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.
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?