Scratch
edited by Manjula Martin
Simon & Schuster

Anyone thinking of making a career out of writing should read Scratch before they give up that job that pays the rent. Manjula Martin’s aim in her anthology is to demystify the financial side of being a writer. As one of her interviewees, Cheryl Strayed, says: there’s no other job in the world that may make you zilch or US$5 million. Strayed is more candid than most about how and what she was paid for her first novel – her US$100,000 advance for Torch was split into four cheques over four years worth US$21,000, after her agent’s fees but before tax. Most other writers haven’t been as lucky, or as forthcoming. Susan Orlean laments the lack of a system­ised pay scale for her profession. The most she has ever been paid for a freelance gig? US$3 a word. The least? Zero. Other notable appearances in Scratch – which is patchy in parts, practical in others – include Nick Hornby, who, while not revealing exactly how much he made from About a Boy, says that it was a seven-figure sum that changed his life. He also has this to say about non-genre books: “I actually don’t think it’s possible to make that kind of money any more.”