Yesterday, I read through a copy of Roald Dahl’s “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More” as it had been loaned to me by a good friend and it seemed like it would be a good, light read after having slogged through “Hawaii” previously.
The stories are light and fun and written in the typical, terse style that Roald Dahl preferred. I would recommend the book to anyone who has good memories of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” or “The BFG” or any of his others.
However, there was one particular passage in this book that caught me off guard. In his introduction to The Mildenhal Treasure, titled, simply “A Note About the Next Story”, Dahl says:
In 1946…I was making a fair income writing two stories a year. Each of them took four months to complete…
My, how things have changed. As I have been writing for the past two years, I have been researching markets and sending out the occasional piece, either fiction or travel essay, the ony two genres I feel qualified to write in.
The big name science-fiction magazines pay at an average of 5 cents per word. For a 10,000 word story, that is a nice, crisp paycheck of $250 U.S.
A typical travel magazine pays slightly better, sometimes up to $1,000 for an 800 word essay, if the editor knows you and has published you before.
To the best of my knowledge, I would not be able to live on $500 to $2,000 per year. Per week, well, ok, but per year? No.
So now, I am wondering what prompted these changes. Was it the rise of other mediums that took readers away and turned them into viewers? That could explain why those in the TV industry make such good money. Or was it that many people decided that they, too, could write and the playing field became too crowded and editors could lower pay rates? Or maybe it was something else entirely.
I have no idea.
What I do know is that most modern writers (with exceptions like Steven King) keep their day jobs for a long, long time.
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