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Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living

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In the literary world, the debate around writing and commerce often begs us to take sides: either writers should be paid for everything they do or writers should just pay their dues and count themselves lucky to be published. You should never quit your day job, but your ultimate goal should be to quit your day job. It's an endless, confusing, and often controversial conver In the literary world, the debate around writing and commerce often begs us to take sides: either writers should be paid for everything they do or writers should just pay their dues and count themselves lucky to be published. You should never quit your day job, but your ultimate goal should be to quit your day job. It's an endless, confusing, and often controversial conversation that, despite our bare-it-all culture, still remains taboo. In Scratch, Manjula Martin has gathered interviews and essays from established and rising authors to confront the age-old question: how do creative people make money? As contributors including Jonathan Franzen, Cheryl Strayed, Roxane Gay, Nick Hornby, Susan Orlean, Alexander Chee, Daniel Jose Older, Jennifer Weiner, and Yiyun Li candidly and emotionally discuss money, MFA programs, teaching fellowships, finally getting published, and what success really means to them, Scratch honestly addresses the tensions between writing and money, work and life, literature and commerce. The result is an entertaining and inspiring book that helps readers and writers understand what it's really like to make art in a world that runs on money-and why it matters.


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In the literary world, the debate around writing and commerce often begs us to take sides: either writers should be paid for everything they do or writers should just pay their dues and count themselves lucky to be published. You should never quit your day job, but your ultimate goal should be to quit your day job. It's an endless, confusing, and often controversial conver In the literary world, the debate around writing and commerce often begs us to take sides: either writers should be paid for everything they do or writers should just pay their dues and count themselves lucky to be published. You should never quit your day job, but your ultimate goal should be to quit your day job. It's an endless, confusing, and often controversial conversation that, despite our bare-it-all culture, still remains taboo. In Scratch, Manjula Martin has gathered interviews and essays from established and rising authors to confront the age-old question: how do creative people make money? As contributors including Jonathan Franzen, Cheryl Strayed, Roxane Gay, Nick Hornby, Susan Orlean, Alexander Chee, Daniel Jose Older, Jennifer Weiner, and Yiyun Li candidly and emotionally discuss money, MFA programs, teaching fellowships, finally getting published, and what success really means to them, Scratch honestly addresses the tensions between writing and money, work and life, literature and commerce. The result is an entertaining and inspiring book that helps readers and writers understand what it's really like to make art in a world that runs on money-and why it matters.

30 review for Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manjula

    I edited this book, so hell yes I am giving it five stars!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I have a confession to make: I only requested the book because Cheryl Strayed and Roxane Gay's names were on the cover as contributors and I adore them both. I am not a writer, I have no intention of becoming a writer or working in any other creative capacity ever - so I am not exactly the target audience for this book. But I still very much enjoyed this book and I think other people will do, too. There were several contributions that I enjoyed immensely; Cheryl Strayed's of course, because she I have a confession to make: I only requested the book because Cheryl Strayed and Roxane Gay's names were on the cover as contributors and I adore them both. I am not a writer, I have no intention of becoming a writer or working in any other creative capacity ever - so I am not exactly the target audience for this book. But I still very much enjoyed this book and I think other people will do, too. There were several contributions that I enjoyed immensely; Cheryl Strayed's of course, because she just rocks at this kind of "talking about herself in disguise of advise for others"-spiel she does. I also enjoyed the interview with Roxane Gay, although I would have prefered a proper essay (I guess, I'll just have to wait for her upcoming memoir (Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body) for that.) Also great, as usual was Daniel José Older with an appell to make publishing more inclusive. Melinda Lo's personal essay was super interesting as well. But for me, the absolute best essay of the book came from an author I had never heard about before: Jennifer Weiner. Her essay was both heartbreakingly honest and resilient at the same time; and while I am still not interested in her novels, I am strongly considering picking up her memoir because she sounds like somebody whose story I would enjoy immensely. Overall, I did enjoy the personal essays more, the ones where the authors told about their way or their life or their struggle, while most of the industry talk wasn't quite as interesting to me (but, like I said, not the target audience here). PS: Jonathan Franzen seems to be a bit of a knobhead. ___ I received an arc curtesy of NetGalley and Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for that!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eilonwy

    This was a pretty interesting collection of essays about professional writing and money. Some of the writers were quite upfront about how, and how much, they get paid. Cheryl Strayed's contribution was very honest in describing how she and her husband were deeply in debt before she sold Wild, and even then, her $100,000 advance was paid to her over 4 years, so it was more like a grant than a living before the book hit big and the royalties came in. Other writers were very reluctant to discuss th This was a pretty interesting collection of essays about professional writing and money. Some of the writers were quite upfront about how, and how much, they get paid. Cheryl Strayed's contribution was very honest in describing how she and her husband were deeply in debt before she sold Wild, and even then, her $100,000 advance was paid to her over 4 years, so it was more like a grant than a living before the book hit big and the royalties came in. Other writers were very reluctant to discuss their own money situations at all. But since everyone in here is a professional writer, all of the essays were entertaining, if nothing else. The biggest takeaway from this book for me? Get a day job you love, because you are most likely never going to be able to live without one by writing.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Z. F.

