Aug 24 2011
Ewan Morrison writes a long essay published in the Guardian about how advances are declining and may be discontinued (true for the former, unlikely for the latter) and because of the demise of print, publishing is doomed. He ends the essay with a call to action for everyone to think and take actions against this depressing future. Ewan Morrison mixes facts and myth to make his convincing albeit unsound case that publishing will no longer be able to pay a living wage to authors.
The movie industry is a prime example of how doom is coming to publishing because it has lost purportedly $6.1b due to piracy. Of course Morrison does not cite the reports that global box office receipts grew 8% in 2010 because that wouldn’t fit his narrative:
Global box-office receipts for all films released last year reached a high of $31.8 billion, an increase of 8% over 2009, according to a newly released report from the Motion Picture Assn. of America.
In the US, piracy is really only used by a small portion of the population – 9% and falling – and that population is known for spending more on content than other demographic groups. Piracy is highest in developing countries.
Morrison also cites piracy as the reason for the decline in music industry profits. It is true that overall revenue for the music industry has declined, particularly sales of albums, but the reason for that is because the music consumer is no longer buying albums but individual songs. Record companies made the most money off the sale of albums.
But guess what? Sales are up
Overall music sales (which include albums, singles and music videos) are up 8.5% over the same period in 2010, from 756 million to 821 million. Overall album sales (physical and digital, plus track-equivalent albums, in which 10 tracks are counted as one album) are up 3.6%, from 213.6 million to 221.5 million.
The music industry is discovering new ways of monetizing the content through digital licensing fees. It is true that the music industry has lost billions in revenue because consumer usage and consumption has changed.
While retail sales of video games (another media form cited by Morrison) is in decline, other forms of video games are experiencing growth.
The way in which consumers are buying and consuming media, whether it is books or games or music or movies, is changing but that doesn’t mean that all future content will be free or that no one can make a living wage. I have heard reports from authors that their self published digital backlist sales are booming. Change in an industry doesn’t mean a total demise.
Advances are the key to a living wage for Morrison because that is how it has always been. What will need to be changed in lieu of no advances is quicker speed to market from acceptance of the manuscript to the publication. Royalties will have to be paid more rapidly. Instead of 6 months, it will need be at least quarterly. Reserves against returns may have to be eliminated, requiring the publisher to take some greater risk in that regard which would mean more royalties, earlier, for authors. I think the drumbeat that advances are the only way to make a living wage is nonsensical.
Publishing, the business of putting out books for others to read, is not dying nor is it dead. It is being transformed and therefore the expectations of how to make a living are changing as well.
This news report made me think of the longhorn shifter book I read a while back (and yes, it is as horrible as it sounds). Bull semen is foul smelling. That is all you need to take away from this:
Canisters of bull semen caused quite a scare on the on-ramp to Interstate 65 South Tuesday morning.
The canisters fell off a Greyhound bus just after 5 a.m. as the bus traveled around the curve of the ramp just south of downtown Nashville.
Fire and emergency crews were called to the scene amid reports of a foul odor.
Publishing is killing the desire for boys to read because it is marketing books toward girl readers, or so says Robert Lipsyte for the New York Times.
Michael Cart, a past president of the Young Adult Library Services Association, agrees. “We need more good works of realistic fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, on- or offline, that invite boys to reflect on what kinds of men they want to become,” he told me. “In a commercially driven publishing environment, the emphasis is currently on young women.”
Editors who ask writers of books for boys to include girl characters — for commercial reasons — further blunt the edges.
The problem is that while girls will read books about boys; boys don’t want to read books about girls. Sounds like a cultural problem more than a publishing problem.
Here’s a great marriage proposal told in pictures.
And some engagement photos (scroll down)