Michaeline: Money and Writing

She seems to have made art and commerce mix, but I’m not sure I can. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, I ran across an article on Medium about how writers’ rates haven’t kept up with inflation at all. The writer mentioned that in Ring Lardner’s heyday, $1 a word was a fabulous rate. (Ring Lardner was a contemporary of Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway – so we’re talking the 1920s and 1930s, when the New Yorker magazine was in its infancy.)

I would link you, but Medium only gives a person three freebies, and then you start paying. Sorry, blog audience, but I’m saving my two remaining freebies for something new, so I can’t go back and check the facts.

And that totally outlines a few of the many problems of combining money and writing.

The readers like getting freebies, and will pay if the quality is good, but not too much. The publishers feel perpetually pinched, and are constantly scrambling to make up the revenue somewhere. Writers get stuck somewhere in the middle, trying to make a living. Traditionally, ads have been a way for print journalism to make up the difference, but then the print journalists are beholden to advertisers.

I remember in the 80s when some romance publishers began sticking advertisements in the middle of their category romances. Often, the ads were for more romance books. These were very safe and effective bets, and are the best kind of advertising: readers want to know where to get more, and publishers want to provide that service. But I think some of the advertisements were for cigarettes and other non-book items, and it was distinctly jarring to come across one in the midst of a passionate love scene. The end of page 103 would go, “He gently stroked her silken thigh, coming closer and –” INSERT Continue reading