Lately I’ve had a lot of discussions with writers about the shifting book market and our place within the publishing infrastructure. It’s the Wild West out there—every man for himself and plenty of dangerous pitfalls. In some ways, that’s a terrific thing for authors as we have more choices. In others, the influx of new publishers and the mentality of “everyone can publish” has brought a whole new rash of problems. Discoverability is one of them. But the biggest issue is one that will be difficult for us to recover from should it continue—the degradation of our worth as creatives.
Here are a few things I’ve learned that concern me:
Giveaways and price slashing is the most common method of generating buzz for books. Thing is, it works, to a point…But the industry has reached a whole new low when random people start emailing you asking for free copies of your book to help “promote” you and you’ve never heard of them or seen them in active book circles. Apparently authors should not only write the book, but pay for them to give away. Or there’s the other variety of leech that literally hops from one giveaway to the next and NEVER BUYS A BOOK, never writes reviews for them, and takes them straight to Ebay. True story.
Lower Advances: I can’t quote a percentage here as I don’t have the exact numbers but some astronomical percentage of authors never earn out their advances. That’s caused a bit of a backlash (along with plenty of other issues), and now publishers are less willing to take risks. They want their money back. In any event, that novel that took you three years to write just may earn you $5,000, which, after commission and taxes and book events and promotion will actually soak up every dime of that, and COST you money. Heh. Don’t quit your day job.