    DNF-ed halfway through. I kept reading for quite a while after my interest had waned because I desperately wanted this book to be the one its subtitle promised: a frank discussion by and for authors about the financial side of the writing craft. That sort of thing is exceedingly hard to come by, so I was hesitant to throw this aside before I'd given it a fair shot. Disappointingly, though, Scratch is mainly just a series of creative essays (and the occasional interview) wherein authors gesture vag DNF-ed halfway through. I kept reading for quite a while after my interest had waned because I desperately wanted this book to be the one its subtitle promised: a frank discussion by and for authors about the financial side of the writing craft. That sort of thing is exceedingly hard to come by, so I was hesitant to throw this aside before I'd given it a fair shot. Disappointingly, though, Scratch is mainly just a series of creative essays (and the occasional interview) wherein authors gesture vaguely at the challenges and pitfalls of the writing biz while saying almost nothing concrete about the money they make or the way they make it. The book confesses a couple of times that writers are famously dodgy on these questions, but that point is only proven rather than challenged by the rest of the text. A few individuals—Cheryl Strayed comes to mind—are bold enough to delineate timelines and name dollar amounts, and a few others give useful snippets of advice (nonfiction makes more money than fiction, says Alexander Chee; sell the foreign-language rights but keep the film rights, says Susan Orlean), but these are too rare and scattered to justify reading the book through. The biggest issue here, I think, is that most writers (yours truly included) have an irrepressible urge to Write but very little patience for practical—and especially monetary—matters. So here we're treated to all the usual florid descriptions of romantic poverty, quirky odd jobs, moments of despair, sudden epiphanies, and poetic guiding principles ("Stay hungry", "Write to suffer, publish to starve"), only to find out tangentially that our narrator has an MFA from Iowa or a day job with a big-five publisher or a teaching gig in a university writing program or a family relation in the industry. In other words, just the sort of advantages you already suspected you probably need to get your foot into this particular door. I don't mean to come off as a cynic; I write primarily for love, not money (my prolific reviewing on here should prove that), and I know some readers will find philosophical insights in Scratch that register. But I also know that honesty and specificity are crucial to good writing, and I didn't find enough of either to satisfy me here.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rachel León

    It took me a while to get through this collection of essays and interviews about writing and money, which I'll admit I mostly picked up because Roxane Gay is listed as a contributor. Some of the essays and interviews were more interesting than others, but overall it's a solid collection about making a living as a writer. It took me a while to get through this collection of essays and interviews about writing and money, which I'll admit I mostly picked up because Roxane Gay is listed as a contributor. Some of the essays and interviews were more interesting than others, but overall it's a solid collection about making a living as a writer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amy Rogers

