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The Great Salary Divide In The Book Business

I've spent more time lately reading other book business blogs and I find myself dividing them into two categories. I think a lot of readers categorize publishing related bloggers as either insiders or outsiders, but bloggers who make a living at publishing are all "insiders" in a sense. If the blogs I've been checking were written anonymously, I'd still come up with the same division, because the differences in style and content are fairly stark. It comes down to who's on salary and who's self employed.

Blogs of salaried book business employees tend to focus on the hot-button issues in publishing, on the future of the large trades, on the latest gadgetry, latest conference, latest standard. They reflect the industry breakfasts, lunches and dinners the bloggers attend and the panels they serve on. While these bloggers may be viewed by some of their peers as radicals for "going public", from the standpoint of a self publisher, they look more like conservatives focusing on incremental changes that support rather than challenge the current trade-centric models that pay their salaries.

The self employed bloggers tend to focus on making a living, and frequently enter into discussions about the cost of printing and postage, or how a single misstep can result in disaster for a business in start-up mode. Self employed bloggers also focus on their own experiences or answering reader questions, while the salaried employee blogs contain a lot more journalistic posts. Based on talks with salaried publishing personnel, from proofreaders to executives, I think the disconnect runs pretty deep for people who are working in the same business.

Recently, I was treated to an hour long discourse about retirement, health benefits, vacation days and perks, and how important it was to negotiate the continuity and improvement of these when moving from one job to the next. When people start talking to me about what percentage of their salary they expect to receive from the day they retire to the day they die, I just have to wonder. Self employed people, whether in book business or any other field, don't even qualify for unemployment, much less the benefits our salaried friends seek to improve. Excuse us if we can't empathize with golden handshakes, job-hunting on your employer's time, or expense accounts. My expense account is my wallet. Self employed people earning a living in the book trade get what they prepare for every day, not what they negotiate for on signing. It has a very real impact on our business priorities and what we view worthy blog material.

I attended my second book auction last night where an inscribed copy of "Barnaby Rudge" went for $42,000. What a great business model! Just sell one copy of Barnaby Rudge per year and earn the median family income in the States. If I had dropped that line into the middle retirement monologue I mention above, I'm sure I would have gotten a, "Yeah, that's great, but do I take the 100% pay-out or the 80% pay-out that continues for my spouse if I die first. You can't imagine how tough these decisions are."

No, I can't.

1 comment:

Keefieboy said...

From the heart Morris! I've been self-employed for seven years...salary? Pension? Yikes. Loving your blog, by the way - very good stuff.