun, ash coloured beach – yes, that’s striking. I can imagine weird alien creatures in that setting.

    Ted S – you, sir, are a true cineaste.

    The Stigler – Yarp.

    I was listening to Prince doing his things and realising that I wasn’t even on the same planet, let alone country or league as that guy.

    Sometimes I read authors who are so bloody good it discourages me, because I realise I’ll never be as good as them. And I write for fun, with no expectation of making any money out of it. I just don’t want to add to the sum of shitness in the world.

    Come to think of it, some of the most talented authors alive today still have day jobs. But that 50 Shades of Grey woman is richer than Hitler. Funny old planet.

    MC – “I liked Vel he was not what I was expecting in a dinosaur, he was very caring”

    This reads like the intro to a Theodore Dalrymple essay about the mating habits of the urban poor.

    You just know that dinosaur is going to leave her high and dry with a black eye and a set of squalling baby dinos.

  30. “Under the blood red sun of a forgotten world, somewhere near the rim of a galaxy that was almost as old as time itself, lay a beach the colour of cigarette ash”.

    As the opening of a sci-fi novel, that is quite gripping. It would make me want to read on. It’s not great prose or high literary art, but it’s entertaining.

  31. Gibson. Neuromancer. And it’s sad to think, before long, no-one will have the slightest idea what he meant.

  32. >“Under the blood red sun of a forgotten world, somewhere near the rim of a galaxy that was almost as old as time itself, lay a beach the colour of cigarette ash”.

    It’s good. (Assuming, that is, that you’re writing humorous or semi-humorous SF.)

  33. Thanks for the good reviews. The novel really was terrible though. It was a way to discover that my strength, such as it was, was dialogue, which carried through to the comics I did later on.

    The story was a mess, because I just started writing without any idea it was going to be a novel, in a poor pastiche of other writers, so some of it was trying to be Pratchett style humour and some of it was trying to be serious science fiction and strayed into horror- it was just a mess of everything that took my fancy. It was only when I read it later that I realised that my protagonists didn’t actually achieve anything, and just sort of wandered through the story while events happened around them.

    Plus, if the sunlight is red, nothing could be neutral grey like cigarette ash, so I’d contradicted myself already within the first sentence 🙂

  34. Here’s the very first paragraph and start of the series Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia:

    On one otherwise normal Tuesday evening I had the chance to live the American Dream. I was able to throw my incompetent jackass of a boss from a fourteenth-story window.

    The first novel was self-published after it got turned down by all publishers. He wrote it for “his kind of people”, aka, gun folks with the basic premise that if the normal people in monster horror movies have lots of guns, the movie would’ve been a whole lot shorter. He has since quit his day job as an auditor/accountant with a major defense contractor and concentrate on writing full time.

  35. The story was a mess, because I just started writing without any idea it was going to be a novel, in a poor pastiche of other writers, so some of it was trying to be Pratchett style humour and some of it was trying to be serious science fiction and strayed into horror- it was just a mess of everything that took my fancy.

    I don’t know why you think this is a bad thing. Important thing is you got ideas out of your head and onto a page, and you could see what worked and what didn’t. The discipline and honing only comes much later when you knew what your strengths are and what story you want to tell. It’s why I think writing short-stories is good, it gets you exploring ideas and getting stuff onto paper. I’m sure there are some genius authors out there who just sat down and banged out a great novel first try, but I’m betting most bashed a typewriter for years and years before writing their “first” hit novel (see example of Dashiell Hammett above: I knew he worked for Pinkertons but didn’t know he’d had his writing edited, cheers SMFS). One of the ways to check if your writing is any good (and this also applies to text messages with women and cover letters to potential employers) is to imagine it read out on the 9 o’clock news. You’ll soon know if it’s any good, and which bits make you cringe.