    As many followers of ScienceThrillers.com know, I run a very small, boutique independent publishing company that specializes in stories with science (ScienceThrillers Media). I’m also very involved in my local Sacramento writers’ community. Therefore when I heard about Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living edited by Manjula Martin, I immediately went to my library’s website to request a copy. In the publishing business, money is like an STD: some people definitely have it, but As many followers of ScienceThrillers.com know, I run a very small, boutique independent publishing company that specializes in stories with science (ScienceThrillers Media). I’m also very involved in my local Sacramento writers’ community. Therefore when I heard about Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living edited by Manjula Martin, I immediately went to my library’s website to request a copy. In the publishing business, money is like an STD: some people definitely have it, but no one wants to talk about it. Writers have little or no idea how much income other writers actually earn from selling books. In this vacuum of ignorance, expectations inflate. No, you won’t earn much money even if you get a “big” advance (typically spread out over several years, and diminished by taxes and agent fees), nor even if your book makes a best seller list. According to the cover, Scratch aspires “to confront the age-old question: How do creative people make money?” A highlighted quote claims, “Manjula Martin…has done more than perhaps anyone else to shed light on the financial nitty-gritty of the writing profession.” Well, I don’t know what Manjula Martin has done in general, but I can tell you that in this particular book, the only light that was shed came from a flashlight in your dad’s glove compartment powered by a couple of five-year-old C cells. In other words, the cover copy lied. In this collection of essays, there’s no financial nitty-gritty. Actual numbers are as rare as snow in July. Instead, the essayists tiptoe around pragmatic questions of money to instead navel-gaze about issues of privilege and class. Several of them explicitly repeat the problem this book was supposed to solve: they flatly refuse to discuss specific financial details. Now, I understand why a person wants to keep her income information private. But then don’t write an essay for a book that purports to reveal data about income or advance money. Part of the problem is the working writers chosen to contribute to this collection are pretty much all traditionally published writers of literary fiction. The Iowa-NYC-MFA crowd. None are scrappy indies of the kind who are sweeping the amazon Kindle bestseller lists. And almost none of them write genre fiction, which is were the money, such as it is in the book business, can be found. They share a proud disdain for money, acknowledging it as a necessary evil but definitely unclean. As you might expect, this makes it rather difficult to have an honest, open conversation about “the financial nitty-gritty of the writing profession.” These people write beautiful essays, I’ll give them that. But they’re not essays that are of any use–and that (I thought) was the point of this book. Compounding my dissatisfaction, the essayists in general make some of the most titanically bad financial decisions that parts of the book could be re-issued as a cautionary tale in poor personal financial planning. I’d rather take medical advice from Huck Finn with his dead cat in a graveyard than take financial advice from these folks. Is it because these people are creatives? Is it because they’re living in an MFA bubble? I don’t know. Plenty of indie writers have embraced the practical side of the writing business. The fact that many of the essayists are also Park Slope-dwelling millennials, a group not known for its get-up-and-go tenacity, does not help. So unfortunately I will not be recommending Scratch to my fellow authors in Sacramento, nor will I give it to the authors I sign at ScienceThrillers Media. I’ll give them straight talk about the likelihood of very small royalty payments, and a copy of a book that they can actually use (Online Marketing for Busy Authors by Fauzia BurkeOnline Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-By-Step Guide for business, and Troubleshooting Your Novel by Steven James for craft Troubleshooting Your Novel: 100 Incredibly Practical Ways to Fix Your Fiction).

  7. 5 out of 5

    Hank Stuever

    An endlessly fascinating topic, but unfortunately many (or most) of the writers who contributed essays (or submitted to a Q&A) didn't really get into the nitty gritty of their finances, fees, book advances and other specifics -- as advertised on the cover. There's a whole lot of suffering here (what writer wouldn't pass up the opportunity to biographically sketch out their creative and personal misery?), but a lot of these essays either stray off-topic or decide on a different topic. I guess it' An endlessly fascinating topic, but unfortunately many (or most) of the writers who contributed essays (or submitted to a Q&A) didn't really get into the nitty gritty of their finances, fees, book advances and other specifics -- as advertised on the cover. There's a whole lot of suffering here (what writer wouldn't pass up the opportunity to biographically sketch out their creative and personal misery?), but a lot of these essays either stray off-topic or decide on a different topic. I guess it's no surprise that the more successful the writer, the more willing they are to talk about money, since they no longer have to worry about it; I particularly enjoyed Cheryl Strayed and Jennifer Weiner's contributions. And here's one more opportunity to simply say: Leslie Jamison just totally sucks. Also, perhaps selfishly, I would have liked to see more thoughts from people who write for an actual, year-to-year living, whether on salary or contract, rather than the MFAs who are trying to get another novel published and swing from grant to gig to grant to gig. Aside from one writer who begins to tell us quite a juicy bit about her years as a ghost-writer, including what she earned on some of those projects, most of the writers here only furtively mention the assignments they take (nonfiction, journalism, editing) to get by, like that work doesn't matter. Although I'm sure it would seem a fate worse than death to some of the writers in this book, I have worked in newspapers for a few decades now and, very luckily, have always found it creatively rewarding, allowing (and assigning) me to write longform and short features on all kinds of subjects, as well as writing essays, reviews, big news and giving me a chance to take leave to write two books. And, after moving up through a couple of papers, it's been a good living and has surrounded me with an endless supply of colleagues, editors and others who were willing to treat column inches as something close to art. (And even when it wasn't a great living, from the start I had health and dental insurance and always paid my bills. Health insurance looms large in many of these writers' stories about their professional lives.) So, if nothing else, this book had me thanking my lucky stars that I got to be a writer in my own way, without my career hanging on the words Iowa or New York.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Scratch: Writers, Money, And The Art Of Making A Living is authored by Manjula Martin founder of Scratch Magazine (2013-2015), explores the skilled innovation of writing for self support and profit. Included are over 30 essays by successful and highly acclaimed authors, as well as those who haven't yet reached that status. Regarding those "day jobs " it was Oscar Wilde that said "The best work is produced by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread." "I write for pleasure, but publish Scratch: Writers, Money, And The Art Of Making A Living is authored by Manjula Martin founder of Scratch Magazine (2013-2015), explores the skilled innovation of writing for self support and profit. Included are over 30 essays by successful and highly acclaimed authors, as well as those who haven't yet reached that status. Regarding those "day jobs " it was Oscar Wilde that said "The best work is produced by those who do not depend on it for their daily bread." "I write for pleasure, but publish for money. Vladimir Nabokov (1955) In these essays the writers used many means to write as much as possible, dealing with editors, literary agents, reviews good and bad, all forms of commerce--whether blogging, tweeting about books liked or disliked, talking about books at dinner parties, book events. These connections are necessary for a serious writer that wishes to publish. Many writers work under extreme stress anxiety and their writing doesn't always bring much satisfaction but can be somewhat disappointing. There are living expenses to be paid, student loans are due, and building a career in writing eats up every spare minute the writer has. According to Leslie Jamison talking about money forces the acknowledgement of aspects of the creative process that makes people uncomfortable. Writers are not only producers but produced. Like it or not, money is present in the creative arts: an independent book vendor sells his books on the street, Zora Neale Hurston's death in a welfare hospital, Jean Rhys impoverished obscurity and alcoholism, Nellie Bly going undercover in a mental asylum with hopes of a staff writing position at the New York World. Raymond Carver openly discussed his dismay and resentment over the interference of his children and family responsibilities on his writing career. Not all tenured professors at prestigious universities found personal fulfillment, an example of David Foster Wallace was noted. Included were interviews with Cheryl Strayed, Jennifer Weiner, Jonathan Franzen, Nick Hornby and others. Many writers had impressive credentials from assorted MFA writing programs including the Iowa Writers Workshop. Whether the writers taught as adjunct professors, teaching fellowships, or in MFA writing programs, the interesting process of professional writing, the honest and often ordinary life of a writer, also family life, friends and fans. This is an encouraging inspiring read for a better understanding of a life in writing. Many thanks to NetGalley for the e-ARC for the purpose of review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gabe Novoa

