When you buy a book, you are a consumer. When you write a book, you are a producer. How long has it been since writers thought of themselves as workers, do you think? Thought of themselves as workers first and foremost, that is. I often wonder how many consumers of the written word visualise writers/authors as existing on some kind of gossamer cloud, floating above us all, living up on Mount Olympus at the left hand of the gods, the nine Muses dancing around them.
The reality is very different.
Having said that, I realise I really should produce (that word again) statistics to back up the reality for writers, but I do know, off the top of my head, that fewer than 1% of published writers are making the kind of money that allows one to buy, let alone furnish, a gossamer cloud. Writing doesn’t pay all that well, and the amount of labour that goes into the act of writing, when measured out in hours spent on the product, compared to how much the writer is usually paid, makes the act of writing a labour of love.
Marx was a writer, as well as being a philosopher. All philosophers post-Socrates were writers too. How they got published, the deals they made, the money they might have made, or the times they went broke trying to be a publisher (I’m thinking of Mark Twain here, as well as the father of book printing, Gutenberg, who lost all his money trying to be the world’s first independent book publisher) is another matter.
So when you buy your next book, think about the process, and how expensive it is for the publisher to produce one of those bound wonders that continues to amaze me. I have a real reverence for the printed word. Okay, my first word was ‘book,’ according to my mother. I love books, but more than that, I respect the work that goes into them, and most of all, I respect the writer, who really does slog on against all odds to produce that final copy.
And you know, Marxists would probably label me an elitist, since I do not exactly toil in the fields. That thought makes me sad, because it’s not easy being a writer, I know, but it’s also not exactly salt mining, now is it? So I have guilt for being a pseudo-Marxist, but I am one nonetheless.