August 08, 2018

Desperate times for authors

In a slightly more serious vein than usual for this blog, it is sad to read in a newsletter from The Bookseller that there has been a large increase in the number of professional writers seeking urgent financial help from the Society of Authors and also the Royal Literary Fund, an organisation of which I was previously unaware.

Some illustrious names can be found on the Committee of the RLF - Tracy Chevalier is the current President. Founded in 1790, it has been helping writers since Rev David Williams discovered an elderly translator of Plato had been left to die in a debtors' prison. Under the patronage of the Prince Regent a fund was formed to assist writers in distress. Although it has "Royal" in its name, it receives no help from government. From the website:

All of its money has come from donations, legacies and, until 1939, an annual dinner at which Dickens, Thackeray and Kipling, among others, exhorted the guests to be generous. The Fund has also benefitted considerably from the estates of authors including G.K. Chesterton and Arthur Ransome, and in particular those of Somerset Maugham and A.A. Milne. Among those it has assisted in moments of need have been such distinguished names as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Dylan Thomas. It supported, too, Robert Burns’s widow and James Boswell’s daughter, the forerunners of the many writers’ families that the Fund has aided.
Authors who can fully support themselves from their writing have been a dying breed for some time. It is not just the explosion in self-publishing and massive discounting to blame, but also a here-today-gone-tomorrow crowded market that makes the life of any book extremely short. Another main reason is the staff turnover in publishing houses where many older writers are losing their peer group editors who have worked with them for years and new, younger editors have differing expectations and priorities. I'm sure we would all be surprised at some of the well-known full-time authors who might be having a serious struggle to survive. 

PS  Currently doing the rounds on Twitter ... not sure which publication it is from:

Copyright Debbie Ridpath Ohi, "Inky Girl"

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