    4.5/5 stars So I saw some reviewers say they found the book depressing, but maybe my expectations for making a living as a writer are super low or something because I actually found it encouraging. While not all of the essays focus exactly on making a living, the ones that did were frank and honest and most importantly to me—though most of them struggled at first, they did eventually reach the point where they were comfortably making ends meet, often through multiple streams of income. Some were 4.5/5 stars So I saw some reviewers say they found the book depressing, but maybe my expectations for making a living as a writer are super low or something because I actually found it encouraging. While not all of the essays focus exactly on making a living, the ones that did were frank and honest and most importantly to me—though most of them struggled at first, they did eventually reach the point where they were comfortably making ends meet, often through multiple streams of income. Some were more open about numbers than others, but they all ultimately talked about their own experiences and how they got to where they are today. The interviews and essays reveal many different options out there for writers—everything from writers living solely off their fiction, writers living off several writing income streams, writers with full time jobs, writers with part time jobs, and writers dependent on someone else's income. To me, it was an encouraging reminder that one way or the other, writers figure this stuff out, and so can you. While there were a couple essays/interviews that I didn't particularly care for—especially one interview that was pretty literary elitist and eyeroll-worthy, to say the least (looking at the lineup, I'm sure you can probably guess which contributor it's from)—I found most of the essays and interviews to be enlightening, interesting, and even entertaining. All in all, if you're looking for some frank talk on a writer's income from a variety of professional writers, I definitely recommend picking up Scratch. Whether you find it encouraging or depressing will probably depend on what you're expecting in terms of how writers make a living, but either way it's an eye-opening read that I'm definitely glad arrived in my lap at the time that it did.

  10. 5 out of 5

    PS

    Misleading title; instead, it should read Scratch: Writers Skirt Around the Issue of Money and the Art of Making a Living. Overall, this was an uneven collection – some essays were really interesting, but barely scratched (ha) the surface of how writers really make money. There is a lot of I worked two jobs to support my writing career/did an MFA and made contacts that helped me/did an MFA and nothing worked out but someone read something else I wrote and I am now successful/just got really lucky Misleading title; instead, it should read Scratch: Writers Skirt Around the Issue of Money and the Art of Making a Living. Overall, this was an uneven collection – some essays were really interesting, but barely scratched (ha) the surface of how writers really make money. There is a lot of I worked two jobs to support my writing career/did an MFA and made contacts that helped me/did an MFA and nothing worked out but someone read something else I wrote and I am now successful/just got really lucky. Nothing groundbreaking. Essays I'll revisit: – Owning This by Julia Fierro (“But really I buy too many books because books were, and always will be, my redemption”) - With compliments by Nina McLaughlin - Not a complaint by Nell Boeschendtein - The Jump by Sarah Smarsh - The Wizard by Alexander Chee

