April 2, 2013

Have clippers, will travel

 MANY MORE PEOPLE would be sailing around the world if they could figure out a satisfactory way of earning money as they go. One of the suggestions that comes up quite often is to write about your experiences for yachting magazines and book publishers.

Well, all I can say is this: Don’t sail away with the idea that you can write your way around the world before you’ve done some thorough research. Lin Pardey, one of the best-known modern cruising authors, once told me she reckoned you’d need six or seven books in print before you could live modestly off the proceeds.

If you write a book that sells for $15 you’ll likely get publisher’s royalties of about 10 percent. A boating best seller in the USA is generally taken to be one that sells 10,000 copies or more. So the most a new author is likely to make, over a number of years, is $15,000. And remember, the field is very crowded with would-be authors willing to accept less than you, just to get their names in print. With the help of the Internet, every sailor and his mate can write a personal blog, and e-magazines will happily publish them without giving you any payment at all. In fact, everyone with a PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone now expects to get everything in the way of news and entertainment from the Internet for free, so there is little public support for professional writers who complain nobody wants to pay real money for their products any more.

Even writing for the well-established print magazines is a total crapshoot. I have sent articles to two of the largest sailing magazines in the United States and waited more than a year for a reply in each case. The payment magazines offer for an article of 2,000 words with pictures varies from $100 to $1,000, depending on the publication’s prestige, circulation, and bankroll.

So if writing is a write-off, what else can you do while cruising? Well, marketable skills more likely to produce a cruising income are the ability to repair diesel engines, fridges, watermakers, SSB and satellite radios, computers, and electronic instruments, together with general yacht repairs, yacht deliveries, sailmaking, varnishing, and — says cruising author Don Casey — cutting hair.

Today’s Thought
No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.
— Samuel Johnson, (Boswell, Life 1776)

“Darling, the bank has returned our check.”
“Oh, wow, that’s great. What shall we buy with it this time?”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

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