This post, by Wanda Shapiro, originally appeared on her One Girl One Novel site on 10/3/10.
I must respond to the Wall Street Journal’s recent story, Authors Feel Pinch in Age of E-Books, which discusses the plight of literary novelists who are finding it harder and harder to make a living. According to the Journal, e-books are to blame but as an indie author of literary fiction, I have two things to say to that. First, stop blaming e-books, and second, don’t cry for me Wall Street Journal.
According to the Journal, e-books are bad for debut novelists. Supposedly, the lower prices of e-books and the increasing sales of e-books are to blame for lower advances, less risk-taking, and a loss of patience for the cultivation of young novelist. The article talks about the general decline in book sales, shrinking retailers who are buying fewer titles, publishers who are making fewer deals (especially with new writers), and authors with fewer meet and greet opportunities who are making half as much per e-book. We’re lead to believe that e-books are killing literary authors who weren’t suffering at all before the advent and wide spread popularity of e-books.
While there’s a lot of truth in this article, blaming it all on e-books is not a logical conclusion. It’s true that literary authors have been a particularly hard hit segment of the writing population, but literary authors were having a hard time making a living long before e-books, and publishers are not without culpability. Publishers blame the readers for the decline in literary fiction but they’re the ones who publish the books and it’s no secret how they feel about literature.
It’s also no secret that the publishing industry is in shambles, I can only guess the Journal made such an illogical leap because the general state of the publishing industry is being blamed with increasing frequency on the rise of the e-book. This article gave an accurate albeit grim picture of the publishing industry from the point of view of a literary novelist but few of the supporting facts have any logical connection to e-books.
Let’s face it, authors of literary fiction were abandoned by the majority of the publishing industry a long time ago and if we’re going to talk about the grim truths of the publishing industry we need to stop blaming e-books. The only one who can be blamed for the current state of the publishing industry is the publishing industry. It’s not technology’s fault and it’s not the economies’ fault and it’s not the readers’ fault.