What do they live off? I imagine it’s hard enough for British authors to make a (decent) living off book sales. But at least Britain has a few prospective book buyers, and the English language should also make a book somewhat easier to sell elsewhere.
But a small language like Swedish? There are plenty of authors here. And the Swedes are big book buyers, but how many authors can they support?
Thirty years ago I was at university with someone who had just had a novel published. Let’s call him SG. He was good looking and very full of himself. Whenever I think of him, I also think of KÖ, another good looking novelist of the same age. Both are still writing. KÖ is very successful, and I assume can live off his trade. But I do wonder about SG. I’ve seen his (remaindered) books grace the shelves at IKEA.
Even if book prices in Sweden are a lot higher than in the UK, much smaller sales must mean much less pay. I should have checked my facts before writing, but I believe the government pays some sort of “artistic” money to authors, to keep language and culture going. I don’t know how much, but it makes sense.
Astrid Lindgren probably didn’t have to worry about sales. But a few decades ago she made the headlines over taxes. Swedes do pay an awful lot of tax, but when Astrid ended up paying (I think) 102%, she thought it was too much, and she kicked up a fuss.
Maybe it’s those 102% that now helps keep other authors going?