Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Five years, that’s all we’ve got

Amid all the ballyhoo and hype surrounding World Book Day, I’ve been finding it hard, as a writer, to get excited. Don’t get me wrong - books are wonderful, life-changing things. I just worry about their future.

The more I read about the way the media in general, and publishing in particular, is heading, the more discouraged I get. A typical example is this recent blog post by David Hepworth, and in particular the proclamation by a literary agent that “within five years, no one, not authors, agents or publishers, will be able to make money out of books”.

It’s not that I ever expected to get rich out of writing novels, or even to make a living by doing so. I’m not stupid - I know that very few authors survive on advances and royalties alone. But if no one makes any money out of books, how will they get made? In a capitalist society where the profit motive reigns supreme, any product that doesn’t make money is effectively doomed, however beneficial to the public it might be.

This doomsday scenario is probably exaggerated to a certain extent, but I don’t doubt there’s a kernel of truth at its heart. The effects of the digital revolution are already there for all to see; music stores and record shops closing because they can’t compete with online retailers, who in turn are losing sales to illegal streaming and downloading…

If the only future for an unknown author is self-funded self-publishing, followed by the desperate scramble to find enough people willing to pay a few pence for the product of years of hard work that you might just cover your costs if you’re lucky, then you have to ask yourself: is it worth the effort?

No comments:

Post a Comment