Being a writer is not such a glorious occupation, I’m afraid. With many people viewing books as a cheap commodity, the thinking of the general public has most certainly changed. Let’s go back sixty years. Books were our lifelines to the world of knowledge. It wasn’t possible for most people to travel. Books were our ways of experiencing different lands and cultures. Books were our guides in many fields of expertise, whether it be in the worlds of science, math or the arts.
At one point of time, books fetched a good price and it was considered to be well read if you had a good library. Books had lovely bindings and leather coverings and the design exquisite. Now there is a lot of competition. Books have to face their own nemesis. The internet. The art of reading physical books is a dying trend, with many libraries closing down all over the country. With many people turning to the convenience of the internet for all their queries, authors have had to keep up with the times. This means that many books have been digitalized and made available to the public who want the ease of reading a book without carrying the weight around.
However this has also given rise to eBooks. Authors are writing less, but are getting paid a lot less than what they deserve. Royalties towards the authors are falling while the profits of the big monopolies in the publishing world are increasing. There doesn’t seem to be anything positive about it. Also, earlier, publishers had to do a lot more. This meant that even though the writer did all the content work, the publisher hired a good editor, looked after the publishing, marketing and the promotional aspects of the book.
A book gets sold only with good marketing. There was a lot of work post writing, so we have to give the publishing houses credit for that. However, with the advent of eBooks – much of these problems were eliminated. There was no question of physically publishing the books at a factory somewhere. Storage and rental of warehouses was not a problem and even selling them to stores was not such a big deal. True, they sold for a fraction of the price, but with having only a fraction of the costs, it seems justified. Yet, the authors receive only a fraction of the profits.
Writers are finding themselves in a tougher world where success is everything. Even well published writers who have had earlier success depend upon the success of their latest book or have the risk of being dropped by their publishers. The market is bending towards a more polarized trend with only the top 5% of professional authors raking in 42.3% of the total earnings of professional authors in 2013. As the publishers become more cautious, they are less willing to take risks.
This means that they focus only on writers and brands that are doing well in the market and ignoring the midlist. Even writers who are reaching the end of their careers find it difficult to get back control from the publishers even when their books are falling out of print.
However, one cannot blame the publishing houses alone. It is a downward market shift, one where margins are constantly being squeezed which is causing the sales of fiction books to be dropped consistently over the years. In the end, the only way for the creative industry to succeed is if everyone works together as an industry. Most importantly of all, it should be seen that writers receive their fair share to.