Financial exclusion

Chuckle. You know those delightful situations where some twit sets out to insult you, and falls over their own ignorance? Calls you stupendous under the mistaken impression that it is a fancy word for stupid and will make them look so superior? Or howls how racist you are for describing a payment as niggardly? Or claims that describing Chinese Communists by the US State Dept shortening of ‘Chicom’ is ‘racist’?

One of the fans sent me a hilarious puppy-kicker comment about Mad Genius Club — MGC, which any analysis of past posts would show is where a bunch of writers of various ages, stages, sexes, ethnicities, national origins, differing social and political views and backgrounds all coming together to help and support their fellow writers. To help people with the profession of writing.

The profession of writing.

Not the hobby, or self-fulfilment, or getting in touch with your inner self, or getting in touch with your outer self, or virtue signaling, or artistic merit, of writing.

Just the profession of writing.

That’s what the purpose of the site always has been. That’s what we’ve paid forward thousands of hours of our time to. It’s something which is personally very important to me. It’s a site I wish I could have found when I was starting into this profession. I love reading, particularly sf and fantasy, but reading in general. I want others to be able to enjoy it, and my unborn descendants to still enjoy it. Without professional writers… that will go the way of the music of the Lur. Once common, now Word says it is a spelling mistake.  There are of course still hobbyists who play a Lur. But that’s about it.

We at MGC, according to the puppy-kicker: “I think they all only sincerely care about generating income.”

This I think was supposed to be derogatory. It’s on a par with calling us ‘stupendous’ as an insult, and made me beam from ear-to-ear. Because a profession that does not generate income for its professionals… isn’t a profession. It’s a hobby for people with the time and money to derive pleasure from.

Occasionally hobbyists may produce great things – whether you’re talking about paintings or macramé or books. But… writing great books, books that readers love, books that keep readers reading, is hard. It takes time, practice, effort, and… motive. And unless you’re a person with huge amounts of free time and no need to worry about putting food on the table, paying the rent, paying the bills, providing for your kids, the hobby is something you do when you’re NOT having to generate income.

The single largest exclusionary factor – by at least an order magnitude – excluding people from being writers, is financial. People who could, who would, and some of whose work would be an absolute outstanding delight to read, face the very real fact that they can’t afford the time and effort that something that doesn’t help to generate a decent income needs. And this financial exclusion doesn’t care if you’re black or gay or trans or white or Christian, or conservative. If you’re working at another job – or two, to generate an income to live on… you’re not writing nearly as much (if at all) as the guy who doesn’t have that problem.

The financially restricted or excluded are worse off in the writing world, than any fashionable minority. As a writer I want people to have a fair go, including, and maybe especially, the battlers. If you’re a single mum, with an abusive ex, working two jobs, trying to study and writing between five and six in the morning while the kids are asleep and before you have to get them ready for school and get yourself to work, I have a lot more time for you than the whining daughter of an Ivy league Prof who went to two Ivy league Colleges and never knew a day of hardship in her life. The first may be white and the second black, but it’s not their skin color that directs my sympathy, or my desire to see the former able to write for more than an exhausted hour a day – which she can only do, if it generates real income.

And the biggest part of that is seeing that the writer gets the best possible chance of generating as much income as possible. That means helping with everything from appealing to readers to marketing. That’s what we do, and it is something I am both passionate about and proud of my efforts to promote.

Other groups cheerfully promote politics or various issues… at the expense of the writer. They’re happy to punish writers who don’t go along with their agenda. Others support publishers who are nickel-and-diming authors under the guise of ‘social justice’. I guess I’m old fashioned, but the best social justice I can think of is helping the working man or woman (that’s your ordinary middle or working class folk) generate as much income from that hard work as possible.

