I was raised in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. Back then Surrey was both rural and a rapidly growing urban area for young families. In those days, one salary could support a family in a modest, detached house.
Fifty years later, Vancouver is now one of the most expensive cities in the country. The average Canadian is nearly $22,000 in debt, which doesn’t include a mortgage. The living wage in Vancouver is now set at $20.64 an hour. It’s barely enough for one person to survive on, let alone a family.
You can therefore imagine how difficult it is for a writer to survive financially. Truth is, (and this shouldn’t surprise you) that the overwhelming majority of Canadian fiction authors earn far below a poverty wage.
So I gasped when my husband ran into an associate who told him that his 22-year-old child is at university studying to become a writer. His impression was that he wanted to write books for a living, although my husband wasn’t entirely sure about it.
While I’m happy that the younger generation is interested in writing, to think that one can earn a living from fiction at that age is wildly improbable. If I had a chance to talk with this young person, I’d say, “Go ahead and pursue your dream, but get a steady job while doing so..at least until you’ve attended useful writing conferences, networked with authors in the biz, and have some publication credits under your belt.”
I hope he’s doing these things. But I worry. You see, when I’m selling my books at craft fairs, a disturbingly large number of customers assume that I’m making piles of money. Unpublished writers seem shocked that my former publisher only granted me ten free copies of each newly released title, as per our contract. If I wanted more, I had to pay for them, albeit at a discount.
I’ve also encountered writers on forums who appear to be counting on writing income to support meager pensions. Yikes! To all fiction writers out there, have a Plan B and a Plan C!. Life is stressful enough without putting that kind of financial pressure on yourself.