Economic Reality: The Novel

Weep! Weep for the authors!

Ever since the credit crunch of 2008 writers have been tightening belts, cutting back and, in extreme cases, staring into an abyss of penury.

Just like…everyone else? Yes, I believe so. Why should they be different, after all?

Thomson remembers exactly when this party came to a stop. He was at a publishing do in the autumn of 2008 and had fallen into conversation with Lee Braxton, an editor at Faber & Faber. “He told me,” he recalls, “and not for the first time, how much Faber would like to publish my work. And then he said, ‘But I can’t afford you.’ So I asked him what he would pay, and he named a figure for a two-book deal. That was the first time I noticed the drop in advances because the figure that he gave was only a fraction of what I’d been getting up to then. I went home and sat at the kitchen table and drew up a balance-sheet. I thought: I’m going to have to change the way I live.”

Yes. That’s what happens when things change. We adapt, or die. And the world has changed:

…that catalogue of woes commonly shared among writers today: book review sections cutting back; publishing houses worrying about the future; marketing types calling the shots; libraries closing; bookshops going out of business; the dread march of Amazon. Like many in this community, she also worries about the surge in social media, the rise of Facebook, Twitter and the blogosphere, ie internet sites where anyone can put up “free content”, either for pleasure or self-promotion, or from a confused mixture of both instincts.

Oh noes! This is worse than the plight of the buggywhip manufacturers!

Put these anxieties together and you have a picture of a way of life facing extinction. In summary, she says, “being a writer stopped being the way it had been for ages – the way I expected it to be – and became something different.”

Yes. That’s what happens. It’s called ‘progress’.

3 comments for “Economic Reality: The Novel

  1. ivan
    March 16, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Strange, how come many of the new authors are doing well by producing e-books themselves and selling them on Amazon and other e-book sites. I know of several SF authors that are making more money by self publishing than having their works published by a publisher even after they have paid for the editing.

  2. john in cheshire
    March 16, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    A lot of people in the Arts world believe that the rest of us owe them a living. I’m not sure why but it could be that the vast majority of them are socialists.

  3. Bunny
    March 16, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    I remember in 2009 two clients going bankrupt on me with no chance of me recovering a penny, I was in the red £250k (approx.), can I have an article whinging in the Guardian? No? Thought not. I am nearly in the black again and life is good, however a tale of misery caused by the dreaded banks would be the sort of thing they would publish.

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