At least to some extent, we write from our background and our work is enjoyed by people who get it, who share some of the same social and economic background.  A great writer transcends this, but most of us aren’t great. There are a lot more good writers than great, and a lot of also-rans. Where finances are a real issue, the also-rans all drop out and vanish. When it isn’t, they’re like weeds, able to choke out the real talent, because there is no selective pressure on them. Take a long, hard look at the loud voices in trad publishing. How many of them would be there if they had to generate all their family’s income from writing? We’d, conservatively, lose ¾. And even the grandees now generating quite respectable incomes… some made their way up, translating a hobby into income generation, from a base of their own second jobs. But a very large number were born with silver spoons in their mouths, or had a working or wealthy partner, or trust fund, or even patreon.

Many of them wouldn’t be there if generating income from their writing was all that paid the bills. Would that be reading’s loss? I’m a lot more worried about us losing the voice – and the readers – of the blue-collar worker, and the ordinary middle-class Joe. They need an income to write more.

So, yes. All we care about is writers generating income. Every other piece of baggage you drag along, whether it is campaigning for goreball worming or a having a laundry list of PC approved characters… is your personal individual issue. You’re welcome to it, so long as you don’t force it everyone else, or damage the profession with your zealotry (sadly that too often comes with zealots).

If you can’t generate income from your writing, you’re a hobbyist. I wish you all the joy of your hobby, but unless you plan at least to try and try and generate an income, if you’re putting you novels on the market, I wish you in purgatory. We have enough dilettantes using writing for all sorts of other purposes which they care about, frankly damaging reading (because there is no selective pressure in needing to please readers to generate an income. It puts people off.) and certainly making life a lot harder for authors trying to make this a profession they can earn a living at.

Honestly, macramé is great for all those other things you care about. And if you could play the Lur as a hobby, it would bring a great deal more awareness to whatever issue you cared about without screwing up our profession.

Image by nattanan23 on Pixabay



  1. It is the inevitable scold of the envious Socialist/Communist that earning money is a sin, that having money to spend is evil, and that independent sources of income, no matter how small at the beginning, is to be universally scorned as greed.

    It’s universal guilt tripping, with the intent of shackling irons to one’s metaphorical ankles and then fitting concrete shoes to the mind and spirit of a person who might otherwise escape that imaginary prison that the scolds erect around individuals.

    In the long run, it is meant to destroy that which they cannot themselves ever hope to attain because they have already said “It cannot be done.”

    1. There is also the fact that when artists–in any medium–make a living from their art it undercuts the article of faith that if taxpayers stop subsidizing the arts in the form of PBS, the NEA, and all the other Manhattan pork barrels then there will be no art at all.

      Every time budget cuts are discussed they like to trot out the talking point about how subsidized artists are necessary to enrich our cultural lives. Those greedy fat cat Republicans want to keep the downtrodden poor from being able to attend gallery openings and the symphony.

      1. Not to mention an artistic medium supported and enjoyed by the general populace is subject to pressure from the voting (with their money) consumers on how to present their story/music /art, instead of being “curated” and “shaped” by “the right sort” of critics.

        On the one end of the spectrum, you get “piss christ”. On the other, you get Nickelback. They have to keep screaming about how terrible Nickelback and indie books and western art are, because theirs is… worse on every measurable spectrum by anyone outside of their clique.

        When a group’s only currency is attention, what are the consequences of ignoring them? huh. No wonder they think we’re striking at their very existence, while we don’t really care what they think, only what our readers who pay the mortgage think!

    2. Remember when Socialists were mostly working class, rather than children of the elites, with all the prejudices you get from growing up sheltered.

      1. Was it ever true? Certainly Marx wasn’t a factory worker who wrote his manifesto after working 12 hour shifts, just before collapsing into bed for a brief rest before doing it again the next day. And while I know that socialism predated Marx, I feel like most of his predecessors were the same way: educated men with lots of leisure time, which in those days was by definition elite.

