A Writer’s Life for Me?

July 9th, 2008

More and more I’m considering that writing is best as a hobby than a career. Rats in the Slushpile makes a convincing argument based on the fickleness and random nature of the publishing industry, but (as if that weren’t enough) I came across the TIME magazine article How Writers Live. It paints a realistic picture of what awaits the majority of writers. Here’s my salient & sobering synopsis:

  1. The number of books published per year has doubled in the last 100 years. Fewer than half now sell more than 5000 copies.
  2. Author royalties are dropping, from 20% a decade ago to an average of 12% now
  3. Advances are smaller than a decade ago (average $1500)
  4. As a result of all this, the number of part-time authors who want to create, but don’t want an impoverished existence (like myself) is on the increase.
  5. As a result of that the average length of time to produce a novel has moved from one year to three years.

All in all, it sounds to me like there is a shift occurring in the publishing industry. The shifting strategy adopted by the publishing industry seems to be to sign-up many authors quickly for as little as possible and drop them just as quickly when they yield no profit, and to adopt ghost writers to pen to order cookie cutter clones of marketable fiction or celebrity non-fiction. Could it be that this strategy is inducing a shift in strategy by authors too, authors who are no longer content to create for such dubious rewards, but rather choose to empower themselves with the new tools of the internet and a flexible part-time writing lifestyle?

Could it be that the publishing industry is killing the golden goose? Or perhaps publishers are simply taking the steps necessary to ensure their survival in a global, competitive environment. On the face of it, it could be claimed that this is leading to a suffocation of human artistic endeavor, but upon closer examination, I think that it is a positive thing because it is leading to a profusion of cottage industry type publishing.

A diversity of many creative voices, which would otherwise be stifled by commercial homogeneity, can only be a good thing for our future.

Entry Filed under: Indie-Publishing,Writing

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