You want fries with that?

The Wall Street Journal must have read my last post, since the front page today featured this article: Authors Feel Pinch in Age of E-Books. I’ll highlight some of the salient points, but I highly recommend going directly to the source and reading the whole article.

It could be construed as – uh – a little depressing, especially for as-yet unpublished writers hoping for a Big Bucks contract with Random House or Doubleday so they can write full-time.

In a nutshell: Don’t quit your day job.

The chances of getting this dream book contract are pretty slim, but you already know that. The big publishers focus on the books and authors they think will be blockbusters (can you say Nicholas Sparks?) and the rest of us/them – eh. Not so much. Or not at all. It’s all about the money, right now, not about supporting emerging writers.

I was surprised to see how big a cut the publishers take for a hardcover book. I guess this is why books don’t go directly into paperback (which I prefer to hardcover, since I like to carry one with me, go to the beach, spill coffee on it, and it’s just easier with a paperback).

But look how big a cut the publisher gets on an e-book right now! Just plain greedy, in my (e or not) book. Seems to me like a 50/50 split would be fairer to the author, and that’s assuming a publisher doing some marketing and publicity for the book.

The entire publishing industry is evolving, and this is probably good for those of us who might have a worthwhile-but-no-blockbuster book in the works. The comments on the WSJ article are thought-provoking as well.

A lot more independent, small press and self-publishing (paper and electronic) ventures are in the works, I think, and it might be pretty darn exciting to be part of that.


12 comments to You want fries with that?

  • OMG, tell me that article’s not as alarming as it seems. Obviously, it costs publishers almost nothing to produce the e-version, so it’s clear they’re taking such a huge cut of the ebook sales to make up for the drop in hardcopy sales.

    I nearly swallowed my tongue at this part: “In some cases, independent publishers are picking up the slack by signing promising literary-fiction writers. But they offer, on average, $1,000 to $5,000 for advances, a fraction of the $50,000 to $100,000 advances that established publishers typically paid in the past for debut literary fiction.”

    Why oh why wasn’t I a debut author “in the past”? I had no idea they got that big an advance.

    At this point, I suppose I’d be happy to sell to a small-publisher. And I’m no longer aghast at the idea of self-publishing. Heck, if I could get an “in” on the publicity side, I’d self-publish tomorrow. Uh … well, no I wouldn’t. I’d have to get feedback from a dozen more beta-readers before I had the confidence my novel was ready. But then I would go for it. 🙂

    • Natasha

      I think small and self-publishing are becoming more and better options, especially for literary fiction. And I think it can be a good thing, too, depending on how it shakes out. But we can help shake it out in good ways, which is exciting!

      And, yeah, I’m with you on the thought of being a break-through newcomer with the big advance back in the good old days. We blew it on that. 😉

  • Interesting, very, very interesting. I think I’ll stick with my blogging. I don’t make a penny (except when I’m rewarded for speaking well of a product and of course that’s a form of compensation) although I invest a fair amount of time on my posts. The great advantage is that I’m not ripped to shreds or judged and on top of that I get to hang out with great folks like you.

    • Natasha

      It is a great reward and advantage to hang out with fellow bloggers, I’ll agree, Shaddy. Even if I’m not slurping on an Edy’s bar right now.

      oh. wait. in the freezer, even if I DID have to buy them myself….they’re still the best.

      • I’m still eating Edy’s fruit bars like a little pig. I rarely eat just one. Normally I have at least three before I’m content. Good grief, but thank God they’re only 80 calories each.

  • I’ll be glad when all of this fog settles and there is a clear path for writers that ends at the stoop of the door to success.

    Countless hours of creativity slip through my hands every time the industry shifts and I begin to worry about what’s next. I’d like to block it out, but I can’t. I. Just. Can’t.

    • Natasha

      I think there will never be a ‘clear path’ unless people are willing to clear it themselves. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Especially if you think of it as just another aspect of creativity.

  • […] give credit where credit is due, Natasha’s post titled, You Want Fries With That? should receive proper credited for this rant. So please pop over and show her your support. Authors […]

  • I’m already feeling down about writing today, and your post was the nail in my coffin. I’m kidding, of course.

    But really, it is a downer whenever I read things like this. I try not to focus on it and just center in on my writing and improving it. But every time I go to look into something my work somewhere, I am reminded that it’s an ugly time to try and be a published writer.

    • Natasha

      Gah. I actually think it’s an exciting time to be writing and that there are a bunch of options for writers as long as we’re not dead-set on a Random House two-book deal with the six-figure advance. (Mind you, I wouldn’t turn it down if it appeared miraculously at my door.)

      Small, independent publishers, self-publishing, e-publishing, print-on-demand, who knows what else in the future. Look at how easy it is now to do a classy blog… I have read so much fantastic short fiction on blogs and e-zines that I would never otherwise have found, that people couldn’t easily share five years ago.

      I don’t know how or if this will translate into being able to make a decent living as a writer, but the concept of the ‘starving artist’ is not new. I think it’s a lot easier and cheaper to self-publish now than it used to be, for example, and whatever stigma self-publishing used to have is beginning to dissipate.

      I think that can only be positive. At least, I hope so. 🙂

  • Natasha – I love your take on the “situation”. Nothing will stop us from writing, getting better at our craft, and continuing to submit when we are ready. I also have found amazing work on blog sites and e-zines that keep me excited about this endeavor.

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