From Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds:
So, a few things upfront: first, I am a privileged author who sells well and is able to support himself and his family on writing books. Second, none of this post is to be taken as fact, but rather, as opinion — it relies, quite frankly, on “artisanal data” (aka anecdotes) and also, y’know, vibes. As such, I am, like many, looking at a room through a keyhole and will certainly not be seeing everything.
All that being said —
Being an author — aka, the fancy word for “writer of books” — vibes real weird right now. There is worry on the wind. To be fair, it’s always a little weird. Being a creative person in any realm is, I assume, a chaos reigns situation on the best of days. Nothing is certain. The ground is ever weak beneath our feet. A career as a “writer-of-books” has for me always been in part the strategy of eyeballing the peaks and valleys, and making sure that you’re building the proper ramps and bridges over the gaps before you ramp the car and crash it into a fucking ravine. In this sense, worry is always part of the bargain. Shit could go sideways one of a hundred different ways we can foretell, and another hundred we can’t. Worse, we’re kind of low-hanging fruit in a lot of ways — books are (to my mind, incorrectly) viewed as a luxury, a frippery, a whiff of the ol’ fol-de-rol.
So, what’s bringing the extra worry?
. . . .
Book events are erratic in terms of attendance, and as a result, publishers don’t seem to be using them as much, which means booksellers are asking authors, “Hey, can you tell your publishers to please send authors to us?” If booksellers are hurting, we’re hurting. (I have deeper thoughts about book events and how to make them consistent and amazing, but that’s for a different post, I think.)
Hardcovers are problematic, now? Hardcovers are maybe too expensive, probably — whether that’s inflation or greedflation, I dunno, but your average wallet paid too much for eggs and rent, and that doesn’t leave money for the Fancy Big Book Purchase. Some bookstores carry fewer hardcovers now because of this (also, space issues), and some publishers are committing to fewer hardcover releases and jumping instead to paperback. But if we lose that first step entirely, it shortens the long tail of the book, putting everything on, say, the paperback. (Sidenote, I have said and will always say, I really miss the MMPB format, and wish that format was still a thing. I know I am an OLD MAN YELLING AT CLOUDS, but boy ****** howdy I’d love to see spinner racks of paperbacks again. Put them everywhere! Pharmacies! Tire shops! Pet stores!) To be clear, a lot of books have forgone the hardcover step in the past — but the number seems to be dwindling anew, which to my mind is less than ideal.
Mainstream media is closing doors, not opening them. Once upon a time, a lot of media outlets had (said with naive reverie) coverage devoted to books. Oooh! Ahh! Except, ennh, uh-oh. Some outlets have now shut down all book coverage or have narrowed the aperture so tightly that the only coverage allowed is for the Mega Big Bestsellers. BuzzFeed News, which once upon a time covered book stuff, shut down entirely. And now there’s a surge in news coverage simply being farmed out to “artificial intelligence,” which is to say, clumsy algorithmic plagiaristic aggregators (because there is nothing intelligent about it, and a whole lot that’s artificial, though more on AI later). So, where once we could count a little bit on maybe, maybe getting some breadcrumbs of media coverage… well, the Gulls of Capitalism have gobbled up those crumbs, leaving us naught but an empty plate.
Social media is more or less collapsing. The internet in general is getting less reliable overall, in part due to misinformation, disinformation, and the waves of garbage and glurge barfed forth by various bots and algorithms. Once upon a time, Googling something was a reliable way to learn about it, but now you’ll likely find yourself on a raft floating on a sea of bad information. Social media has become the staging ground for all this shit (and also how, in part, it leeches into the groundwater of the rest of the internet), and as such, social media has started to fall apart like everything else. Twitter is ****, run by a vain maniac who keeps holding up anti-Semitic and anti-trans and anti-vaxxer and other ******like he just opened a bigotry blind bag and wants to show you the “cool thing” he just found, lol, lmao, laughing-crying emoji. The wheels are coming off everything and now attention is fractured across social media. And publishers — long having us and themselves lean very hard on that very same social media — are left with shattered landscape on which to walk. Where do you go to talk about your books? There are places, but attention is now diffuse, and it’s hard to know who’s even going to see it given how engagement is throttled unless you’re paying $8 a month for Twitter Blue, which doesn’t seem to do shit anyway, and also marks you as a chump helping to enrich an *******.
Link to the rest at Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds
Here’s a link to Chuck’s Books
7 thoughts on “The State Of Being A Published Writer In 2023 Is Really Weird, And A Little Worrisome”
A suitable comment on this rant quickly composed itself in my head. However, I promised myself that I would at least try to be nice within the confines of Casa PG – so I shall not write it.
Wendig should wake up and smell the coffee–Twitter was always a hellscape, it’s just a more level one now.
Meanwhile, it’s easier to make money writing than ever before–just go indy and epub. Now, it’s not going to be anything more than supplementary income for most people, but that’s better than the nothing that most aspiring writers got back when hardcopy was all that was available, and even then most published authors weren’t full-timers; I’ve heard estimates that the number of full-time authors in America has never exceeded the low hundreds.
And yeah, a lot of the stuff being published that way is erotica that should probably have never seen the light of day, but a lot of it isn’t, and readers have more choices than they ever have before.
And that, in the end, is what terrifies Wendig, and I do not hold that against him. For a man who’s made his way to the top in the old system, the prospect of that system being overturned is a ruinous one, not a hopeful onem
I fear that Mr. Wendig, for all his experience with traditional publishing, has not kept up with the times.
Book events? in physical bookstores?
And people not paying due respect to traditionally-published authors on social media because they don’t know who those authors are?
Who is Mr. Wendig? Never heard of him, and not interested enough to search, especially after glancing through the excerpted parts of his rant.
He popped onto my radar via his STAR WARS trilogy:
The reviews didn’t inspire me. Others bought the books.
Hopefully Disney paid him in full. Other authors were shorted their royalties:
This just popped up, on his STAR WARS trilogy:
It not only reflects on the weakness of the writing but also the impact of the better ideas in the stories. (Hint: none.)
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