Maybe I Should Have Gone Into the Furniture Business Afterall…

It isn’t easy making a living as a writer…and it’s getting harder, as the Independent reports (via POD-dy Mouth). Here are some excerpts:

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.

(via Bookslut via The Guardian)

6 thoughts on “Maybe I Should Have Gone Into the Furniture Business Afterall…”

  1. Same song, just another verse. Hasn’t this been said for the last 25 years? 35 years? 50 years?
    Maybe it’s true. If you listen to what everybody says about the book business, it’s clear that the publishers are all going broke and out of business, editors will soon be living on Alpo, writers will all be licking the lids of the Alpo cans just to keep from starving.
    Sure. Bertellsman’s just about ready for receivership; Rupert Murdoch’s selling his yacht on EBay at a loss; Time-Warner is trading in their Aeron chairs for folding metal chairs; Disney/Hyperion is down to 3 dwarves and counting; Penguin’s about to charge for ice cubes; St. Martin’s Press is no longer going to even bother publishing at all.
    Oh woe is us.
    My advice to all you aspiring writers or currently employed writers who are dishearted by this news: quit.
    It’ll mean less competition for the rest of us.
    Mark Terry

  2. What a timely post. My wife just called to say we’re overdrawn and could I put some heat on one of my freelance clients who owe me a check.
    Fortunately, I’ve just landed a six-month gig writing medical brochures for 16 bucks an hour.
    Yeah, it’s a tough way to make a buck.

  3. “…the economics of which make small books that sell in the few hundreds unsustainable.”
    Wait a minute… publishers aren’t interested in books that are going to sell 300 copies? What the hell are they thinking?!

  4. Someday I would like to meet the mythical “average author” and find out why his earnings are so low.
    What’s he doing wrong?
    Or is it that the “average author” has a full-time job and just writes a bit on the side?

  5. My impression is that mid-list writers have always had it incredibly tough. But I think the mid-list writers of yesteryear were made of sterner stuff.
    Just look at a great writer like Dennis Lynds — he wrote under 5-6 names, and wrote in all sorts of different genres. including YA books.
    Lynds survived by being prolific and flexible. This is a skill that many mid-list writers of today sadly lack.

  6. Another sad thing is that there’s no great proliferation of MFA programs over here in the UK. At least in the states, if your career (or “career”) as a novelist is winding down, you can get a cushy job somewhere hanging out with the kids. Sure, the article talks about the “creative writing circuit” but again, I suspect it’s not as big as in the US.


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