Tuesday, August 13, 2013
A Different Kind of Royalty
A week or so ago I got another fat royalty check. (Oh, the life-on-Elysium that writers lead!) As
fear I would foment a rebellion against me and others in the literary plutocracy. (Is the leader of the plutocracy Pluto? God of the Underworld? Or that Disney dog?)
Anyway, that $7.10 (I will get a similar--or smaller--check six months from now: more cause for rage, I know). And lest you think of laughing--just remember that the year I was born (1944), $7.10 was worth $88.75. Much more impressive, eh? (Here's a good link to an inflation calculator.)
So, yes, back in 1990 I published a handbook for teachers called Literature Alive (some of my students would consider that title an oxymoron). The publisher, J. Weston Walch, specializes in materials for teachers, but when I got the offer to do it, bliss. And when the printed copies began appearing, well, I felt like Melville with his first author's copy of Moby-Dick. Actually, I had published a couple of other titles with Walch, so maybe I felt more like Melville with a copy of Israel Potter?
True, not many people knew about the book (other than my long-suffering family); true, not many would ever know about the book (other than my ...). But that matters little to an author holding a new book newly sprouted from his/her fecund brain. At that moment, bestseller lists seem likely, Stockholm possible. Perhaps a cameo on SNL or an interview on CNN. (You gotta think big.)
Time has a way of effacing such nonsense. Time can remove the engravings on granite tombstones, so it certainly can dissipate the foolish dreams of writers. And almost always does. Unless you're Stephen King, or Philip Roth, or Suzanne Collins, or ... you know. Look some day at the shelves of remaindered books at a bookstore (if you can find one): There lie the dreams and delusions of writers.
Actually, the book has made me a little money since 1990 (twenty-three years ago). The total for all those years is very nearly $18,000, which works out to about $782.61/year (in two installments--so: about $391.31 per six months--or about $65.22 per month--a coupla bucks a day--Starbucks money).
So I won't complain. And I'm not. The thrill of writing for me has always been the act of writing--of thinking of something, of executing it. Sometimes, later, there are tangible rewards, and those can be nice--but evanescent (and invariably, for me, small). What endures--what keeps me at the keyboard--is something much more simple. Joy.