Had someone buy a book the other day who asked for me to write “To my gayest fan” in the front, which may seem a bit odd, but is really pretty normal compared to some of the odd requests I get (“Too Hatstand”). I love signing people’s books (makes me feel very much like a real writer), although I prefer people with names like Jo, or Loz or Jim (I had a ‘Bee’ last night - and when I asked what it was short for I was told ‘Bee’) rather than Yvonne, Nathaniel or Techwynn.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks/months/years, touring around talking about my book (I’m in Exeter tonight, Southampton tomorrow, Leeds the day after, then up to Inverness - a day off - then Manchester).
Had a bit of a stupid writers wobble last week, when it struck me what the actual monetary value of writing books full time is (well sort off full time). Writing as a hobby on top of a proper job is a great idea, but going for it full time is really more of an artistic enterprise - rather than a financial one. But when bills land on the mat and you have to pay your publisher for the books you’ve sold (writers buy books at a 50%), made me realise that it’s fine calling yourself a writer, but unless you sell a lot of books (a writer typically makes less than 10% of the cover price), really it’s not a career at all. Really the only way to make money from books (beyond the odd windfall) is selling them yourself (5:1 income ratio between that and royalties). Making DVD’s or talking is a much better way to make a living, and with all jobs these days the best thing is to do everything! And so I spent a few days grumbling how hard life was as a writer, and that I should have just banged out a bag of shite and stuck my advance in the bank for more holidays to talk about.
But then you start getting emails from people who are profoundly touched by your book, meet people at talks who seem to see a bit of magic that goes far beyond a book about climbing, even people had cried when they read it (as well as laughed out loud). This got me out of my stupid bread head funk. Like your kids, this thing you make is never finished but must eventually have a life of its own. A sounds pretentious but a book is more than you, more than just something you just made, and is infused with that of the reader, creating something more than just a story of words. It goes out into the world and has a life all of it’s own.
Money is a short term consideration (I won’t starve), and what really matters is integrity, that you can stand by what you wrote ten or twenty years ago and not wish you’d put the words before the money.
Anyway got an email this morning from my ‘gayest fan’ asking if I could possibly send him another book. It seems there was some miscommunication in the noisy theatre and he actually asked for the more traditional “My greatest fan” (If there are any gay fans out there please get in touch).
A Snickers bar costs 60p. Were these words worth as much?
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Andrew Kirkpatrick is a British mountaineer, author, motivational speaker and monologist. He is best known as a big wall climber, having scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 30+ times, including five solo ascents, and two one day ascents, as well as climbing in Patagonia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica and the Alps.Follow @ Instagram