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.
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.