The Guardian recently posted a article by Ewan Morrison questioning e-publishing and whether or not it’s bubble was about to burst. It was a follow up to his article “Are Books Dead and Can Authors Survive?”, which isn’t so much about whether books are dead but whether authors will be able to make a living in the digital reading world. My question is, if e-publishing is going bust and books are dead, does that mean people aren’t going to read? Albums and cassettes are dead and CD’s are following, but we still listen to music, or more precisely we still pay for music.
I don’t think reading is going away. But the question about whether or not writers can make a living is a valid one. While Morrison talks about people’s expectations of “free” in the digital world, I think avid readers will always be willing to pay for a good books. Maybe not $25. Maybe not even $10. So I believe the change we’ll see is that except for the current big names (i.e. Grisham), authors won’t be getting the same deals they once had. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make a living. One thing that the Internet has done is leveled the playing field for writers. Amazon and Barnes and Noble are filled with new authors that were turned down by publishers, self-published, did well and now have traditional book deals. This suggests that authors who write well and market (which you have to do in the traditional world anyway) can have a successful writing career. Take HP Mallory, who now has a three-book deal with Random House after selling nearly 200,000 self e-published books.
Clearly traditional publishing is going change. And while the big advanced might go away and book prices may drop, that doesn’t mean authors can’t make money. HP Mallory’s books sell for $0.99 to $2.99. At 100,000 books, that’s not chump change. What will change, which has already changed anyway, is that authors will need an existing audience and do their own marketing.