I was in Barnes and Noble bookstore today, browsing for some light reading. With all this hustle and responsibility lately, it's very soothing to have some simple chick-lit, relationship books to turn to in my few spare minutes or at the end of the day. I can engage with story without having to invest too much intellect or energy.
I saw the manager of the store, the same one who didn't hire me for a clerk's job a few years back. Every time I think of that I am immensely grateful. If she had hired me, I wouldn't be where I am today with my work, and I very much enjoy both my work and my schedule. Sometimes I just want to thank her, but I don't know if she even recognizes me now.
I've been reading stuff by Elizabeth Berg and also I just discovered Hester Browne, quite by accident. Both of them have written quite a few books in these light genres. Sophie Kinsella, one of my favorites, has 15 books out now. Five under her real name, five in the Shopaholic series, and five others that are similar in theme. That got me thinking about writing novels in terms of financial return-on-investment. Not the intangible great parts of being a writer, or the satisfaction, the fame, the agony, or any of that. Just the question: Is being a novel writer still a viable way to make income?
And I decided that it probably is. For those writers lucky enough to hit their flow and turn out consistent works at a fairly good pace, the money is probably steady enough to make it pay. How many hours do you think it takes to write, and then complete, a book? I know that's a wildly varying answer, but I was trying to estimate. Maybe one hour per written page-- all told?? So maybe a couple of hundred hours of actual working time to turn out a good draft, and then 200 more to revise, polish, network, communicate and go through the publishing process? Depending on the advance and the number of copies that sell, it seems to me that a writer could reasonable expect about $30 per hour on average. Maybe even more. Because I tend to see all income on a per-hour basis, like a lawyer, or a ... freelance grant writer. That's not bad pay at all. It seems like the faster and more consistent a writer becomes, the higher the hourly return would be. I wonder how many hours most writers put into their first books, versus their second, and how wide the range is. I wonder if anyone even tracks their hours worked, instead of thinking in terms of weeks, or months, or years. Or a lifetime.
Just something I was thinking about.
I liked this passage by Elizabeth Berg, from page 237 of Home Safe:
Now comes another such time. She sits down and puts her hand to her chest and rocks. Thinks of all she has lost and will lose. All she has had and will have. It seems to her that life is like gathering berries into an apron with a hole. Why do we keep on? Because the berries are beautiful, and we must eat to survive. We catch what we can. We walk past what we lose for the promise of more, just ahead.