Monday, July 13, 2020

A pocket full of small change

Q: Lately, some authors on social media are saying that it’s time authors shared details about their book contracts and income to break open the financial secrecy inherent in this business. Do you agree or disagree with this idea?

-from Susan

I really don't have much to offer on this issue. A few years back, I recall a similar initiative. Some people were forthcoming, many others not. But the publishers hold all the cards and advances continued to fall. I will say I've learned a lot about the clever things publishers do to avoid paying you royalties you've earned. Accounting can be as creative as ballet, just not so pretty.

A couple of decades ago, when I was still in the non-profit world, there was a similar move. But, as most of you know who have negotiated for salaries when you are being offered a new job, the potential employer pushes to know what you are currently being paid and starts from there even if you know you current salary is not the measure of your worth or comparative status in the field. There were anonymous surveys and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education published aggregate data. But it didn't really help much. After all, you can be paid a lot less and live better in a small college town in the Midwest than you can in San Francisco or New York. And the same job title may include a wide variety of responsibilities.  

Public colleges and universities had to declare the salaries of some high ranking faculty and administrators, though, and that helped the search firm that recruited me to a top position at a private university set a high goal for me to accept the job. Maybe that's what our agents can be (more often, some are now) - recruiters ready to negotiate better for us?

Anyway, happy Monday. May you stay mentally and physically healthy, enjoy some part of the summer season somehow, and find a way to make money in our crazy profession.

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