  11. 5 out of 5

    Richard Thomas

    Really enjoyed this. A few essays were a bit flat or dry, but overall the majority were really interesting, and I enjoyed this a lot. Great advice. Loved the essays by Laura Goode, Jennifer Weiner, Alexander Chee, Roxane Gay, Julia Fierro, and Nina MacLaughlin

  12. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    An interesting collection of essays and interviews. I didn’t care for the first couple or few essays but then I really enjoyed it. Manjula Martin is an excellent interviewer.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cee

    Some of these essays were brilliant, while others ranged from problematic to puzzling. I appreciated the range of authors, going beyond the straight-white-male author, but the lack of self-publishing authors felt jarring.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Barron

    I've followed Manjula Martin since her 'Who Pays Writers?' blog and online magazine (also called Scratch) days. Scratch, the book, is a brilliant resource for writers, to help them understand and navigate the complicated world of making a living (or not) through writing. Freelancing - yes or no? How much is enough marketing and promotion? Should I write for free to build my profile? Creative writing courses - yes or no? When do I know I've made it? How much do writers earn? Martin and her contri I've followed Manjula Martin since her 'Who Pays Writers?' blog and online magazine (also called Scratch) days. Scratch, the book, is a brilliant resource for writers, to help them understand and navigate the complicated world of making a living (or not) through writing. Freelancing - yes or no? How much is enough marketing and promotion? Should I write for free to build my profile? Creative writing courses - yes or no? When do I know I've made it? How much do writers earn? Martin and her contributors (including Cheryl Strayed and Jonathan Franzen) answer other such complex questions in this book of essays on 'Writers, Money and the Art of Making a Living'.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jeannine

    Definitely interesting set of essays and interviews on how different writers interact with and think about money, from struggling poets to millionaire novelists and television writers. Several essays set my teeth on edge, but every one of them was refreshing in its sort of perverse glee in discussing that most taboo subject for artists - money.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shivangi

    Weird conundrum. The book is not what it claims to be. There is little talk of actual money via writing (Cheryl Strayed and Roxane Gay are the two gems who actually get down to numbers in their interviews) and I was left wanting by the slightly shoddy interviewing skills of the editor- I think she could have asked better and more relevant questions. But it was surprisingly engaging and enriching in a different way. Starting out a little meh, the quality of the essays and range of writers and top Weird conundrum. The book is not what it claims to be. There is little talk of actual money via writing (Cheryl Strayed and Roxane Gay are the two gems who actually get down to numbers in their interviews) and I was left wanting by the slightly shoddy interviewing skills of the editor- I think she could have asked better and more relevant questions. But it was surprisingly engaging and enriching in a different way. Starting out a little meh, the quality of the essays and range of writers and topics covered grow as the book progresses. While it was not exactly a book about money and writing, it is a book about writers living in and making peace with a world which is structurally hinged on money. The last third of the book had me particularly enthralled, with essays ranging from exploring the pitting of art and capital against each other, leveraging crowdfunding, the role of privilege, toxic agents, mid life crisis in academia and how impoverished childhoods can influence the choices of topics and decisions writers write about (one from a commercial romance books writer and another from a serious non fiction one!) So I loved some pieces in here a lot. I googled the writers of those pieces and they are considerably successful, which lent legitimacy to their ideas here. The idea of the magazine which culminated in this book is a really good one, thought it has sadly shut down now due to money constraints. That just made me like the mission and goodwill of the book even more.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    As with any essay collection, this was a mixed bag. I read it over the course of about 7 months so it would be difficult to pinpoint my favorites, although I'm a huge fan of Cheryl Strayed and loved reading the story of her writing career. The essay towards the end from Daniel Jose Older was also excellent and made me want to read some of his books, although urban fantasy isn't usually my thing. I most enjoyed the personal essays about the real lives of writers. A few were pretentious or cynical As with any essay collection, this was a mixed bag. I read it over the course of about 7 months so it would be difficult to pinpoint my favorites, although I'm a huge fan of Cheryl Strayed and loved reading the story of her writing career. The essay towards the end from Daniel Jose Older was also excellent and made me want to read some of his books, although urban fantasy isn't usually my thing. I most enjoyed the personal essays about the real lives of writers. A few were pretentious or cynical but that's to be expected. Aside from Strayed, who said she received a $400,000 advance for Wild, and Roxane Gay, who said she made about $150,000 in 2014 through writing, teaching, and speaking engagements (but has $130,000 in student loan debt), few contributors got specific about their earnings. The prevailing theme here is don't quit your day job. If you're going to be a writer, expect to have other sources of income as well. A few contributors were the exception to this: Jennifer Weiner's piece, about how she had achieved financial success from her writing and yet has continually been critically derided, was particularly honest and moving. Overall a worthwhile and interesting read for anyone who writes or has literary aspirations.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Beth Browne

