Monday, April 12, 2010


Today's entry shamelessy rips off other blogs crisply engages with other inhabitants of the blogosphere.

First up is an interesting post at the always provocative Bubblecow which tells us that most books don't sell many copies. As a writer this is something I've come through painful experience to recognise, but it's perhaps not such common knowledge in the outside world (even if perhaps not a "dirty little secret" as Bubblecow suggests).

The business model Bubblecow sets out is surely accurate enough - the proportions may be debatable, but publishing houses survive on the profits made by a small number of books, which subsidise the remainder. There's nothing ignoble in that - it would fit a house making money from celebrity biographies to finance haunting works of delicate grace which no-one reads - but it does have implications for writers. The main conclusion to draw is the most writers will not make money - certainly not enough to live on. Most published writers know this, and carry on writing anyway (we really don't do it for the money, although it might be nice to see some occasionally...). The lesson is most valuable for aspiring writers, who should ask themselves the question "Would I still be doing this if I knew I couldn't make it pay?". If the answer is "yes", then at least you're going into it with your eyes open; if it's "no", then a period of serious re-evaluation is called for. Put another way - if your motivation for writing is primarily artistic, you have enough to sustain you; if it's primarily financial, you are either very confident or very deluded.

On a lighter note, I can do no better than end with this delightful cartoon from (filched from Ryan David Jahn), guaranteed to amuse pedants everywhere. (Click on the image to see full-size).

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