Today I'd like to address a topic that has come up repeatedly in the letters and comments I receive. Readers all too often suggest that ancient astronaut theorists and their skeptics are morally equivalent because both sides are simply spouting theories in exchange for money. Many readers have the impression that writing a skeptical book about a fringe topic is a ticket to a McMansion, a Humvee, and a gold-plated toilet.
I hate to disabuse anyone, but it simply isn't true.
Almost no one can earn a sustainable living off debunking ancient astronaut theorists. Most skeptics have one or more day jobs to pay the bills so they can devote their (limited) free time to writing about ancient history because they feel a genuine passion for history and feel deeply offended when self-proclaimed "theorists" do violence to the past through their unethical and untrue theories. A good number of skeptics are professors because they have the job security and the time off needed to write books and do research. Others, like me, are freelancers who have whole other lives that have nothing to do with archaeology or the occult or anything alien.
And we're not getting rich off it.
Prometheus Books, the publisher of my Cult of Alien Gods, pays royalties on a sliding scale based on format and wholesale price. I average $0.24 per copy sold. Trust me, twenty-four cents isn't really doing wonders for my bank account. (Other publishers pay more; my other publisher, McFarland, pays 10% of the cover price, for example. My horror genre books outpace my profits from Cult 10-to-1.) Unless one sells tens of thousands of books, or owns one's own publishing house, writing books is no gravy train. Similarly, skeptical journals like Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer do not pay for articles. I'm often asked why I don't publish more in those journals, and that's the answer: We all have to eat; I need to make money, and there are only so many hours in the day. Finally, TV and radio shows do not typically pay for interviews, so that is another prestigious but financially empty honor. Every interview a skeptic gives is a day away from the work where they actually make money.
But do you know who does make money off ancient astronaut theories? Let me tell you:
* This is why History is moving Ancient Aliens to H2. It's so cheap to produce that if it draws only a fraction of its 1.5 million weekly viewers on the smaller channel, it will produce massive profits for the struggling H2 channel.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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