In the New York Times Sunday book review, Paul Greenburg wrote (humorously) about bailing out writers. His introduction refers to writers as losers, who, instead of selling books, are selling their home furnishings to stay afloat.
What is interesting is that the concept he proposed is not a bailout at all. Greenburg believes that the problem with the writing industry is that there are too many writers now and not enough money to support them all. He mentions the 185,000 listed by the National Endowment for the Arts who support themselves through artistic endeavors. This, of course, does not include the thousands and thousands who write in their spare time and support themselves by some other endeavor.
His hypothetical proposal: “About 275,000 new titles and editions are published in the United States each year. Let’s say we want to eliminate half of them. Assuming it takes about two years to write your average book, we would offer book writers two years of salary at the writers’ average annual income of $38,000 a year.”
The catch? Those who take the money would have to stop writing. This is a buyout, not a bailout. When companies have more workers than they need, they offer cash incentives to employees leave their job voluntarily… forever.
It’s an interesting premise. If someone offered you $76,000 to never write again, would you take the money? If not, what is your price? What if you only had to stop writing for two years, would you do it for that price?
This question is like the “Would you sleep with an ugly stranger for a million dollars?” scenario—only with a lot less money and a much harder decision. If nothing else, it will make you think about how important writing is to you and what you would sacrifice for it.
The Good, the Bad, and the Furry by Tom Cox
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