Monday, July 13, 2009

publishing is dead, I'm grinning

Buckle up, it's going to be a bumpy ride... Yee ha!

I've just read this Times article about the depths serious historians are having to plumb in this terrible economy. They're having to resort to...fiction. Poor sad things.

Authors are seeing advances reduced to a quarter of what they could have expected two years ago as publishers react to the recession by minimising risks.

Among the hardest hit are historians, who have found that books that would previously have earned them an advance of £120,000 are now commanding only £30,000. Some academics have turned from serious history to historical fiction to earn more money.

I can't imagine anything worse for the little lambs. Fiction, eh? Their reputations are ruined!

Yes, behind the Entitled R Us surface (“There is a dangerous tendency among historians to slide into historical fiction, which must be avoided at all costs...”) lies a serious point: literary advances aren't what they used to be. I've spent the last few days pondering economics--looking at industry P&Ls and making sure I understand emotionally as well as intellectually that publishing as we know it is dead. It is. Extinct, gone to its maker, an ex-parrot industry. (Go look at those numbers. Things are worse now--higher discounts, higher returns, lower buy-ins, pressure towards lower prices.)

At some point I'll take some guesses at how the new model/s will work, or won't work, but for now I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that the career I've aimed for since I was 25 (think of a book, outline the book, get paid enough to live on while I write the book, publish the book, earn extra from foreign rights, book club, royalties, think of another book...) no longer exists. I have no doubt, zero, that I'll be able to make my way in the new world; I just don't know what that looks like, exactly. It feels... Well, it feels scary but cool. The rules have changed, the gloves are off, buckle up it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Strangely, I'm grinning.

Update: here's an interesting link.

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