It's Stacked Against You

by Rosanne Dingli

Yes, it is. The publishing industry is not exactly every author’s idea of an easy ride. It’s no cake walk, no doddle. Everything developed so far, since books were books and actually had pages, has gone on to increase the frightening aspect of an industry that treats its creators poorly.

Authors take the least and meanest cut in contracts. Retailers take the most, then printers, and then publishers, then you. And agents take a cut too, but most agents have many more than just one writer working in their stable. You only have you.

Unless you had an advance – and let’s face it, they are becoming rare – you get paid last. Royalties contracts used to be paid quarterly, but half-yearly is more likely now, especially with new contracts. 

Without an author, there would be no book, you might think. There have been dozens of publishers, however, who tried to do away with ‘the author’, even though they get paid least and last. Diaries, cookbooks, collections, guides, revivals, maps, dictionaries… there are dozens of books that do not need to be written, or that can be cobbled together from what’s already there, just out of copyright. 

We compete with that kind of ‘book’, and books by other writers. There are about 8 million books on Amazon, give or take a few hundred thousand. How on earth will anyone find yours? Or mine?

How will you get your book ordered by bookstores – does it matter anymore? Two bookshops closed in my locality in the past four years. Yours too? Thought so. 

People are excited about eReaders, but they come loaded with dozens of free books. The reader has a lot to wade through before deciding to download something else. Then there are the hundreds of thousands of free books they can get. When might they start paying for reading material? Will they start with yours? Or the latest Grisham? 

The point is that the industry is stacked against authors: all authors, not just mid-list or emerging ones. There is some point at which any author, no matter how successful, has occasion to sigh, groan and wonder why on earth they ever went in for this caper. It’s no picnic. But we do it regardless. 

Many things in life stack odds against you: writing is only one. If you are a writer, you have a fine instinct that tells you when you are writing something worthwhile. Something people will pay to read. That instinct keeps you going, against the odds. Because it’s important. Because it says something about people: the human condition. And it’s this ‘against the odds’ material that finds its way to the top. 

The top is where your readers are: write for them, treat them well. Do your best and they will be loyal. They’ll read everything you write, if they know you do it for them and their eReaders! It’s no cake walk, but there could be icing on the cake. 

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