March 30, 2008

JERRY POURNELLE thinks that things are going to get tougher for writers:

Borders is up for sale, and Barnes and Noble are in trouble. Just the kind of news one needs to hear. The independent book stores have been pretty well finished off, with very few left and those mostly in trouble. Now the giants which have been in ruthless competition. And there’s still a great deal of fallout from the Sears / Kmart debacles.

We do live in interesting times. Authors may well have no choice but to build a stable of loyal Patrons/subscribers to assure themselves of enough income to be able to do large projects. Or be born with trust funds. In the 40′s, a sale to the Saturday Evening Post brought Stuart Cloete enough money — $4,000 for a short story, think about $35,000 now or what a short TV script brings — to let him write a novel. But that was back then when the Post was important. Now there’s nothing like that except in TV and you don’t get in over the transom.

Book advances keep falling. There’s still money in journalism and general science, but the computer magazines are thinner every issue.

Well, book advances aren’t falling for everybody. Politicians seem to do fine, as Deval Patrick just scored a $1.35 million book advance. People used to write books to advance their political careers. Now, it seems, you become a politician to ensure a hefty advance for your writing. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: Various readers think I’m not being obvious enough in pointing out that fat book contracts can be a way of circumventing campaign finance laws, etc. Yes they can! And reader Lee Willis emails:

I remember reading once that many science fiction authors like writing short stories, but it was difficult for them to find a market to sell them. One either has to package a collection of short stories as a book, or get the short-story published in a magazine.

This may no longer be true, b/c of the Amazon Kindle. You can buy individual short stories from Amazon for a buck or two. This may create a new market for short stories, which don’t have to bundled with a book or magazine.

Good point. I don’t know how much you get per reader via the Kindle, but an author with a following could self-publish and keep it all, I imagine.