In 2016, Literary and Fine Art Still Pay Good Money

By Julie Sevigny

Novelist and poet, Roman Payne, gives hope to lovers of literature

Roman Payne on the banks of the Seine in Paris, along with the literary quote he is most famous for.

Imagine the world when Literature was central to everyone’s lives.  In the 19th Century, the father would read Shakespeare (or “The Book of Revelation,” or Edgar Allen Poe) to their families at night.  It’s sad to think that in 2016, the only Shakespeare quote a person might know is, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”  And we have the “greeting card” to thank for that (a phenomenon that only rose to mass popularity when modern color lithography was invented in the 1930s).

The 1930s was also the decade of “talkies” (or, films with sound), which made Hollywood glitter with gold while libraries became dulled with dust.  Ever since that time, the most money paid for words went to writers of either movies or TV programs, to the clever scribblers of (cheesy) greeting cards.

We are happy to report, however, that old-fashioned poets are still cashing in on “high art”—that’s right, everything from literary-fiction novels to couplets and sonnets, are still making a pretty penny.

Novelist and poet, Roman Payne—an American-born writer who moved to Paris when he was old enough to leave home, and who now lives in the exotic country of Morocco in North Africa—is one such writer who has made a good living from non-commercial literature.  Payne has coined literary phrases for prices as high as $7,000 per word!  Take this well-known three-line minor poem by Roman Payne:

She was free in her wildness.

She was a wanderess, a drop of free water.

She belonged to no man and to no city.

…has earned the poet over $150,000 since it was written in 2013 as part of his fifth novel, “The Wanderess.”  Still, unlike greeting card writers (who turn out catchy-phrases like money-making monkeys), Payne admits he couldn’t possible write even a single word if money was the only thing being offered:

“I often spend months in bed during phases when I am not inspired to create,” says Payne, “When companies learn of this poetic inactivity, they often come to me with offers of money to get me writing things they can use […] they don’t realize that such acts of artless commercialism only make me less-inspired, stomping out all of my creative desires and intensify the inactivy.  I feel like telling these businessmen: “Try bringing me a muse sometime.  Then I will give you beauty.”

Roman Payne was an oil-painter before he was a writer.  He attended Seattle’s most prestigious private school of fine arts: Cornish College.  His visual art talent is currently being used to beautify a hotel he took over in the historic “Medina” of the Moroccan city of Marrakech.  The hotel owner wanted something of “special beauty,” which he can give to his baby son in 20 years when he comes of age.  Thus he engaged the literary and visual artist to make a palace of an old Moroccan riad.  Payne’s first move was to build an elegant Moorish fountain in the courtyard which he turned into a garden where exotic trees breathe fresh air and life into the riad’s interior courtyard.

Payne’s creation in his new boutique hotel in Marrakech, Morocco: A Moorish fountain with courtyard garden. An installation valued at $100,000 USD.

For more about Roman Payne, please visit his website:, search his quotes on, or check out his latest novel:

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