Tuesday 25 September 2012

Being an Income-Producing Writer

So many people tell me they ‘want to be a writer’. But not so many people put in the time and effort. I have been making a living as a children’s author and freelance writer for about 20 years now. And so does my husband, children’s author, Bill Condon (www.enterprisingwords.com). We live well. But we also put in the hard slog, sitting for many hours most weeks at our keyboards. Today I started writing about 6 am, and except for some breaks — coffee, lunch, emails — I’ve been writing until now 4 pm when I have exhausted my writing brain. Now I will read a while and go for a walk, start again tomorrow morning.

I always say that life is about prioritities. I know would-be writers who are more committed to their families than to writing. Fair enough. But then I know authors with young children who still manage to write and to promote their books. If any writer were to commit to a 40-hour week, like others do — butchers, secretaries, plumbers, etc — they ought to be able to make a decent income.

Mind you, Bill and I are very lucky, with over 250 books between us, produced over the past 30 years, to receive quite generous Lending Rights’ payments. Once a year the Federal Government deposits monies into our bank account to compensate us for our books that are held in public and educational libraries for which we’ve only been paid one royalty per book. A marvellous scheme! (Though next year there will be changes… more later.)

Sometimes, too, we get CAL (Copyright Agency Limited) payments when people or organisations have photocopied our writings. Another wonderful scheme!

Today I wrote about 3,000 words of my junior novel, A Game of Keeps. This is the second book I’ve written this year — and the fourth I’ve produced. Accepted recently for publication is A Beginner’s Guide to Better English, while my compilation of silly verse titled Erky Perky Silly Stuff is still awaiting a publisher’s decision.

Meanwhile I have a children’s poetry anthology, Every Day is A Birthday, with yet another publisher. What will I write next? Not sure. But I’ll certainly be back in my typing seat being productive…

Tuesday 18 September 2012

Writers' Riches

Writer and riches: these words seem to be an oxymoron, don’t they? Recently I wrote to the Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean, asking his government to increase the Educational Lending Rights’ pool which has been stagnant since it was introduced in 2000.

In the 12 years since, I have published 20 more books, but my ELR payment has dropped $9,000. I’m not the only prolific author to be so disadvantaged. I pointed out the high government funding to the Australian Institute of Sport and (rightly) said that athletes don’t generate income for Australia as authors do. A survey published this week in the Australian Society of Authors’ bulletin proves my point. Read it, and let others in the industry know just how valuable a commodity authors are in our society:

A report by the Australian Copyright Council has found that copyright industries contributed $93.2 billion dollars to the Australian economy in 2011, or 6.6% of gross domestic product. Employment in copyright industries constituted 8% of the Australian workforce.

Within the Australian economy, this contribution represents more value than retail trade but slightly less than manufacturing.

In a survey of Western, European and Asian economies employing a World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) framework, this contribution of copyright to gross domestic product was exceeded only by the US, Korea and Hungary. This survey did not include the UK. Yet Australian copyright industries have experienced a decline over the past five years compared with other primary industries.

The press and literature sector, which enjoyed a growth of 4% between 1997-2007, experienced negative growth of -3.3% between 2007-2011. This is a reflection of the industry’s weak recovery from the GFC, along with the challenges of digitisation, the enhanced ability of users to compare prices online, the increased risk of unauthorised copying, and the increased competitiveness of overseas products due to the high Australian Dollar.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

A Blogging Virgin

A blank page: the story of my writing life. And yet words invariably flow and before long there are thousands and then, voila! a finished manuscript. Often the time taken waiting for a publisher to respond to the submission is far longer than the time taken to actually write the 45,000 word manuscript. More often than not.

What is it with publishers? Do they have no regard for the travails of writers? So often I read of publishers judging writing competitions, speaking at conferences or festivals or attending awards of their successful authors. And I wonder why aren’t they at their publishing home reading my manuscript? Doing the work they ought to be doing? It is so easy to become cynical about publishers and the publishing world. And yet, I’m afraid this is how it is for me after 30+ years working as a children’s author. Mind you, I’ve had 120+ books published in that time, and countless short stories, poems, plays and articles. So you might say I’ve been around.

 Today I ‘own’ writing time so I will be once again at my computer working this time on a junior novel, A Game of Keeps. It’s coming along well, though I have written it piecemeal, a scene here, a chapter there. And now I need to put all the pieces together in chronological order, and too I need to work out how to show the passing of a four month period in the book where not much happens — before I reach the end chapter (already written). A boy asked yesterday if I ever experience writers’ block. No, I said, but I do experience writer’s problems. So enough of blogging, and back to A Game of Keeps!