Maureen Callahan has written a must-read about how media, particularly social media, has contributed to the fabrication of glamorous lifestyles. In the piece, she uses anecdotes from the lives of fashion designer L’Wrenn Scott who tragically took committed suicide amidst alleged financial woes, celebrity photographer Annie Liebovitz who found herself near bankruptcy in 2009, Real Housewife of New York Alex McCord, and writer Emily Gould who earned a $200,000 advance in 2008. (A spokesperson for Scott says: “The figures quoted in the media regarding the financial status of LS Fashion Limited are not only highly misleading and inaccurate but also extremely hurtful and disrespectful to the memory of L’Wren Scott.”)
“People who don’t know think, ‘Oh! You’ve won the lottery!’ ” Gould explained to Callahan, but the reality is her lifestyle didn’t change much. Outside of shopping for new clothes and going out to better restaurants with a rich set of friends, she stayed in her one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment which cost her $1,700 a month.
Callahan breaks down the math:
• $200,000 in four installments: one-fourth upon signing, one-fourth upon acceptance of the manuscript, one-fourth upon hardcover publication, one-fourth one year later or upon paperback publication.
• 15 percent ($30,000) to her agent.
• After-tax take-home: about $45,000 a year, her original salary
When her memoir did not sell well — 8,000 copies, versus the 40,000 copies her publisher would have considered a success — Callahan says Gould “found herself jobless and broke…no longer [able to] afford to run with her more privileged friends.”
Today, she works at two startups and has sold a new novel called Friendship for $30,000. She says she hardly eats out, and no longer has a credit card.
“Now, when younger writers talk to me,” Gould told Callahan, “I tell them to get a job.”