        1. If you want to have a rollicking good time, read Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals. Here’s a bit about Marx:

          In all his [Marx’s] researches into the iniquities of British capitalism, he came across many instances of low-paid workers but he never succeeded in unearthing one who was paid literally no wages at all. Yet such a worker did exist, in his own household … This was Helen Demuth [the life-long family maid]. She got her keep but was paid nothing … She was a ferociously hard worker, not only cleaning and scrubbing, but managing the family budget … Marx never paid her a penny …

          and IIRC, Marx didn’t work because he sponged off others such as Engels (and his maid).

          1. AND — he got her pregnant. And refused to acknowledge the boy. Who was fostered elsewhere and only allowed to visit his mother by the backdoor, and only saw his father once.

            He grew up an actual worker.

  2. We at MGC, according to the puppy-kicker: “I think they all only sincerely care about generating income.”

    Cool, we’re doing it right then! Not only are we focusing on telling good stories–that actually sell and make money–but we’re helping others figure out how they can as well. The fact we’re being condemned for it by certain folks only makes me smile even bigger than I am when I see my monthly royalty statements.

    But then, perhaps we should take a moment to feel for the naysayers. After all, by showing folks you can make money writing, we spoil their “suffer for the arts” mantra and prove to the government that it doesn’t need to subsidize us. It also shows we don’t need our Gofundme or whatever the site du jour is to beg our fans to pay us money so we might write our epic politically charges, social relevant tripe. . . Nah, they don’t deserve any sympathy. They want to silence us, something we’ve never said should be done to them.

    I guess I should go back to writing my dreck that tells a story and makes money. Maybe one day, I, too, will be an unpaid but relevant writer. Gawd, I hope now. VBEG

    1. If they really want artists to suffer for their art, they can bloody well show the way – by moving to a freezing garret lit by one tallow candle, and writing on thrice-scraped scraps of vellum (or equal) with pencil stubs rescued from office waste.
      If they’re unwilling to do that, they obviously don’t have the moral authority to suggest that anyone else should suffer, right?
      (And if they are willing to do that, they can probably monetize it with a YouTube video, which will doubtless pay better than their book sales!)

      1. They’re not the artists. They’re the ones who want to read your work for free. So they want you to work your tail off for a pittance.

  3. I occasionally visit Writers in the Storm, also a group writing blog. It has a lot of information about craft, idea-generation, and the like, but it is not aimed at beginners, and it doesn’t cover the breadth of topics that MGC does. That’s fine. That’s not their goal – they focus on pros who want to up their game and keep from burning out or losing the love of writing. MGC is more about the basics of being a professional, getting to be a professional, and how to stay a professional once you reach the coveted “I can cut back on my hours at day-job” level.

    I think the only thing MGC doesn’t really spend much time on is taxes and bookkeeping, which— given that we are international—makes good sense. What works in Texas doesn’t always apply in South Carolina or Michigan and certainly not in Ontario or Helsinki or Darwin.

  4. Well said.

    Nothing wrong with hobbies. Nothing wrong with a trust fund. Maybe I’ll win the lottery if I buy a ticket.

  5. The only professional writer I know of who was supposedly wealthy to begin with is Larry Niven, through some kind of familial connection to the Tea Pot Dome oil heirs. And while I consider him to be a lucky dog, I have no desire to deprive him of such wealth (if any). His ancestors made lucky and prudent investment decisions, they get to do what they want with the profits.

    What I would like to be able to eventually do is craft stories as good as his, and have the dubious honor of having to report income from them to the IRS.

    1. It’s usually easy among the modern ones to find the ones who have money behind them so writing income isn’t all that carries them -be it from wealth, a second job or a partner. They’re the ones 1)claiming they’re victims loudest (I’m discriminated against because I’m a woman… who went a very expensivy Ivy League college, married a wealthy layer, and could afford to go to Clarion. I’m double discriminated against because I’m black and a woman… who grew up as the child of a well-off Ivy League prof, and attended two expensive colleges, has played these ‘disadvantages’ (which are… if you’re poor unconnected and don’t live in upper-class left wing circles) into a large white gilt patreon, and had my path made easy throughout by playing the victim 2)playing organizational politics (takes time) 3) point fingers at whatever scapegoats they can as having it easy. Rather like you should know the guy who farted in the lift is one who says ‘who farted’.

