A Living Wage For Writers – From A Most UNLIKELY Source

A Living Wage For Writers – From The Most UNLIKELY Source

Sometimes your internet life and your real life meet in the most unlikely ways.

For an Instagram star, this might be when they get caught for Photoshopping in a sponsored tan, and out a dimpled arse.

On Facebook, it might be when you’re tagged in a photograph on the night you swore to your soon-to-be-ex best friend you were not going out.

On Snapchat, it…. Oh, who cares? It’s Snapchat.

My two lives collided briefly this week when I read an article in the Guardian about a publisher which is going to pay writers a salary to give up all other paid employment and write full-time.

Apparently, this publisher reckons that writers can’t get really good at it, unless they can do it without the distraction of having to earn money elsewhere. The Guardian says:

De Montfort Literature, a new publishing company that is part of London hedge fund De Montfort Capital, is offering a £24,000 starting salary to writers who pass its selection process, which includes an algorithm that is “designed to identify career novelists”, psychometric tests and interviews. With up to 10 places initially available, De Montfort will also offer mentors and editors to provide advice and support, as well as designing, promoting and publishing the work. Authors would receive 50% of profits.

Founder and author Jonathan de Montfort said that “holding down a full-time job is not conducive to writing fiction. So, it occurred to me, if we pay a salary that allows writing to become a full-time occupation, then we should free up lots of talented authors.”

What really made me sit up and take notice of this – apart from the novel idea, obviously (ha, ha, see what I did there?!) – is that this publisher is part of a hedge fund.

I work in the financial sector, where if you’re a bank, you’re regulated out the door, but the point about a hedge fund is that they can pretty much do whatever the hell they want.

They’re famous for making money out of money which doesn’t really exist, until they come up with some sort of algorithm or legal pyramid scheme which can make money from pure money, without any inputs from industry, or the real economy.

Their investors are generally regarded as being sophisticated enough to understand the risks they’re taking, so if they lose money, they just have to just suck it up, presuming no laws have been broken.

To sum up, hedge funds are allowed to take high risks with other people’s money, report how and when they like, and take all the bonuses they can fit into exquisitely tailored pockets, without clawbacks. The one thing hedge funds are not allowed to do is consistently lose money over any noticeable period of time, because their investors will crucify them if they do.

It strikes me that if a hedge fund is going into publishing, albeit in an enterprise headed by an author with a suspiciously fortunate last name, it says something about the returns they believe to be possible in that industry.

A Living Wage For Writers – From The Most UNLIKELY Source

And it also strikes me that if an organisation whose one and only purpose is to make money (and openly so, unlike 95% of painfully earnest corporations would have you believe these days, which is refreshing in itself) thinks that writers need to write full-time on a living wage in order to be profitable investments, it says something to the rest of the publishing industry.

I would point out that an initial outlay to 10 authors of £240,000 is absolute peanuts to a hedge fund. To put it into context, it could be less than 1 year’s interest – not including principal repayments – on a couple of bonds out of hundreds, or even thousands. They’re therefore engineering big headlines out of an incredibly small investment.

But still, I do reckon it’s worth mentioning, even for the sheer pleasure of mentioning the words “hedge fund” and “author” in the same sentence, which I would ordinarily never get to do without blowing my cover.

I don’t know how this is going to turn out: maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. But innovations can often come from extremely unlikely sources, and I’ll be watching this particular one closely (from behind my bill-paying desk in the financial sector, obviously).

So, would you take a full-time writing job for £24,000 a year, plus 50% of the profits? Do you think that would be better or worse than the stress of a publishing advance?

A Living Wage For Writers – From The Most UNLIKELY Source

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  55 comments for “A Living Wage For Writers – From A Most UNLIKELY Source

  1. June 3, 2018 at 9:58 am

    I’d do it! Though I doubt I’d pass the tests….
    I guess they would be spying to make sure their authors weren’t moonlighting?
    Sx

    Liked by 3 people

    • June 3, 2018 at 10:19 am

      I wonder, Scarlet. How would they police it? And if they give office space to authors in order to keep a close eye on them, how long would authors be content on £24k, sitting alongside colleagues taking home millions a year?!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. June 3, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. June 3, 2018 at 10:19 am

