Falling book prices could force authors to abandon their keyboards. That was the headline of an article by David Day, writing in The Age this week. David Day is a historian and biographer. He is also chairman of the Australian Society of Authors.

Response to falling book prices
Response to falling book prices


Some Australian authors make their entire living through creative writing. Think Tim Winton, Peter Carey, Richard Flanagan. Think Helen Garner. Kate Grenville. Writers like these may face a serious slump in their incomes.

Many factors are involved. Market pressures. Amazon and e-books and e-readers. Book store closures. Increasing book sales by giants like Target and Woolworths. Big-W is the largest bookseller in Australia. Or so I read somewhere recently.

Traditional publishing is contracting. Five major companies dominate the market. Independent publishers publish only those books they believe to be commercially viable. They can’t afford to take chances. Literary agents don’t want to take risks on unknowns. It is almost impossible for a new writer to attract attention.

Very few Australian authors  make their living through creative writing. They never have although some of them write outstanding books. Most writers depend on other work for their income. They teach, edit, work in offices, libraries and hospitals. They are journalists, politicians and copy-writers. Some are retired from the workforce. Others are unemployed.

A vibrant new culture is emerging due in part to falling book prices

Writers write. We can’t help ourselves. For most of us, falling book prices are not part of our life-concerns. We write in spite of the market. Most writers long for readers. To be recognised. We want to see our work in the public domain.

We’ve discovered traditional publishing is not the only path.

Now we are self-publishing print books in greater numbers. We’re publishing on Amazon and other e-platforms. We’re determined to find our audiences.  Some self-published writers are doing very well, too, thank you.

The non-traditional publishing industry is flourishing in Australia. It is now easy to self-publish. Print on demand means cheaper book prices. And writers get far more per copy than the 10% of the cover price in traditional royalties.

Self-publishing is subversive. It’s a way to beat the big players at their own game. And it means that everyone can publish their stories.

Please share your thoughts about self-publishing.

6 replies on “Falling book prices – threat or opportunity?”

  1. I agree with you Maureen – as long as one is aware, has knowledge of how to promote the book. that is something I have to learn.

    1. Yes, Elizabeth, promotion is a big part of selling books. But I think even the traditional publishers expect their authors to promote their own books. I guess if you are Tim Winton or Liz Byrski and such writers, they do spend money on promotion. My own experience with ABC Books was wonderful because I was invited onto radio all over Australia. But not many people have that opportunity. Self-publishing is very much a learning environment for most of us, I suspect.

  2. I suspect promotion is a significant part… And taxing in many ways. My only hope is that the self publishing rewards come to fruition… If it makes publishing on the whole more accessible to writers (and readers) then I would have thought it can only be a good thing…!(?)

    1. I think it is a good thing, although the marketing and promotion needs to be done well. Some authors I know do it remarkably well, but I don’t have the marketing and IT skills to make it work properly. I am really glad the process is over, for that book at any rate. Not being rushed off my feet with orders, just a steady trickle. I’m hoping for a few stars on Goodreads and a couple of reviews there and in Amazon. That will be nice.

  3. I agree. The decision to self-publish was liberating for me. One of the best decisions I ever made. I did not like some of the blogs by editors and agents who complained about the stupidity and ineptness of writers. Obviously, there were so many of us and their slush piles were so aggravating, they didn’t value us. I took my novel elsewhere and it is lovely and published now.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Linda. I’ve heard lots of self-publised authors say the things you do. I am very new to self publishing and feel a bit over-awed about it. Hopefully I will soon feel more confident.

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