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Thursday, 20 November 2014

THE EXTINCTION OF THE NOVELIST


Who would be a writer? Everyone it seems to me. I never liked statistics. The ones from Amazon I really hate. And try this one! Bowker’s Books in Print, 2012, listed 32 million active titles in the English language. Then look at Amazon’s statistics. Amazon alone has (mid 2014 figures) 3.4 million books in Kindle. What is truly scary is the fact that over one year Kindle releases 2,800 books every day. Yes, that was day, not week or month. That’s a million Kindle books a year.

How can you, a writer of novels, make a living? The answer is you can’t. And it’s not just the professional writer suffering from the new technology. Speak to a professional photographer who used to work for newspapers and magazines. With a digital camera and the tricks worked using Photoshop anyone can turn out a good picture. And they do. And sell them. Or listen to the professional musicians who used to earn their daily bread as backing players. Now there’s enough electronic gadgetry for even the tone deaf to create music. And they do and go viral on You Tube.

Jobs come and go. Governesses became teachers, apothecaries became chemists, barber-surgeons became doctors, and gas lamp lighters became obsolete as did ditch diggers and road menders. So many occupations all superseded by machines or changes in the way we live. So has the professional writer been superseded or rendered obsolete? The annoying answer is Yes and No. A full time writer as a novelist is impossible. There is no way a novelist can earn enough money to live on. And please don’t preach about the point nought one percent who are best sellers and do earn a lot. They will soon be gone too. Anyone interested can consult the author earnings reports at http://authorearnings.com and see how the Indies (Independent self-published authors) have and are taking over from the best sellers, or read this article at http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sara-sheridan/writers-earnings-cultural-myth_b_3136859.html/

A writer producing articles and copy for websites will probably scrape by as freelancers have always done, but the full time professional writer of fiction is doomed. And I believe that books as we now know them are going to change too.

We could all curse POD and e-books and the ease with which anyone can and does produce a book, or we could start rethinking the role of a writer and the state of a book. Already you can find online sites which have works which consist of words, pictures, sounds, videos, music, art work – almost any artistic discipline you can imagine. Multidiscipline creations may be the way writers become something new. Holograms, computer games, the smart ‘phones and pocket sized tablet computers all offer opportunities for writers to become something more than the old pen and paper person. We could all dig in and grumble and moan about lack of quality and how rubbishy so many e-books are, but the truth is that we are writers. Readers just want a story, entertainment and a bit of excitement. They are not always fussed about grammar or the finer points of writing, indeed many are do not care as long as the story keeps them interested. If we want to survive as writers it is up to us to experiment and find a way to still be writer-creators in this increasingly non-physical, electronic world. Those born writers who have to write will do it. But I bet we will never see the full time writers ever again.


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