The Great Reset for Authors

All the talk recently of The Great Reset got me thinking about what it all means for publishing. I’m undecided on whether this supposed reset will happen, or perhaps take a different form than what many people currently envisage. The prospect of it happening at all merits consideration of the potentially tumultuous consequences for all of human society.

The prospect of the mooted universal basic income intrigues me. We’ve seen the seeds of it in the pandemic furlough schemes**. Many writers already find it hard to make a living from their art, and have to augment with some other income anyway. So is UBI a potential boon for authors? For all “creatives”, for that matter.

People who can survive on a basic income from the State will need things to do with their time. The prospect of a large number of people at a loose end, without any obligation for participative contribution to society, is one that should worry us. But those who are perhaps naturally drawn to creative arts will see UBI as a means to an end, as a means to allow them to do the thing they most want and love to do – to create art for the greater good.

This may be no bad thing. Great writers who may not have otherwise come to light may emerge only because of UBI support, but a word of warning to any aspiring author in such a scenario – it will also mean lots of additional competition (for want of a better word) for the attention of publishing houses. Many more bored scribblers on UBI flooding the slush piles with their manuscripts might not be a thought that excites many in the publishing business at the moment! Those who can’t get publishing contracts will go the self publishing route (as if the amazon book lists aren’t already chock-full of indie publications diluting the attention of would-be readers too.)

On the bright side though, more people with more time on their hands means more people likely to pick up a book to read. So perhaps we can look forward to a reset in reading habits too, just as we saw during these pandemic lockdowns. More readers is good news for any publisher and ultimately for any author that can scramble to the top of the increasing slushpile.

** How these schemes will be paid for – or indeed whether they should be paid – in the longer term is a whole other discussion, but that’s a different post.

Add comment February 2nd, 2021

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