Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Are books dead, and can authors survive?

Here is a discussion about the future of publishing and writers.

Already, in the world, on the Internet, there is enough free media to take a man from cradle to grave. We can watch non-stop free movies and videos, listen to non-stop free music, play non-stop free videogames, and NEVER run out of free content for our entire lives.
And yet movies, TV, videogames, music, along with books and porn, continue to make billions of dollars worldwide. Even though all this free stuff already exists.
While the future will no doubt offer more free content, the whole "race to the bottom" is fear-mongering BS.
Newsflash: We're already at the bottom. And artists are still making money.

Granted it's a complex issue, but I think there are many good points put forward in this article. There's no evidence that advances by publishers is the only way authors can make a living. In fact I've already heard of many writer who have only gotten affluent after starting self-publishing digitally. I don't know exactly how many, and I doubt anybody have collected reliable statistics on it yet. But it's clearly enough to be at least strong anecdotal evidence.

We should not forget  that also before e-publishing, it was only one book in thousands written which got published, and only one in thousands being published which made good money. I heard the statistic of 200,000 books traditionally published annually in the US, and only 300 of those selling more than 50,000 copies! That's less than one in fifty.

And while, if you were one of the few chosen to be taken under the wing by a publisher, sometimes they gave important support, they also take a big, big bite of the cake. And they often take 1.5 years to put out a book. All the while I'm told from many sources that these days, they don't even promote the book most of the time, they expect the author to do that.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me the same thing will happen with ebooks. You'll end up with a survival of the fittest kind of thing where a few authors (even if it's hundreds or thousands) will be the ones selling and it'll end up difficult to break in there as it is in "traditional" (or what was it some guy called it - legacy publishers or something?) publishing.

Still, ebooks are probably more suited to thrillers and any kind of writing that can be churned out - anything based on a formula. Guys like Cussler and Clancy won't do it though as ebooks alone won't earn them enough.*

*I also can't help wondering - if ebooks eventually so dominate that almost no paper books are made anymore, how long until the cost goes up to what a good hardcover costs now? They'd have us all over a barrel then, really.

Anonymous said...

Joe Konrath is a talentless hack with a SERIOUS chip on his shoulder. I made the mistake of buying one ofhis books - I'd like my time and money back, please.

Anonymous said...

He does actually seem to be a hack. I looked up a few of his novels on Amazon. Take this from the opening page of "A Shot of Tequila":

Chico was a small-time hustler and big-time loser who liked to bet the ponies and hit women.

I can kind of see why this guy hates the "legacy" publishers.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I admit that sentence sounds hacky. But he was already a success with traditional publishers. And if he's a hack, I don't see that standing in the way of his making a good point.

Anonymous said...

he was already a success with traditional publishers

I know, but it's hard to believe based on the quality of his writing.

if he's a hack, I don't see that standing in the way of his making a good point

Maybe not, but it would be nice to have a better writer making the same point.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Sure. Sadly it seems the best writers are too busy struggling with their art to write *about* it.

(Or in the case of Neal Stephenson, too busy pumping out endless and countless 1000-page novels like a rabbit mother.)