    2. Kurt Vonnegut was the heir to one of the men who started the Von Duprin company which made the first panic exit devices. He never hurt for money.

  6. What was it that Larry said has to be part of any writer’s plan?

    “Get Paid”

    In this case, you guys getting paid means me getting lots of good story. I am totally onboard with this.

  7. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Yes, I’m a reader that will gib much monies to good books. I thank all the bruhaha with the hugos and sfwa to lead me to even better books.The gatekeepers can keep their “Way of Blockbuster” Awards. Ill be over here supporting the Indie “redbox.”

  8. I am not a professional writer and don’t really have any aspirations to become one.

    I come here to read interesting things about the latest outrage de jure, super volcanos, publishing business models. sun spot cycles, village social life in Portugal, diving down under, the history of science fiction, the future of the past, and puns.

    So it’s not only about generating income for me.

    Although, generating income would be nice for a change.

  9. It depends. If you write good stuff, that people reading it want to read more, you are helping your fellow writers, by improving the market, no matter how small your sales are. If you are writing bad stuff, for example because no one could persuade you that second person present tense authorial omniscient with chapters in semi-random temporal order is just a bad idea, you are bad for your fellow writers no matter how large your sales are.

    And if you write for a small niche market, your sales will be small, no matter how good your writing is, That’s fine. You are still serving that market. (Reders will suggest that my latest novel, Eclipse -The Girl Who Saved the World, is a test of this, to the extent that the market for tween girl superhero novels is limited,)

    1. If you write bad stuff, book after book, soon enough your sales will crash and you will not be making much money.

    2. “…because no one could persuade you that second person present tense authorial omniscient with chapters in semi-random temporal order is just a bad idea…”

      Sigh… do you have ANY idea how hard it is not to read that as a challenge?


        1. rule #9001(i). They’re imagining things, and the challenge is OVER 9 THOUSAND.

      1. .Synova writes: “ a challenge…”

        Good news! I did not make that up! It’s already been done. And The Fifth Season won a Hugo.

  10. Well I’m all in favor of making money but I do have to say that there are far more expensive hobbies out in the world than writing. Knitting for one.

    1. An expensive hobby is one whose costs, opportunity or otherwise, are too great compared to one’s regular income minus upkeep.

      If one is unemployed, wasting time is an expensive hobby.

    2. Art on the Computer (says she who got a massive upgrade in hardware for her birthday.) Also… Table top gaming even if you only get the PDF versions of the books these days. (I’d say music, but that can range from free to insanely expensive depending…)

    3. Flying. The joke is “How do you make a small fortune in aviation? Start with a large fortune.”

      1. Ah yes, the car hobby. A black hole that consumes time, effort and money.

        But I still love it. I’m going to the Good Guys show in Phoenix on Friday! Woohoo!

  11. I’m supported mostly by a military pension that I earned through my own efforts, and a bit from the Teeny Publishing Bidness (doing editing, formatting, etc. I’ve got to the point where I make a bit of profit yearly from the writing – not quite enough to buy my own mountain and build Stately Hayes Vacation Mansion on it, but I can afford a licensed CPA for working out the taxes…
    But I had some hardscrabble years here and there. I like to think I wrote at my best when I was purely desperate…

    1. Some time ago a friend of mine was on a television talk show with several other mystery writers, Mickey Spillane among them. After the program ended, Spillane announced that they’d neglected to talk about the most important topic.

