Monday, April 25, 2011

Are Professional Writers an Endangered Species?

Over the years, I’ve used the metaphor of unpublished writers being minnows in a sea of sharks or bunnies surrounded by wolves to describe the dangers of the predators of author dreams.  
I’ve talked about the vanity publishers who scam writers of cash by giving them the illusion of being published although the books are so high-priced that family members won’t buy them, let alone the average reader.  And bookstores won’t stock them because they recognize the vanity publisher’s name so they are leery of the quality. 
I’ve warned about “agents” who ask for reading fees or business fees but never sell any books, or agents who embezzle author funds.
Published authors have had their own dangers and problems to deal with.  
The larger publishers do no promotion for most of their authors but expect the author to do so at their own expense and time.  They ask, “Are you on Facebook and Twitter and post daily?  Do you maintain your blog and website?  Have you attended the major reader and writer conventions?  Have you given interviews?  And, by the way, did you finish those two books in your series in only six months?”
Publishers have cut the number of editors down so much that the editors no longer have  time to edit, and the books show it with glaring mistakes so the smart author must spend her own money on a freelance editor or appear to be an illiterate idiot.
In the last weeks, other news has leaked out about the publishing industry that makes me worried that being a professional writer who can support herself as a writer is fast becoming a dream or a nightmare for those who have been able to support themselves.
In my “Links of Interest” last week, I listed a blog article by Kristine Rusch about how her ebook sales numbers on her royalty statements were much lower than those she saw from her own sources for sales numbers.  
In a followup to this, she has received numerous conformations of the same wide difference in royalty statement to reality comparisons from other professional writers who write for the Big Six publishing conglomerates.  
The authors also see wide variations in sales numbers on paper books.
Discrepancies on such a huge scale where the publishers are padding their bottom line at the expense of their writers is completely disheartening for those struggling to build a career in this business.
Published authors are also being attacked by some readers and those who profit from pirates.  Ebook theft is rampant with numerous pirate download sites.  The owners of these sites make money through advertising because of their high traffic, and some sites go so far as to sell stolen ebooks.  The author doesn’t receive a penny of all this profit.
eBay sellers now offer collections of stolen ebooks on CD, and eBay does nothing to stop it while profiting from it.  Authors who are trying to stop this are ignored.
Often, the publisher will do nothing, and it’s up to the author to find the pirate sites and go through all the legal hoops in an attempt to get the books removed.  If they do so, the book will be uploaded again in a matter of hours so the author must start all over again.  
Is the professional author an endangered species?  
My disheartened answer is yes.