'You'll be the next J K Rowling!' is what everyone (believe me, everyone) says to children's authors, and it's as irritating as it is false. Even JK herself went through years of low or no income before her books took off. The week's Bookseller has a depressing story about the financial pain being suffered by children's authors in the current climate. Agent Caroline Sheldon estimated that fewer than half of the children's authors who previously made a living from writing five or 10 years ago are now doing so. She said: "The big things are getting bigger and the middle area is getting squeezed." Authors are getting fewer chances and less time to prove themselves, royalties are lower because children's books are cheaper than adult ones, commissions for children's non-fiction have been hard-hit by competition from the internet.
It is difficult to make a living from writing. I haven't cracked it yet, although I can see my income growing as I get more interest from foreign publishers and - crucially - manage to keep on producing books. If I compare it, though, to my career in journalism, I'm quite happy. Although I could earn considerably more with a staff job on a national newspaper (and they aren't any easier to come by than getting a book deal), my salary would be pretty much my limit. Whereas a book..well, anything could happen. It's possible for a book to earn for you again and again - a foreign sale here, a film deal there - while you're working on other stuff.
Once you're a published author, other sources of income open up to you. I earn money from school visits, and occasionally from selling my own books myself. I could possibly earn more if I critiqued manuscripts and ran creative writing workshops. If I developed this blog (or another) into something with loads of readers, I might sell advertising space. If I could think of clever things to sell associated with this blog (Lia's red shoes? handbags?) then I could do that too.
I love watching The Apprentice, and I can't wait to see who wins the final tonight (my money's on lovely but bumbling Tom, although it ought to be super-competent and equally lovely Helen). This year the contestants are competing for moneya nd backing to start their own businesses, rather than a job. Writing a book is a little bit like starting a business, to be honest. Gone is the security of a regular salary (but who has that security now?), the benefits, the chances of promotion. Instead you get a load of risk and hardship - but you've got more control and you're potentially playing for higher stakes. Hard work, tenacity, a good agent, and a willingness to do some self-promotion all help. After all, someone's got to be the next JK!