The month is half over and I have only posted one article on my blog for 2009– why? The general economic malaise, the ultra•cold temperatures, the flurry of activity around a recently released book, the need to find a job now that it has proven conclusively to me that writers cannot make a living at plying their craft (at least, not this writer) – I guess, all these factors have gotten me down.
I recently joined an online community for readers and writers – a great feeling to be among folks who had that same recessive gene that I possess, to be among peers and not feel like the outsider. Through that experience I have discovered how many mom and pop publishers and how many self•proclaimed writers with so many books are out there, many never to be read by more than a hundred readers. We definitely live in a golden age for writers but a dark age of scarce readers, or one of readers with too much choice because everyone is barking up their alley crying “read my book!”
I am seeing the world polarize between a few publishing platforms, just like the music business has done, and publishers becoming content sorters and providers to these platforms, and the individual writer providing the component pieces of content (their works) to these content providers. I am seeing a world where the old form of reading – i.e. paperback or hardcover – is becoming the Starbucks version of enjoying a book, while the emerging e•book becomes the de•facto Tim Horton’s grade, always fresh, just a click away from a download. And the revenues from these new formats shrink writers’ royalties even further, even though the intellectual and creative effort that goes into producing a book, whether in paper or e•book format is the same.
I’m seeing members of the existing book trade hedge their income streams with vanity press lines, distribution companies and manuscript consulting services in order to stay afloat. And retail book stores are closing (don’t blame it on the rising Canadian dollar or the recession alone), because they seem to be selling either the wrong product, or selling it in the wrong retail format, now that lazier ways of purchasing are available from the comfort of one’s computer, especially in cold temperatures. And the writer is pushed even further to spend the precious hours of his day editing (a task downloaded by publishers) or self•promoting himself in a fragmented media universe, rather than doing what he does best – write.
Hardly exciting times to be a writer these days. But then a fellow sufferer and I went out for coffee yesterday and he reminded me that we writers (at least, the committed ones with the recessive writing gene) don’t write because we want to, but because we have to. That shot of java I shared with him was the best jolt to my flagging spirits. So I returned to my PC, and here I am, at my blog, blogging away, hoping that I have got bloggers block at bay, at least for today.