Holes in the Economy

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Our business has scaled back. We did that at the beginning of the pandemic, angering some folks who thought we were overreacting. We cut projects. We’re in the process of closing our large office building, selling most of our collectibles, and renting two smaller spaces (one in Las Vegas—future home of the in-person workshops) and one in Lincoln City for the staff who still lives there.

We’re doing all right, because our business is built on many foundations, but we have lost one entire revenue stream. The in-person workshops are on hold, something we chose to do at the beginning of the pandemic. Like Cirque and other companies, we know that the in-person workshops will return, but there’s no point in marketing them now or even promoting future ones. We don’t know when we’ll be able to hold one again. Sometime in 2021, most likely, but when? None of us know.

Writers aren’t like musicians, who are dealing with their own ball of ugly. (Most musicians make no money on album sales; they made all of their income touring…which is not happening right now.) But some writers were making a small fortune on appearances—public speaking or talking as an expert to groups like Bankers’ Associations.

All of that revenue is gone and may stay gone. I saw an article—now lost to the DDoS information overload—that projected that a lot of conferences will never return. They either cost too much for no real gain or they are better online or the organizations that hosted them have gone out of business.

I’ve seen this before. One of our favorite writers conference, Southwest Writers Conference in Albuquerque vanished after 9/11. Their timing was bad (right in the middle of the grounded planes part of that horrid event, if I remember correctly), and they never really recovered.

We’re going to see a lot of that.

These economic holes won’t get repaired. They’re like potholes in a poor town. We’ll either bump over those potholes for years or someone will build a track around them. They’ll remain.

And I’m not sure what kind of impact that will have. I’m going to dig into the economics of it all, for my own sake, but what I do know is that the arts economy—hell, our world economy—will never be the same.

One of the major bright spots, though, is book sales, especially for indie writers. There’s not a lot that we can do as species right now that’s entertaining and fun. So we read. Our book sales have doubled. I know other indie writers are doing well also.

I also know that writers are getting discouraged and quitting because their sales are down—primarily because the books they have on the (virtual) shelf aren’t what the public wants to read right now.

But keep writing. Keep publishing. People will find the books they want to read.

We writers need to count our blessings. We’re not performing artists. Our work in the entertainment world depends on our ability to finish a novel or a short story, and then to get it before the public. That’s within our control. We don’t need our audience to sit in the same room with 999 other people. We can reach a global audience with the click of a button.

I know a lot of writers, seeing the suffering and death all around us, think that the work they do isn’t worthwhile.

But it is. The human species needs to relax. We make better decisions when we’re not stressed, when we have a chance to escape our world for a little while—not just in (restless) sleep, but through our imaginations.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

12 thoughts on “Holes in the Economy”

    • Lots of them.
      Writer, editor, teacher, traditional publisher, Indie, bookstore owner, and lord knows what else.
      The lady has done everything.
      Adds to her credibility.

      • Highly credible in the areas of writing, and the business aspects of same.

        Not so much in the areas of science, general economics, politics, or other places outside of her real experience. Way too trusting of “authorities” – particularly of those that trend towards command and control of the populace, and social “justice” ideologies.

        I do still read her columns regularly – and enjoy her fiction – but have to skip over much of what is on her blog these days. (Which, like all too many these days, will NEVER see a contrarian opinion on anything – nothing wrong with that, it is HER blog – but does mean that I completely skip those when reading.)

        • Is anybody credible in that area?
          Everybody looks at those things through subjectively colored glasses.
          Fortunately, that’s not what her columns are about or for.

        • I had to give up after one of her posts contained the “if anyone disagrees with X they can just leave” thing. When someone tells you they don’t want you around if you don’t believe the way you do, you should do them the courtesy of believing them. And go.

  1. To each their own.
    I’m willing to listen to anybody that might have something to say, whether I agree with them or not, whether they want me around or not. I value knowledge more.

    Of course, I’m contrarian by nature and my kneejerk reaction to pretty much everything is “Are you sure?” I’m not easily swayed by sweet talk or insults. : D

    • Her articles can be useful.
      Like this one:


      Not nessarily for the “Agents have sticky fingers” stuff, which is old news (As the Palahniuk affair proved), but as a warning that at least some *publishers* are in trouble and not paying.
      So in these times, pubpishers, agents, and bookstores are all being squeezed. And, of course, effluge flows downstream, to their authors.

      (I wonder what grocery stores are letting shoppers get by on 30% of their bill.)

      I’d expect publishers with strong ebook businesses are doing better than the ones that pushed pbooks uber alles.

      • Picked up a new client today whose publisher has stopped sending royalty statements or paying royalties.

        • I’m thinking part of the situation is their traditional reporting lag which now has them paying last years’s royalties from this year’s revenues. Like, if they have a six month lag, they’ll be looking to pay nov-dec royalties (peak sales quarter) with may-june lockdown income. Since overhead is fixed and print sales are down a lot, they don’t have much left to work with.

          The pandemic is proving to be a stress test for business models and a lot of businesses are failing the test. Not enough capitalization, not enough margin.

          Bankruptcies to follow.

      • I’d expect publishers with strong ebook businesses are doing better..

        This from 2 posts ago…

        In the trade segments, adult book gross sales fell 17.5%, but a 41.8% decline in returns kept the net sales loss to 11%.The May report did show the first big jump in e-book sales since the pandemic struck, with sales up 30.6% over May 2019, an increase that helped to offset print declines. The gain lifted sales of e-books up by 4.3% for the first five months of 2020. Downloadable audio sales rose 18.6% in the month.

        • And that is despite their best efforts to deemphasize ebooks.
          Plus it’s global; not everybody saw the same performance.
          Some did better, some worse.
          The ones not paying are probably among the latter.

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