    I say the above partly because I have a pal who has just decided to learn the guitar, and he’s asked me for some advice. Having taught myself, one of the main things I told him was that unless he proves to be some kind of genius within 10 minutes of picking up the instrument first time (he didn’t) he’s in for a long haul, but the important thing is to play whatever the hell you want, how you want, when you want. If you can do something which makes the guitar produce a sound you like, do it over and over again. Who cares if it is *actually* any good, important thing is to get a sound coming out that you like. Eventually you move on and improve, and then later still you start being more disciplined and follow conventions (especially if you’re playing with other folk) and then you look back and realize how shit you used to be playing that silly sound. But that’s the route to becoming better. Hell, I look at videos of myself playing guitar only a year ago and realize how shit I am. But then, I thought I was much better than 6 months before that. And in 6 months time I’ll think my current stuff is crap.

    I’m sure writing is the same: one of the famous authors, might have been Dickens or Twain, complained of having to practically chain yourself to a typewriter and bash out stuff day and night for years on end. The difference is less talent than bloody-minded motivation.

  36. So just put some rape-y wildebeast under that blood red sky and you’re golden. (Actually that is a good idea and I might try it. If only so I can use the line “Is that a gnu in your pocket or are you just happy to see me”)

    Bwahahahahaha!

  37. “Under the blood red sun of a forgotten world, somewhere near the rim of a galaxy that was almost as old as time itself, lay a beach the colour of cigarette ash”

    I’d read on to the end of the paragraph to find out who it was that had forgotten about this world. If it didn’t tell me that, then I’d just assume that the author had chucked in a meaningless adjective – a bad sign in an opening sentence.

  38. “Gibson. Neuromancer. And it’s sad to think, before long, no-one will have the slightest idea what he meant”

    Indeed. What a great book.

    I read sci fi (and some fantasy) continuously, always got one on the go. The higher the concept the better. That and space operas.

    Currently Night’s Dawn trilogy – Peter F Hamilton. First time for him even though they’ve been staring me in the face forever.

    Coincidentally, I had just finished the first book of The Expanse series by James Corey. I was channel flicking yesterday and caught something spacey, and they’d only gone and made it.

    Which was nice.

    Favourites?

  39. @Arnald

    That’s a coincidence – I’ve just started on the first book of Nights Dawn a few weeks ago – picked it up pretty much at random as I wanted to give one of these huuuuugggee Space Operas a go. And I’m enjoying it quite a bit. Not yet sure whether I’ll have the stamina to do the full thing. Only real issue I have thus far is that the Edenist (the psychic lot with the mad bio-tech) characters are dull as shit. Gimme the convicts on Planet Rainforest or the dashing starship captain over these bores.

  40. I’m 700 pages into the first one and the Edenists are coming into their own. Pretty much all of the space opera genre has a faction of ‘jacked in’ folk. I think it’s pretty much a nailed on prediction for humans.

    If you like the ‘han solo’ types then the Gap series by Stephen Donaldson is superb. No real goodies in that. Long time since I’ve read it, mind, but it made an impact.

    Or the Hyperion/Endymion series by Dan Simmons.

    Too many to mention, really.

  41. Good to hear that they get something more interesting to do – all those early scenes of them telling their spaceships how much they love them had me rolling my eyes. I mean, I get what he’s going for, and he’s obviously thought through the worlds and and how they function with the different populations, etc.

    But Utopian societies bore me silly. Reason I could never stomach Star Trek.

    No I prefer my sci-fi grimy and full of drugs, sex and scum. Therefore I think WIlliam Gibson is the best writer of the genre.

    Neal Stephenson knows his onions though – can recommend anything by him except his first one – which even he thinks is shit. Seveneves was a really cool slab from last year that I hoovered up.

  42. BiS
    “Gibson. Neuromancer. And it’s sad to think, before long, no-one will have the slightest idea what he meant.”

    Ditto Ian B’s reference to cigarette ash.

    Incidentally Ian B’s intro would do well in the Bulwer Lytton competition.

