Nicholas Lezard: It's no consolation to me, but some people are buying books

Share
Related Topics

You know that advert for a writing course whose headline is "why not be a writer?" I always murmur the words "for the following reasons" after seeing it, and then run through some of them before moving on. Such as: poor rates of pay, the unhealthy lifestyle and the sheer tedium of writing, the only consolation, and scant consolation it is, being that one is incapable of earning a living in any other fashion.

There is also the lurking fear that in an age when anyone with access to the internet is happy to write yards and yards of stuff for free, editors will decide that the whole business of paying people to write is terribly quaint when you can get anyone to churn out any old garbage simply by inviting them to comment in a box at the end of the piece. Surely at some point they will dispense with the original piece?

Which is why the annual publication of Forbes magazine's ten top-earning authors is such a bittersweet event. On the one hand there are the enormous sums of money involved, which make writers who earn less, ie. all of them on earth bar ten, feel as though they are at the wrong end of Gore Vidal's adage about it not being just that he must succeed, but that others must fail.

Head of the list is someone called James Patterson, pictured, who earned $84m last year, streets ahead of Danielle Steel, the number two, who only managed $35m. Then again Patterson writes 10 books a year – he has help – whereas Steel only knocks out three a year (1993 was a poor year. Involved in an unpleasant lawsuit, she only managed one).

On the other hand, these enormous sums do seem to suggest that there are still people out there buying books. I must admit I have never read a word of these authors. I have a hunch that they will not be interesting the Nobel committee in the near or distant future, which is, again, one of those scant consolations available to the envious hack (although I'm going to be even less likely to be interesting the Nobel committee than them). I've read one or two Stephen Kings, number three, but then everyone else has, which begs the question of why he isn't number one. Is it because he only manages two books a year? That's still an unenviable workload.

So hats off, then, to JK Rowling , who earned only $5m, which doesn't even get her in the top 10, but then she didn't write anything. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how to do it.

n.lezard@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Logistics Supervisor

£24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest supplier to the UK'...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate / Junior Software Developer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Junior Software Deve...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Store Sales Executive

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Sales Executive ...

Recruitment Genius: Night Porters - Seasonal Placement

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Night Porters are required to join a family-ow...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Yorkshire Terrier waits to be judged during the Toy and Utility day of the Crufts dog show at the NEC in Birmingham  

There are no winners at Crufts. Dogs deserve better than to suffer and die for a 'beauty' pageant

Mimi Bekhechi
 

Daily catch-up: how come Ed Miliband’s tuition fee ‘cut’ is so popular, then?

John Rentoul
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn