I feel sad more than anything, writing can give you so much more if you’re committed and your goals lie elsewhere, not in fame and money.
If that happens it happens, but mostly it doesn’t. And that goes not only for Botswana but for the entire world.
Now a wake-up call. In Southern Africa for the trade market the normal print run is 2000 books (other smaller publishers can print as little as 500).
Let’s imagine your publisher sells all of the books at P200 each at a royalty rate of 10%.
That would make your book a bestseller in our market. Of course there is usually a very steep discount given to bookshops and you’ll only get paid on the net income.
So let’s say you get paid on P100 per book at 10%- that will earn you P20,000 when all are sold.
You likely took at least a year to write the book and they will sell for a year, so let’s spread the money out to cover the work, so now you’re at P10,000 per year, or a monthly salary of P833.33.
I suspect the person who cleans your house makes more than that.
So, I think I’ve rid your head of the idea of getting rich writing.
If you work very hard and have tremendous good luck, of course you could do much better, but I’m just looking at the typical good situation. Most are far, far below.
Now keep in mind, before the book is on the shelf, you need to get the publishing deal- a steep, steep climb all on its own. Most don’t make it.
We’re lucky in Southern Africa because we only need to jump through the publisher’s hoop.
If you want your book published in Europe or the United States, you first need to find an agent and then the agent will try to find a publisher. Hoops on top of hoops.
So you’ll likely not get published, and then if you do get published, you’ll likely earn less than your house cleaner. So why write?
Why waste the time doing something that is so difficult, and you will, in all likelihood, not be a success at, at least in a financial way.
Let’s look at some reasons from a few writers.
“George Orwell says he knew from the age of five or six that when he grew up he should be a writer, I didn’t.
I didn’t know of any Batswana writers and I didn’t know it was a ‘job’ I just knew that I loved stories and by extension books. Eventually I did it anyway.
Why? It sounds really melodramatic but I kept wanting to do it, I didn’t know how not to write so I responded to that compulsion.
But writing is now also very much a choice I make everyday, not an easy one because as someone said ‘there’s no money in poetry’ although he goes on to say there’s also no poetry in money. So I do it because it makes me happy.”
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
“I write to find out how much I know. The act of writing for me is a concentrated form of thought. If I don’t enter that particular level of concentration, the chances are that certain ideas never reach any level of fruition.”
“I write because it is something I love to do. It needs no one, nothing really, except me.”
“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”
“Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.”
Because “writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.”
“A writer gets more knowledge, and if he’s good, the older he gets, the better he writes.”
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
“You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.”
“…When I’m writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we’re capable of, how we feel, how we lose and stand up, and go on from darkness into darkness. I’m trying for that.”