Writing – and Speaking

This week I went to Stockton on Tees and had a wonderful evening with the always-wonderful Karen Maitland in front of a select audience in the local library – thanks to Claire Pratt and her team for making us so welcome!

The hard thing is, such events are slowing. In the past, there were plenty of libraries queuing up to offer authors the chance to get out and meet the public, but with the latest spending cuts, their budgets are growing very restricted. And at the same time, authors are seeing their own incomes collapse. We tend to be paid on net receipts to the publisher, so if the publisher has to discount by 60, 70 or 80 percent, the author’s income correspondingly dives.

So what is the way out for authors trying to pay a mortgage?

There are many different approaches.

Of course, an idea that always appeals to me is looking to the past and seeing what can be gleaned from authors in earlier days. The clear message there is, that authors didn’t tend to stay at home and write. They went out into the cold, cruel world, and read their work to people.

Why is it, I wonder, that poets have retained this as one of their more important skills? Poets are routinely described as “performance poets”, but authors are, well, just authors.

Perhaps it’s the way that novelists started earning more money. Back in the 60s and 70s, there was a cultural shift. Those who wanted to earn a living by prose were considered to deserve to be able to have a home, a room to write in, a pension even. Poets, on the other hand, were frivolous scribblers. Their works couldn’t justify a decent living wage because, well, they didn’t sell enough to live on their writings generally. A few made it to the really big time, but not that many.

Perhaps this is the time to start thinking about returning to the old methods. Book up village halls, give readings and talks, sell books afterwards. It’s certainly one line I intend to follow.

And if possible, I will be trying to do it with the support of the local libraries. They are suffering badly now, and I want to help them if at all possible. It will mean getting more professional in the way that the evenings are run, it will mean more effort being put in, but hopefully it’ll result in profits and libraries being protected a little.

So again, thanks to Claire and the librarians of Stockton on Tees. Karen and I had a great evening with you on Wednesday, and you have given us a lot to think over in the coming months.

One Response to “Writing – and Speaking”
  1. akhenkhan says:

    Good luck Michael. I don’t envy the amount of footslogging you have ahead of you. :)


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