Filthy Lucre

Per the deliriously entertaining, author Lynn Viehl has posted one of her royalty statements on the web for all to see. This is balls, if you ask me. This is America, for god’s sake, and what we earn at our vocations or avocations is sacred privacy, because that way the secret lizard aliens who secretly run the world can keep us down through collusion. Doubt me? Then you’ve been hit by the lizards’ brainwash ray.

Author earnings are strangely fascinating to folks. I think this is partly because authors have been traditionally portrayed in media as rich people who tap a keyboard for a few hours a day – usually in remote, luxurious locations – and all have bestsellers. Look at Castle for a current example of this trope. The other part of it, of course, is the wish-fulfillment of aspiring writers; believe me, when I was a kid pounding out 90-page rewrites of The Lord of the Rings, I wished fervently to believe that authors had status and riches. Sadly, we do not. Or at least I have not – I wonder if I need to sue somebody.

One thing to keep in mind about this stunt, of course, is that Lynn Viehl has more than one book out for sale, and unless her books literally vanish from the face of the earth she’s probably got a royalty stream from some of them in addition to this one book she’s posted about. Another thing to ponder is that she did get a sizeable advance (though of course in real-life terms, that got nibbled down, as she says, to near poverty-levels if that was your only income that year). Even assuming that the earnings drop considerably after the first year, put together she’s making more than this one statement shows. That’s part of the gig, too. If you publish one book and then decide to go all Salinger, you better hope that one book is a classic, bubba.

And no, I won’t be posting my own statements. One reason is, I don’t want you to know about all those paranormal-romance-selkie novels I wrote under pseudonym. Part of it is that I don’t see the upside. And the final part is, this way I get to keep pretending to be a millionaire playboy author who writes his novels during the 22-hour flight between here and my secret island kingdom.


  1. Tim of Angle

    If you have a secret island kingdom, what is so important that it’s worth a 22-hour flight away? Did I have a secret island kingdom, it would take Operation Dog In The Manger with Tommy Franks in charge to pry me loose from it.

  2. Bruno Masse

    Most eloquently put. More often than not, artist revenue can not be compared to classic 9 to 5 labour – hours, pay, dental plan, I mean come on, that’s obvious. Not to mention you can rake it in, big maybe, in the latest parts of existence when, say, skydiving would be frowned upon by your physician. Granted, it took Frank Herbert ten ungodly years for one publisher to pick his work up, and it only turned out to be the best selling SF of all time. Imagine that, ten years of a big financial nothing, and then a sonic boom. It looks bad for the publishing industry in general, and worse for the starving author. So I wonder if you can go to the bank with a manuscript and ask for a loan insisting that “it’s really really edgy stuff”?

    But I do have a question. It’s a two word question. It goes as follows:

    Dan Brown.

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