    Reblogged this on newauthoronline and commented:
    This is undoubtedly an interesting idea. I note though that it doesn’t apply to my craft (that of poetry), can you hear my deep sigh?!
    While I can see advantages to such a scheme (namely allowing writers to hone their craft on a full-time basis and produce great literature), having a job (other than writing) arguably does furnish the author/poet with a broader perspective on the world. Philip Larkin was a librarian while Sir Walter Ralegh engaged in diplomacy, exploring and twiddling his thumbs in the Tower of London prior to an unfortunate appointment with a very sharp implement! The poetry of both men arguably benefited from their day jobs. If, however anyone wants to pay me a good wage to compose poetry full-time I’m certainly not going to look a gift horse in the mouth …

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 3, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Agreed – I suppose it all depends on what we’re writing… I get very frustrated with books and TV shows written about people with jobs, by people who have very obviously never had a job in their lives.

      But for the vast majority of literary endeavours, I imagine that full immersion in what you’re writing can only make it better. Having to forget about and then go back to projects time and time again has played havoc with my own.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. June 3, 2018 at 10:50 am

    Absolutely wow, 100% pure coolness and astonishment. I didn’t get the notion that I could write until 10 years ago, but if I had somehow seen this three decades back… I think I’d jump in. I’m remembering that time between teaching jobs, the pay would have been about the same as I was getting from boarding schools (on today’s scale), and there was a 2 year period there when I couldn’t find another position so I did this-and-that.

    Yeah, if I knew what writing felt like as a 25 year-old, I think I would have jumped in. And been fine.

    Today? Sorry, love, one in college, two mortgages and the car says “made with love by HF” under the bumper. As in, near as old as me. I just plain need too much money. Like almost four times that much.

    But it will be interesting to see how other folks rationalize NOT trying for it! I’m comfy with my excuse, and reaching for the popcorn.

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 3, 2018 at 2:22 pm

      Agreed, Will – for anyone who either needs more than £24,000 a year to keep the roof over their heads, or who already earns considerably more than £24,000, it would be tough to roll back to this level. However, I’m all for it. I believe it gives writers more of a choice than they have presently.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. June 3, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    It sounds good, but there has to be a catch. How much artistic freedom will the authors have, or will they need to write for maximum profit? Which may mean writing for the ‘best seller’ list which is not necessarily good writing or quality literature.

    Liked by 3 people

    • June 3, 2018 at 2:27 pm

      I can’t say I see it that way, Molly – a publishing advance is no different in so many ways. How many writers find themselves tailoring their second books in a 2-book deal to the law laid down by their publishing contract or their editor? How many writers are forced to write contrary to their impulses in order to get paid enough to live? Lots. I think for those who insist on sticking to their convictions, this is not the opportunity for them.

      But I don’t see this as any different from my day job – as in it’s something which in general I’m interested in and don’t mind doing, but it’s also full of things that no child ever dreamed of doing!

      Liked by 2 people

      • June 3, 2018 at 2:28 pm

        You raise some excellent points, Tara!

        Liked by 1 person

        • June 3, 2018 at 2:35 pm

          I don’t always, but I try 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          • June 3, 2018 at 3:03 pm

            I’ll horn in here for one more suggestion. How many indies would be willing to knuckle under and write a “bestseller” for recognition? At a publisher’s direction, and then… it’s a job, you quit or get fired. But your name is out there now.
            Some would kill for that. Hey, novel plot!

            Liked by 4 people

            • June 3, 2018 at 3:11 pm

              I LOVE IT. Have it done by the end of the year, and we’ll consider the real-life murders afterwards 😛

              Liked by 2 people

  6. June 3, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    What a strange and exciting combination! I’d definitely try for the job if I were younger. Would YOU do it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 3, 2018 at 2:29 pm

      Good grief, yeah. I totally would, if I were starting out again! But now? No. That’s only because I’ve learned over the years that I need a day job in a separate discipline in order to remain sane. But plenty of other people out there will be very well suited to this.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. June 3, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    I love the idea. Reminds me of the old Hollywood days where actors were exclusive to one studio. Would be a cool way to start a publishing house. I’m not sure of the conversion rate, but I doubt I could live on that amount. As a retiree one day it would be great.

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 3, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      They’re very much focussing on ‘career authors’, so I’d imagine they’re looking for young guns, quite frankly, who will provide a return on investment over a decade, if not decades, which makes sense to me – so I’d imagine retirees sadly need not apply, whatever the legislative equality requirements!