    As with any anthologized book, there were great essays, mediocre ones and very good ones in this collection. Overall, the theme is welcome. Money is always such a twitchy subject, and for writers, or any sort of creative type, it can be downright pathological. I was really hoping to find some words of wisdom in here and there were some, but after finishing the book I realize that everyone has their own personal relationship with money and ultimately, everyone has to come to their own particular As with any anthologized book, there were great essays, mediocre ones and very good ones in this collection. Overall, the theme is welcome. Money is always such a twitchy subject, and for writers, or any sort of creative type, it can be downright pathological. I was really hoping to find some words of wisdom in here and there were some, but after finishing the book I realize that everyone has their own personal relationship with money and ultimately, everyone has to come to their own particular peace with it. However, this book offers a very intimate look into the lives of some very well-known authors, some of whom may be your idol. For that, I would recommend the book very highly. Asking people to talk about not just money in general, but *their* financial situation is extremely personal and the vast majority of the authors in this book were surprisingly open, at times touchingly so. Jennifer Weiner (not my idol, btw) captivated me with her very personal, very moving essay. It was the highlight of the book for me. If you're looking to solve your creative financial woes, look elsewhere. If you're looking for thoughtful, intimate essays about your favorite writers' take on writing for money, pick this one up. It's a good one.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Denny

    An impressive collection of essays by a wide range of working writers with wildly varying voices and styles. Although at first I felt a couple of the essays didn't belong due to their tone or subject matter, I later decided my opinion of the book's scope had been too narrow. If you are looking for advice on how to break into a career as a writer, you'll find little of it here. But if you've already embarked upon that path, you'll appreciate the honesty and the plethora of dispensed wisdom from t An impressive collection of essays by a wide range of working writers with wildly varying voices and styles. Although at first I felt a couple of the essays didn't belong due to their tone or subject matter, I later decided my opinion of the book's scope had been too narrow. If you are looking for advice on how to break into a career as a writer, you'll find little of it here. But if you've already embarked upon that path, you'll appreciate the honesty and the plethora of dispensed wisdom from this diverse pool of those who have gone before. If I were younger and still entertained realistic dreams of becoming a working writer, I'd purchase a copy of Scratch and consider a subscription to Mrs. Martin's magazine of the same name.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Aditya Hadi

    THERE IS NO REAL ANSWER FROM THIS BOOK !! Scratch is a collection of essays and interviews from various literary people. They're talking about a big question, whether a writer should focus on composing a great art, or in making money. And like what i said at the beginning, there is no real answer from this book. Yes, you can understand the real situation by reading this book, but you still have to answer by yourself which path that you will choose. Don't take it wrong, it's not a bad thing. Even, THERE IS NO REAL ANSWER FROM THIS BOOK !! Scratch is a collection of essays and interviews from various literary people. They're talking about a big question, whether a writer should focus on composing a great art, or in making money. And like what i said at the beginning, there is no real answer from this book. Yes, you can understand the real situation by reading this book, but you still have to answer by yourself which path that you will choose. Don't take it wrong, it's not a bad thing. Even, it's a good thing. Some writers told how they can become rich after struggling a poor life, and some writers told how they still broke until now after publishing several books. This book give us a freedom to choose our own path. Beside that, SCRATCH also told us about the racism in publishing world, how to determine a so-called serious novels, and even how a writer can buy a house. For me, it's a must-read book for every writer that still want to figure out their future. The interview with Austin Kleon and Jonathan Franzen is my favourites :)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Petry

    One of the most useful and interesting books about the economics of being a writer. Full disclosure Manjula is a friend of mine and thanked me and our writing workshop group in the acknowledgments (thanks Manjula! We miss you) so I'll admit to a bit of a bias. But that doesn't take away from the wonderful job she has done editing this collection. The book contains interviews, essays and memoirs by (and with writers) covering all the various ways money and writing intersect. It raises more questi One of the most useful and interesting books about the economics of being a writer. Full disclosure Manjula is a friend of mine and thanked me and our writing workshop group in the acknowledgments (thanks Manjula! We miss you) so I'll admit to a bit of a bias. But that doesn't take away from the wonderful job she has done editing this collection. The book contains interviews, essays and memoirs by (and with writers) covering all the various ways money and writing intersect. It raises more questions than it answers and that's a good thing. It's important that these questions are asked even if no one has the right answer. I enjoyed reading some sections more than others but I found something interesting or useful in all of them. A great book for writers at any stage of their career. I hope this books continues the conversation it's started.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amirah Jiwa

