Saturday, June 06, 2009

Book-Writing Is a Tough Way to Make a Living

"In short, book-writing is a worse-than-ever means to a livelihood, and mass-market renown is disappearing as a concept, fractioning into a million niches. Ultimately the only good reason to write books remains what it probably always was: The compulsion to try to entertain, persuade or make meaning is irresistible, and the process absorbs you like nothing else. If it doesn't, there's no reason to bother." - Elisabeth Eaves, Forbes magazine editor

Eaves said this after attending BookExpo America last weekend. Sadly, she is describing a continuing trend in two different worlds with which I am somewhat familiar, books and music. I've come to know quite a few writers and musicians over the last decade, and I've seen how hard they have to work to create their own "big breaks." Record labels and book publishers are not spending the money, nor are they willing to allow the time, that it takes to nurture the next generation of author and musician superstars. Rather, they are milking the same old stuff as long as it sells and are placing the burden of breaking into either industry entirely on those who, in the past, counted on publishers and record labels to provide publicity and advertising.

These days, many of my favorite writers and musicians have "day jobs" and they continue to do what they love only because its who they are. They are writers and they are singers first - and they always will be.

I salute them and, more importantly, I thank them for giving me so much pleasure by sharing their talents despite all the obstacles they face in today's economy.


  1. I think we are at the beginning of what will be a revolutionary change for both the music and publishing worlds. With so much content available for free online the role of artists and how content will be distributed is definitely changing. I think there may be opportunities for more writers and artists to build a following and make some money doing it, but that overall individuals in both fields will make less money. I don't know if this is a positive or a negative thing, but I think it will really shake things up.

    I think it will likely hurt publishing houses and record companies more than the individual creators as the publishers and record labels are losing a lot of the control that they used to have over the market. I read an interesting book by Chris Anderson, "Free: The future of a radical price" and he actually takes a look at this in a thought-provoking way. The book is due out next month, and I highly recommend it.

  2. Thanks for the book recommendation, Alissa. That sounds like something I need to read. I just picked up a copy one called "Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music," and I suspect its much like the one you describe. I have to review that one for Amazon Vine but it will be at least another week before I can even start it.

    You're right - everything is changing and those artists who are willing to work hard at getting the word out about their work will do fine. The rest will have to find another line of work, I'm afraid. Record labels, IMO, deserve their fate - publishers, not so much.