Around this time of the year, leaves begin to fall and my annual royalties come in. I opened the envelope on a rather nice day, to find an abysmally low number. This, after 15 years of continuing effort, 16 books and comic books, school appearances, hundreds of hours sitting at a round table in the bookfairs.
It might be the recession and low overall sales, but the impact of it left me staggering. My wonderful co scenarist and fellow author Alain Bergeron had just come ill, so I was floored. (By the way, Alain got better and left the intensive care unit last Friday. )
Until now, my writing have reap five Awards. La quête de Chaaas (Chaaas’ Quest) has been recently nominated in two major general-lit awards. Bookstores commanded copies of the novel. My science-fiction book did not get any of those top awards. Bookstores returned the novels. (Those returned books were, of course, substracted from this year’s royalties).
When you appear as a writer in any event, many well-meaning people assume that you are rich or at least, well-known.
In 2006, I met at a panel several mid-career writers in the SF field. Most of those I considered “well known” like Nalo Hopkinson from Toronto, or outright celebrities, like Ursula K LeGuin. I felt at first as a pretender among them, a beginner having at the time a few YA novels published, in French.
But then, as I exchanged with them, I found out that every one of them were affected with dropping book sales, diminishing revenues, the advent of Internet… The mergers of big publishing houses managed by businessmen brought a “rationalization ” of the inprints. Work of new ideas had no place in the commercial SF&F field.
When Ursula said “The book market has always been difficult”, I was flabbergasted. Here was a luminary in the SF field, tellling us that for her, too, the times were difficult.
So, no, we are never “arrived at the top of the hill”. The social recognizance comes first and mostly from the $$$ an author makes, not from the quality and ideas. Even literary prizes don’t bring much fame if the book sales don’t soar.
Canadian SF author Matt Hugues, who has held many jobs over the years, including various menial jobs, but also speechwriter, put a very inspiring reflection on perseverance. His work was rejected time and time over thirty years, but always stayed on course. He was addressing budding writers.
A few years back, Matt gave the keynote speech to the Surrey Writers Conference: No surrender!
Here is a short excerpt :
It doesn’t matter what they throw at us.
We are writers. We will not give up. We will not stay down. We will not say uncle.
We will get back up on our feet, we’ll look the world in the eye, and we’ll tell them, “No surrender.”
Thanks, Matt, for telling it.