    Excellent collection of interviews and essays from a diverse set of writers on the relationship between art and commerce. Provided useful information about how writers (don't) make money — by teaching, selling books, producing journalism or a combination of those and other trades — while also being entertaining and a pleasure to read. Just wish some of the white writers were as transparent with dollar amounts as some of the writers of colour were. Excellent collection of interviews and essays from a diverse set of writers on the relationship between art and commerce. Provided useful information about how writers (don't) make money — by teaching, selling books, producing journalism or a combination of those and other trades — while also being entertaining and a pleasure to read. Just wish some of the white writers were as transparent with dollar amounts as some of the writers of colour were.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    Interesting read for readers, to understand what a labour of love writing is even for those at the top; and writers, especially those unknown/ aspirational ones who would probably do well to enjoy the life directly around them today, because writing doesn't seem to get significantly easier for anyone. Will cover this in the podcast asap :) Interesting read for readers, to understand what a labour of love writing is even for those at the top; and writers, especially those unknown/ aspirational ones who would probably do well to enjoy the life directly around them today, because writing doesn't seem to get significantly easier for anyone. Will cover this in the podcast asap :)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    These essays were inspiring and insightful. In some ways, I thought they'd be more practical - few people other than Cheryl Strayed talk specific dollar amounts in the ways that financial advice books typically do - but they cover such a wide range of topics and aspects of living and working as a writer. I highly recommend this book. These essays were inspiring and insightful. In some ways, I thought they'd be more practical - few people other than Cheryl Strayed talk specific dollar amounts in the ways that financial advice books typically do - but they cover such a wide range of topics and aspects of living and working as a writer. I highly recommend this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    This is something I've been thinking about a LOT lately, so I was very excited to read this book. It's full of so many different perspectives on writing and making money and is without question one of the most useful books I've ever read. This is something I've been thinking about a LOT lately, so I was very excited to read this book. It's full of so many different perspectives on writing and making money and is without question one of the most useful books I've ever read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Crystal King

    While enlightening when it comes to how established authors are making money (a subject rarely discussed), mostly I found this book to be terribly depressing.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Maas

    A no hold bars, honest look at the monetary aspect of the craft This book, curated by the inimitable Manjula Martin, interviews authors to see what they thought about the monetary aspect of what they do. We have Cheryl Strayed going into debt for twenty years, selling her book - and just getting out of debt. We have Yiyun Li giving up everything to be a writer - and inspiringly still not seeing writing as a source of income. We have Jonathan Franzen being the outlier. He had a big hit, and now does A no hold bars, honest look at the monetary aspect of the craft This book, curated by the inimitable Manjula Martin, interviews authors to see what they thought about the monetary aspect of what they do. We have Cheryl Strayed going into debt for twenty years, selling her book - and just getting out of debt. We have Yiyun Li giving up everything to be a writer - and inspiringly still not seeing writing as a source of income. We have Jonathan Franzen being the outlier. He had a big hit, and now does not have to worry about money. If he was the first interview it would be one thing - but I read him after so many tales of writing poverty - that I saw him as the exception. Note that he comes across very well - he is still in an epic quest to make the cliche-free novel, and is very humble and grateful. In short - what is the ending message? I'd say write because you love it - despite the fact that every character here tried to do this, with varying levels of success - I'd say don't even think of it as a business until it is one. Have a hit? You have a business. Until then - keep writing, and you can achieve quite a bit of glory, and reach quite a bit of readers before that first deal comes through. Thank you Manjula! Great book, all around!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This is a collection of essays and author interviews from the ezine Scratch which, like the book, was edited by Manjula Martin. Martin wanted to tackle the topic of writers and money because it was such a murky gray area. Writers come in all different forms--journalists, novelists, professors, bloggers--but for the most part they don't know what other writers make. Such opaque-ness in the industry breeds insecurity and uncertainty. Then there's the idea that most writers view themselves at artis This is a collection of essays and author interviews from the ezine Scratch which, like the book, was edited by Manjula Martin. Martin wanted to tackle the topic of writers and money because it was such a murky gray area. Writers come in all different forms--journalists, novelists, professors, bloggers--but for the most part they don't know what other writers make. Such opaque-ness in the industry breeds insecurity and uncertainty. Then there's the idea that most writers view themselves at artists and/or truth tellers who float (or want to float) above the practical world of commerce. Actually, there's a diversity in how writers deal with money. Roxane Gay is frank about the advance she got for Bad Feminist ($15,000), how much student debt she'd amassed ($130,000) and how much she earned in 2014 (read the book); whereas Austin Kleon declines to say how much he makes. Susan Orlean also refuses, but admits that she's actually a shrewd businesswoman and negotiator. Lauren Weiner describes what it's like to make bank as a novelist dismissed by the critics and Jonathan Franzen explains why he doesn't like writers who are great at promoting themselves. I found myself relating to many of these pieces, while others stopped me in my tracks. Harmony Holiday's essay Love for Sale is a standout piece from the margins that questions the role white privilege and and capitalism in squashing freedom of expression. I found myself arguing with Sarah Smarsh, whose choice to leave a safe career in academia I found to be stupid and ill-advised, only to be left wondering what it was about her piece that provoked such a visceral reaction.