      But yes, it does sound like the old studio scheme – which worked for some, and not for others. Like anything, it’s open to corrupt and nefarious control. I hope the Society of Authors really is properly involved in this like they claim.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. June 3, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    Thank you Tara. I have gone to their website and honestly, I am quite interested.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 3, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      Excellent stuff, Anthony! If you go through the process you’ll absolutely have to come back and let us know!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. June 3, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    If this were in my town, I’d do it. My current living condition would not allow it nor would I want to relocate the family. But if I were young and had only myself to worry about I’d do it in a heartbeat. If it fails, so what. But if it succeeds, now we’re on to something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 3, 2018 at 5:24 pm

      I think so, Bryan. To be honest, I’m so glad to see such a refreshing approach to publishing I’d give anything a go.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. June 3, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    It’s so hard to break in. A new writer needs to look at every avenue possible. All we need is a chance to prove ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. June 3, 2018 at 6:33 pm

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. June 3, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Not sure I could be creative under these conditions, reminds me of battery hens!

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 3, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      Perhaps it is like that – but isn’t every book contract the same? You’d still be working from home or a library… only you might be forced to think strategically about your plan, or direction in what you’re writing. Maybe it’s just because I’ve an analytical bent, but I don’t see the harm in it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • June 4, 2018 at 8:35 am

        Courses for horses, I suppose, but I have had quite enough of being told what to do in my lifetime. I’m loving that my time/work is my own these days!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. June 3, 2018 at 11:56 pm

    I’d do it! But I wonder also if there’s a catch. Hmmm. Can I quite when I get rich and famous? Do they keep my titles forever? Let me know how it goes after you give it a try!

    Liked by 2 people

    • June 4, 2018 at 4:12 pm

      This particular round isn’t for me, Diana, but I’m positively excited to see how this experiment goes. If I manage to get any news on it or anyone who went with it, I’ll have to provide an update!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. June 4, 2018 at 12:31 am

    Reblogged this on Viv Drewa – The Owl Lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. June 4, 2018 at 10:13 am

    Where do I sign? Seriously though, if you’d asked me the question even a couple of months ago, I’d have been onto this like a shot. 24k is a fortune when you’re on zero income.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 4, 2018 at 4:14 pm

      That’s completely true, Jane. I have high hopes that this scheme will make a difference, and a good one at that, for emerging writers. After all, it feels like we’re in an era now when only the truly affluent can afford to write full time (without resorting to some of the dirty tricks we’re also seeing in a bruised and battered self-publishing world).

      Like

      • June 4, 2018 at 5:07 pm

        I have a friend who is plotting her future life as a writer, with spreadsheets and algorithms and god knows what all else. She rather takes it for granted that she’ll be able to pack in the day job soon. I wish her all the best, but most self-pubbed writers that I know of spend more on advertising than they ever earn back in book sales.

        Liked by 1 person

        • June 4, 2018 at 5:50 pm

          Yeah, I always get that sinking feeling when someone expects great things from self-publishing. From what I’ve seen, the only self-publishers to achieve success either fiscally or culturally make it only after a) landing a traditional contract or b) publishing their 6th or 7th book, having slowly built up readership over a period of years. And if the marketing is eating up more time than the writing of books 6,7 and 8, it’s even less likely to happen.

          Liked by 1 person

          • June 4, 2018 at 5:56 pm

            That’s how I see it too. Knowing how little I earn from books published by a ‘proper’ publisher, I’d be mad to think I could do better without a huge investment. Then as you say, when do the books get written?

            Liked by 1 person

            • June 4, 2018 at 6:19 pm

              I think that’s one of the best things about this scheme, Jane: say what we like about hedge funds, but this liberates the creative process from the marketing process for a certain incubation period. Otherwise, any author who sells a book into a 2-book deal has to market the first (and deal with criticism, poor sales, ongoing money worries, self-doubt etc) while writing the second, which can only be detrimental to creativity.

              Like

              • June 4, 2018 at 8:30 pm

                It’s more or less how writers functioned before best sellers and the cult of the personality. People like Dickens serialised books, I suppose so that they were paid by the chapter. I can’t believe Dickens ever shelled out of his own pocket for advertising though, nor had to book his own venues when he did readings. I have never been able to understand how some writers can reconcile the purely mercantile activities of self-promotion and advertising with the creative process. The one seems to preclude the other for me.