  43. The bad bit of Ian B’s intro is “…a galaxy that was almost as old as time itself…”. It’s hackneyed, and this is science fiction so if you want to talk about the age of a galaxy you need to discuss what you mean by it and what the range is for galactic ages…

  44. Well in my defence there I was writing for people with some scientific knowledge, who would know that time itself is about 14 billion years old or so.

  45. If you could write in a character who’s a hunky billionaire fireman who turns into a sex-crazed squirrel, you’ll get some of that sweet, sticky 50 Shades of Grey moolah.

    Steve –

    Well, I’m writing a bit now where the pudgy, balding mayor of Westerville saves the town from the wrath of a three legged, one eyed squirrel named Little Elvis.

    Should I make either (a) a zombie squirrel, (b) a vampire squirrel, or (c) a billionaire squirrel who’s into bondage?

    And sadly, I’m not making this up for a cheap laugh. I really have plotted it out and started writing. It’s based on true events: Back in the ’90s we had a squirrel with a deformed front leg that started attacking people on the campus of Otterbein College. It got to the point where the police department formed a tactical unit to take the squirrel out. After several tries, they took him down in a hail of gunfire.

    And people say nothing exciting ever happens in Ohio.

  46. Dennis-

    Zombies are overexposed at the moment. A vampire squirrel might work. You might also consider a demoniacally possessed squirrel. You could have a moment of high drama when it spits out, in its demonic squirrel voice, “I am Legion!”.

  47. No I prefer my sci-fi grimy and full of drugs, sex and scum. Therefore I think WIlliam Gibson is the best writer of the genre.

    I have to disagree with that. You mentioned Neal Stephenson – for me, Snow Crash was a great example of someone stepping into a genre to say “this is how you do it”. He even gets away with adding humour to the future dystopian nightmare (naming his lead character ‘Hiro Protagonist’! also my favourite line “Excuse me, I think I just got into a Gatling gun duel). Walks all over Gibson.

    And I know he hates The Big U, but it’s worth noting that flaws and all, it’s still in print. His objections are mostly technical which he feels reflect badly on him as a writer.

  48. I thought Snow Crash was good also. And Diamond Age.

    The first part of Seveneves was good – real life tech and that. I haven’t read that series that got all the acclaim.

  49. For ultra high-concept there’s the Jean Le Flambeur books by Hannu Rajaniemi. It’s a head-spinner.

  50. Ltw – Stephenson had the advantage in that the tropes of Cyberpunk were already well established at the time he wrote Snow Crash, allowing him to have fun with them.

    The Big U (which ain’t terrible, but very obviously A First Novel) was out of print for yonks and going for silly money which is why he let the re-print go ahead.

    Arnald – Anathem is well worth a read. Very slow to start with but once it gets going ’tis fucking ace!

    I actually think the historical trilogy he did – The System of the World, etc is his masterpiece.

    Clever chap Stephenson.

  51. Dan, I’ll agree that Stephenson had an advantage. He was arguably satirising the cyperpunk genre too. But I still think he nailed it better than the overrated Gibson. The Big U, well, fan demand brought it back.

    Quicksilver/Confusion/System of the World is very good, but I wouldn’t call it his masterpiece. That goes to Cryptonomicon.

    Anathem was interesting but I found it weak. Just didn’t grab me.

    Night’s Dawn was mentioned above too. I liked it. Ok, it’s a bit of a slog in places, but then again so is Lord of the Rings. And it had enough excitement and surprises to make me happy 🙂

  52. Xeelee by Stephen Baxter is another epic to check out. A favourite.

    I like all the Alastair Reynolds ones.

    And there was a series, can’t remember who by, that were less densely written but page turners, the first was called Altered Carbon.

    Shit. There’s to many to recall in one go. I’ve had to give all mine to charity shops over the last few decades. Too much dead weight to move with. Hence the library. Save them!

    Iain M Banks has to rate right up there.

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