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Cauty and Drummond and DeWitt

In their classic The Manual: How to Have a Number One the Easy Way, Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond emphasize that having a #1 record might make you (somewhat) famous but it probably won’t make you rich. I was thinking about this the other day after seeing The Last Samurai on someone’s shelf. It’s a cult classic (if not a #1) but it didn’t make its author rich. Life is much easier for those who are lucky enough to have permanent jobs.

3 Comments

  1. fraac says:

    Helps if you don't set fire to all your earnings.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K_Foundation_Burn_a_

  2. jonathan says:

    The money depends. A recording artist, not a songwriter might make less than 6 figures from a single hit. He/she might even be in "debt" to the record company, though that is mostly a carryover against future royalties (however iffily accounted). A songwriter can make a healthy living off a hit because he/she gets that royalty, so a hit song that gets covered, that gets air play year after year in normal rotation, can generate 6 figure earnings. The songwriter benefits from not having the debt to the record company that the recording artist has.

  3. Helen DeWitt says:

    The hell of it is.

    A while back I had yet another polite wrangle with my then agent, Bill Clegg. Bill was wildly unkeen about giving me intellectual profiles of editors, which I saw as crucial to making an informed decision on which book to finish first. I had shown Bill the proposal for Risk, a book for which I'd been given a Guggenheim Fellowship, and he was keen – but not keen enough to overcome his aversion to telling me about editors.

    I explained to Bill: Look, just THINK what an asset to the book it would be if Andrew Gelman were its editor! Bill pooh-poohed. Time went by. I wrestled with an array of plots of the binomial distribution in R, crucial to the book Bill said everyone wanted to see. Balked, I turned to someone who, as things stand, would not get any kind of share of the loot: my (ahem) very dear friend Andrew Gelman. Who, within a day, sent a fabulously elegant block of code which was just what was needed.

    There are times when a permanent job looks so very good. The fact is, though, the real problem is there seems to be no mechanism within publishing for bringing in people with competence relevant to a book. If I could call on people with relevant skills as needed I could publish a book a year and there would be no need for a job; the security of a job is needed, really, only because the industry privileges the generalist.

    As Andrew has said in a previous post, good graphics are hard. It would be nice to see more of these in fiction. The sensible way to achieve this would be to bring in people who know not just how to produce them, but how they might best be used to enlighten. The alternative is wishful thinking: the idea that a book that works can be achieved by a writer living hand to mouth, relying on the kindness of strangers who happen to know their way around R. gR.

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