Publishers have been forced to protect their profits by reducing
costs throughout their businesses. At first this meant redundancies,
consolidation and cutting production costs. But such have been the
rapacious demands of retailers that publishers have been forced to save
money on the riskiest part of their business: books. That’s why authors
are feeling the pinch.
Midlist authors who had sold in steady but unspectacular numbers
felt the impact first. Their sales were undermined by the decline in
library budgets. Once sales to these institutions fell away, they
became far less attractive to large publishing houses, the economics of
which make small books that sell in the few hundreds unsustainable.
Large publishers scythed through their lists.
[…] "The market has shrunk dramatically," says agent Luigi Bonomi.
"Advances are either very big or very small with nothing in the
middle." Orion paid £800,000 for Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth
Tale; but according to the Society of Authors, the harsh truth is that
the average advance rarely climbs above £12,000 for a two-book deal,
and authors’ annual incomes are under pressure – the average author
earns less than £7,000 a year.
In a somewhat related item, GRADUATE author Charles Webb is bankrupt.
Charles Webb, the novelist who based the couple on himself and his
long-term female partner, Fred, wrote the basis for a hugely successful
film but made one serious tactical error. He accepted a £14,000 one-off
payment for his work, and then watched the film take £60 million at the
box office. The wise generally go for the percentage, but material
wealth, he says defensively, has never meant much to him. It is just that he could do with some right now.
Webb and Fred, who settled in Britain six years ago after
emigrating from America, received a letter from their landlord last
week telling them to expect an eviction notice because they are two
months behind in their rent. Webb is hoping that a well-wisher will
offer them a place to stay while he finds a buyer for his latest works.