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November 19, 2009
It has been pointed out to me that I may have underestimated the impact of some of Lynn Viehl's hypotheticals in yesterday's Blink. Although the statement she posted is indeed a factual description of her income, the column surrounding it has several big "if"s in the middle that I glossed over on first read.
First, she's confused about what qualifies someone for food stamps. Federal poverty guidelines appear to be based on adjusted gross income, not net income. Her AGI is well above poverty level even with just one book.
Second, there's an assumption that this one-book-per-year gig is the sole source of income for a family of four. I don't know Ms. Viehl's personal situation but I think it's safe to say that anyone who is sole support for a family of four is probably holding down either multiple jobs (one of which may indeed be "writer") or is trying for a job with a predictable income large enough to feed said family, and writing is far from a predictable income stream. Finally, even if one is a full-time writer, one has other sources of income available such as speaking fees, and possibly royalties from other books.
That does not mean Ms Viehl's column is wholly misleading; at base I think she's trying to give people a more realistic view of writing for a living. You can't just take one number - the advance - and draw conclusions from it.
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