                Liked by 2 people

                • June 4, 2018 at 9:51 pm

                  So true, Jane. Not to mention the fact that no child who visualised their book on a shop shelf ever dreamed of booking dubious online ads, or watching Amazon rankings with their hearts in their mouths 😉

                  Like

  16. June 4, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Ah, this is hilarious. “But why?” I hear you say. (Well, not you, Tara, ‘cos you’ve already pointed out the big elephant in the room). The elephant in this instance is “Hedge Fund”. I’ll also throw you another elephant – that which appears in the club crest of my lovely Coventry City FC. I may have mentioned them before.
    Anyway, about ten years ago CCFC was acquired by SISU, a hedge fund with Finnish links. Apparently ‘sisu’ in Finnish means something like ‘having the balls to do it’, which is one way of looking at how they have managed to knobble Cov. We think that they were planning on 1) a quick return to the Premiership & 2) asset strip the club of its new ground for a nice few quid. The fact that they failed to invest and that CCFC didn’t actually own the ground (it’s complicated) meant that there were 2 further relegations and a stint playing in Northampton instead of Coventry.
    On a slightly more positive note we did get our first promotion in 51 years the other week. Hurrah! (I was there at the play-off final). But the point is that they run the club on an at cost basis with a lot of shifty shell/holding companies in the background. And they have an extremely litigious nature – even though they keep on losing in court. They have managed to alienate a huge proportion of Cov fans, the city council (who owned the ground in conjunction with a local charity) and the local media, and their plans about the club’s long term home always evaporate in the clear light of day. You can find lots of scathing reports about SISU online.
    The bottom line is: BEWARE OF HEDGE FUNDS OFFERING POTS OF GOLD!

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 4, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      I do be very ware, Nick, but I think writers are safe from this sort of scheme purely by the virtue of a paltry initial outlay (albeit one that would still be attractive enough to get the right sort of participants). The problem with any sort of oligarch/vulture fund involvement in big investments, is that whatever you put in, you expect to get out, plus a bloody great return besides.

      I see this rather more mathematically. Say authors plus salary multiplied by time equals the return on investment. By paying a large number of authors a small salary to produce content over a long period of time, it means that you can easily afford the risk that a certain % of authors will never give you any return on investment, given that you don’t have to make very much money to make back the cost of your original outlay. Plus, the paltry initial outlay already factors in the expectation that you’ll make no return at all in the first few years. It’s just spread betting – a hedge fund speciality.

      There’s no spread in buying a football team. You buy only one team, and players cost a ridiculous amount of money. The return has to be astronomical for the formula to work, which means really questionable short-termist decisions are going to skew the time and cost coefficients until you end up with a perfect model for how NOT to run a football team. No?

      Liked by 1 person

      • June 4, 2018 at 6:20 pm

        Nail hit on head for the football side of things.
        As for the writing side, yeah it makes more sense. It would make even more sense if the hedge fund also invested in a publishing company that specialises in marketing. I know it’s cynical but it does seem to be a case of marketing winning over quality a lot of the time. Even with a bank of salaried authors De Montfort still need to sell the product.
        But an interesting idea. Let’s see what happens…

        Liked by 1 person

        • June 4, 2018 at 6:23 pm

          Absolutely. And as for marketing winning over quality – sometimes it does (through KDP Select, for instance). But let’s face it, most of the time even their authors don’t know why certain books were so popular. Seems like a lottery to me.

          Liked by 1 person

  17. June 7, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    I dream of doing this, maybe one day when my kids don’t need me and my hubby is off sailing a boat around the world…but then I doubt they’d want an oldish lady.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 8, 2018 at 8:57 am

      Who knows what’ll happen after this experimental phase, Liberty! If the pilot runs well enough maybe other publishers will roll it out… Something different needs to happen, anyway, because the only people making money out of the current business model are Amazon.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. June 9, 2018 at 6:05 am

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    An interesting idea. But its not for me. How about you?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. June 14, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    I’m old, on the outside anyway, but I’d still do it. £24k is waaaay better than earning nothing, like I am now. Be interesting to see how it works out. People said ebooks would never catch on, but they did, and revolutionised publishing. Maybe this new idea is the next big thing. Its always easy to be sceptical of new ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 14, 2018 at 4:40 pm

      I like their thinking first and foremost, though. Whatever about the salary level, what they’re saying is that writing is a long game, which can’t be won with an expectation of early or frequent blockbusters. I’d high-five their platinum cuff links from here to London and back for that alone.

      Like

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