This holiday season is definitely going to see significant changes in the world of commerce, and writers are being affected. Many are discovering they have to completely rethink their strategy, while others are finding their publishers are changing the rules of the game and, the way the contracts are written, their hands are mostly tied.
This year has not been a good one for small independent publishing houses. Staff upheavals, business failures, and the over cost model of the publishing industry has created a brave and rather scary new world for writers. Several small publishers have failed and several more have reoriented themselves away from mainstream genres to niche houses. These changes have created issues for many writers under contract, especially with some publishing houses retaining legal counsel to retain the rights to the contracts even after business failure. This creates problems for writers with unpublished manuscripts who want to bring new works to market with stable publishers but, through no fault of their own, are stuck in “option” clauses which preclude them from bringing those works to other publishers because said story may fall under the umbrella of the contract.
For the average writer, a novel, short story or medium sized prose is more than just a labor of love. It is the end result of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of hours of brainstorming, editing and re-editing, sending drafts out to trusted critics, and baring their creative souls in groups which can be supportive at best, caustic and trolling at worst. The life of a writer in the current economic climate is nothing short of exhausting, and only the strongest and most productive tend to survive. Moreover, established authors with marketing support are more suited to bring new works to market and keep readers going because their works are, for lack of a better term, consistent. Productivity is now the keyword; the publishing world is full of “one hit wonders” who may be highly quality and entertaining, but simply couldn’t keep the juices flowing and now find themselves either in bad contracts or out of ideas. This has had a deleterious effect on the publishing and writing world with respect to emerging authors.
The vast majority of writers never make a true living from their books or blogs. Most of us are the equivalent of “Single A” baseball players, plying our trade out of a labor of love, singing for our supper, and working “day jobs.” It is the rare author who becomes famous and that’s usually through a combination of hard work, the right contacts and, let’s face it, blind luck. Still, those of us who love to write do it out of a sense of creative drive, a calling. It’s a damned painful thing to do at times, and the current economic climate for publishing is doing us no favors. Still, writing is what we do, and so we continue.
This holiday season, keep the writer in your life in your thoughts. Give their work a try and leave a review, positive or negative. You never know the sort of impact such an act may have on their lives.