  29. 5 out of 5

    David

    eclectic format [some interviews, some career retrospectives, some close examinations of a single topic such as the economics of ad-supported websites, or ghostwriting, or.....] for a bunch of brief contributions by working writers on theme of supporting oneself as a writer. Most of the contributors are novelists or poets -- may have dabbled in journalism at some point. No real representation at all of academic writing or issues therein such as the rapid rise of open-access publication in which t eclectic format [some interviews, some career retrospectives, some close examinations of a single topic such as the economics of ad-supported websites, or ghostwriting, or.....] for a bunch of brief contributions by working writers on theme of supporting oneself as a writer. Most of the contributors are novelists or poets -- may have dabbled in journalism at some point. No real representation at all of academic writing or issues therein such as the rapid rise of open-access publication in which the money flows the "wrong" way (not only do you not get paid for articles, you pay to publish them). Any position at all on questions such as "should you quit your day job and go all in on your writing, or should you write in the time left over from your steady, health-insurance-providing gig?", "should you go into debt to get an MFA, or is that a waste of time and money compared to just practicing your writing?", "do you have to schmooze and self-promote, or is it ultimately about the greatness of your work?", and "is the Internet opening up new possibilities or killing off the old remunerative publication structure?" can be justified by citing one or another anecdote from this collection. All told, it's probably more useful as inspiring (or discouraging, depending on prior expectations) behind-the-scenes stories for aspiring writers rather than how-to; few of them really describe in detail how they marketed themselves, what pitfalls to avoid, etc. I did pick up one handy new phrase, though, to "earn out" an advance against royalties. I got an advance for my one and (so far!) only book, an abnormal psychology text, that Jonathan Franzen apparently considers small. It was, however, enough that I was deathly afraid of having to pay it, or a large fraction of it, back if the book didn't sell. I remember being thrilled to receive the royalty statement that indicated i was off the hook and had made back the entire advance....and then slightly let down later to infer from books like this one that even if you don't earn it out the publisher does not actually come around and threaten to break your legs. If you're naive as I was about royalties, read this book as a starting point in your education.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Knobby

    This book was simultaneously interesting and depressing. Interesting, because I learned a whole lot about publishing and money that had previously been a mystery to me, and depressing because it doesn't really seem like a lucrative field unless you're one of the lucky few who get struck by lightning. Some interesting tidbits: even after Cheryl Strayed sold Torch, she qualified for food stamps? (She said she didn't take them, because she put herself in the situation of having higher education degr This book was simultaneously interesting and depressing. Interesting, because I learned a whole lot about publishing and money that had previously been a mystery to me, and depressing because it doesn't really seem like a lucrative field unless you're one of the lucky few who get struck by lightning. Some interesting tidbits: even after Cheryl Strayed sold Torch, she qualified for food stamps? (She said she didn't take them, because she put herself in the situation of having higher education degrees but stayed in NYC to eke out a living as a writer.) Jennifer Weiner writes that she has a ton of money from her books, but she is panned critically and she views her success as a fairy-tale bargain (riches but no respect). Though, she muses, would it be better if she had respect as a writer but was struggling at the poverty line? I learned about a few other writers because of this anthology: Sarah Smarsh, whose work I want to know better; and Malinda Lo. Laura Goode made me want to seek out her movie Farah Goes Bang based on the one screenwriting inclusion in this book. I also really want to see more from Mallory Ortberg, whose piece on buying a house when you're making a living as a writer made me laugh out loud. I also nodded along to Daniel José Older's article about diversity in books ("Lack of racial diversity is a symptom. The underlying illness is institutional racism."). A great blockquote: But let's go back to this: "it's not for you to relate to!" Write that in the sky. And it's true — often, as writers of color, to portray our stories in all their vibrant authenticity, in all their difficult truth, means we're not writing for editors and agents, we're writing past them. We're writing for us, for each other. (p. 239) There were a few pieces I found tedious and ended up skipping (won't name whose) but overall a good read.

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