The Wages of Writing: Per Word, Per Piece, or Perhaps

P.W. Kingston and J. Cole The Wages of Writing: Per Word, Per Piece, or Perhaps, New York: Columbia University Press, 1986

Robert Benchley once defined a freelance wrtiter as "one who gets paid per word, per piece, of perhaps." The Wages of Writing complements this definition with a revealing answer to the question. "What is the economic condition of American authors?"

Based on a survey of over 2,000 authors by the Columbia University Center for the Social Sciences and the Author's Guild Foundation, this volume provides a wealth of information on authors' earnigns, their tiem commitments, and their attitudes toward writing and the other work they do. The Wages of Writing establishes the fact that authors typically have low pay which they must supplement with other jobs. It shows what pay is typical for authors in general as well as the financial condition of various types of authors: full-time writers, part-timers, those who work at various types of second jobs, those who do not. Do writers in certain genres earn more than those in others? Is there any difference between earnings of male and female authors? Or between authors living in New York City and those outside of the publishing mecca? What is the relationship between writing-related incomes and total personal and family incomes of authors? Paul Kingston and Jonathan Cole provide revealing answers to these and other questions based upon detailed evidence.

They also examine the kinds of connections authors have with each other-how much they assist each other professionally, how often they meet socially, the number of friendships they have with fellow authors. What emerges is a convincing portrait of a disconnected profession, one only weakly reinforced by personal ties among its members.

Kingston and Cole show what is distinctive about the writer's profession, and consider authors as an interesting case study in the sociology of occupations and culture. They also give profiles of different types of authors from low-income to best-sellers, including young and old writers and women authors, and offer a historical discussion on authorship as a profession.

For authors, sociologists, anyone interested in learning how American writers manage their lives, The Wages of Writing provides the first accurate, systematic answers.