Novelists Don’t Collect a Paycheck

And that means we writers need day jobs. I still collect a paycheck from my career teaching math, science, and economics. But the essence of a paycheck is this: you are being paid for your time, whether per hour, or every two weeks, annually, whatever.

And you can only be paid for your time once. Then it’s gone.

Robert Kiyosaki, in his once-trendy but now all-but-forgotten pop-finance book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, proposed that wealthy people don’t get paid for their time. They get paid for owning “assets” — stocks, bonds, real estate, intellectual property — things that pay you just because you own them. (You can reject Kiyosaki as overhyped, but his book made a huge impact on me.)

As I was reading it, I was floored by the realization that a novel is an asset. (Specifically, intellectual property.) A good novel behaves as if it were a share of valuable stock, paying the writer royalties exactly as a stock share pays dividends. I started viewing my body of work as if it were an investor’s portfolio.

Suppose you’ve published a couple of novels and are earning a little, say a dollar a day, in royalties. Congratulations, you’re a small-time indie author. Now, a good income stock might pay dividends of one percent per share per year, so to get that same dollar a day from a stock portfolio, it would have to be worth over $36,000.

Now, you can’t cash out! But it’s interesting… because which would you rather do? Scrape together leftover pennies from your paycheck to buy assets a little at a time, Kiyosaki-style? Or be an artistic, tortured, wild-eyed novelist?

I vote novelist. Much more fun. Oh, and if you use your author royalties to buy assets, you ace the class.

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3 Responses to Novelists Don’t Collect a Paycheck

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