      “We didn’t say anything about money,” he said. He went on to explain that he’d spent several years on an offshore island in South Carolina, where he did nothing too much more taxing than swim and sunbathe and walk the beach for hours at a time. “Every once in a while it would come to me that it’d be fun to get started on a book,” he said. “I thought I’d keep my mind in shape and I’d enjoy doing it. But I could never get a single idea for a story. I’d sit and sit, I’d walk for miles, but I couldn’t get an idea.

      “Then one day I got a call from my accountant to say that the money was starting to get low. Nothing serious, but I should start thinking about ways to bring in some dough. And boy, did I get ideas for books!”

      Block, Lawrence. Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel: Expanded and Updated! (pp. 67-68). LB Productions. Kindle Edition.

  12. Over at the blog that inspired this post, Dave is now being accused of . . . targeting amateur authors.

    Thanks, Cammy. I needed the laugh.

    1. Camestros Felapton, who certainly knows a lot about sneering: “Well, lots of working people can’t generate income from their writing because of the time constraints involved. They might want to and they might hope that they will in the future but they can’t. Further, writing for its own sake brings people joy. If you are one of those people, well I guess you can enjoy having the trad-pub author Dave Freer sneer at you as he wishes you to purgatory.”

    2. Ah. Cammy. Once again playing sf politics on his employers dime, no doubt. A model of honesty and integrity, in his circles.
      Amateurs trying to become professional authors – hell I must have done my best, personally, to help hundreds, editing, advising and promoting. Vanity publishing dilettantes playing at writing to highlight whatever pet ’cause’ they want to use writing for? They’re definitely damaging everyone’s future, even their own. But they’re too dim, spoiled, narcissistic to see that.

  13. We at MGC, according to the puppy-kicker: “I think they all only sincerely care about generating income.”

    As usual, the flopping camel is not even wrong. If I cared more about generating an income from writing more than anything else, I’d have an agent and be writing SJW barf for TOR. Because that’s all they stock at Barnes & Noble.

    I was over at good ol’ B&N today in the Chandler mall in Chandler AZ. Very big store, very big mall. SF and F are shelved together off in a corner. Mostly stuff published before 2010.

    You want to know why, just look at the Nebula nominees this year. The one story that wasn’t message-fic SJW crap has floppy cameltoe claiming SLAAAAATE!!! against it.

    That’s why fucking Barnes and Noble is empty of what I want to read.

    So now I’m WRITING what I want to read, just like pretty much everybody else here at MGC. Dave, out of the goodness of his heart, has shared a great deal of knowledge with us all, which has removed a lot of the suckage out of my work, as have the other Mad Geniuses. So when I finally do publish, there’s actually a chance I might clear ten cents an hour on my two years of eight hour days.

    What’s floppy most famous for? Slagging other people.

    1. The one story that wasn’t message-fic SJW crap has floppy cameltoe claiming SLAAAAATE!!!

      How on God’s Green Earth is he claiming slate for the Nebula? For the Hugo I at least see how that is possible, but the Nebula?

      So now I’m WRITING what I want to read, just like pretty much everybody else here at MGC.

      If it existed, I probably wouldn’t be writing my current book. I’d be writing, but something else.

      1. Herbn said: “How on God’s Green Earth is he claiming slate for the Nebula?”

        20booksto50k had a list they encouraged their SFWA membership to vote for, to get some boost for the Indy side at the Nebula nominations. Any list that floppy cameltron didn’t come up with is a slate. Any list he did come up with is not a slate. That’s pretty much the short version.

        I have read none of it, but Lela Buis has been reviewing the noms. A couple of the 20booksto50k list made it, one being “Messenger” which Lela gave 4.5/5. That’s the one floppy started a shirtstorm against.

        Another was some warmed-over hash “panicked hordes of feral Humans all try to board the last ship leaving Earth before the Big Asteroid.” Proving that hacks can write Indy too, I guess.

        Overall I’m satisfied I’ve missed nothing worthwhile with this year’s Nebulas. As usual.

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