Sunday, September 26, 2010

Digital Revolution Hits Writers in the Wallet.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the paradigm shift in the book publishing world, in which the emergence of Kindles, Nooks, Readers and computers is making the e-book the standard in book delivery. While digital downloads are good news for anyone with over-stuffed bookshelves and a tight budget (e-books rarely cost more than $15 while a new hardcover can cost from $25-$30), for writers it means that making a living with words is becoming less likely.
Frightened publishers are publishing less new authors, and when they do, advances are now much less than $15,000, when they used to be around $50,000 for a promising debut novel, reports the Journal.
"The bar is higher," says Jamie Raab, publisher of Lagardere SCA's Grand Central Publishing, which is buying less debut fiction than in prior years. Although launching debut titles is one of the most rewarding aspects of publishing, Raab says, "publishers are buying more selectively, agents are being more selective with choosing clients, and retailers are taking fewer titles."
E-book sales haven't reached the point where they can mean serious income for a writer, unless that writer is a brand name, like James Patterson, John Grisham or Stephen King. Literary writers, like John Pipkin, need to keep their day jobs. His first novel, Woodsburner  won several literary prizes and print sales of more than 10,000 copies, he has only sold 359 digital copies.

Pipkin, who has Ph.D in English Literature, says he cobbles together an income based in part on grants, fellowships and a partial advance he has received for his second book. "I've had to rethink my plans in terms of supporting my family full time as a writer," he says.

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