The link below is to an article reporting on changes to Kindle Unlimited Payments from tomorrow.
In 2014, the Department of Economics at Macquarie University began a three-year study to examine the responses of Australian authors, publishers and readers to global changes in the current publishing environment.
Last week we released the first stage of the study, based on a survey of more than 1,000 Australian book authors. Our findings show that while book authors are innovators in their professional practices, the financial rewards for initiative and experimentation are unevenly distributed.
The average income of Australian authors is A$12,900. Although a fifth of authors write as their full-time occupation, only 5% earn the average annual income from their creative practice (which we calculate using ABS data as A$61,485 for the 2013-14 financial year). Most authors rely on other paid work and their partner’s income to make ends meet.
Compounding this is the recent fall in the average selling price of trade books. According to Beth Drumm, Sales and Marketing Manager in the Asia/Pacific division of Phoenix International Publications, the standard price of small-format publications has fallen from A$24.99 – A$29.99 to A$19.99 within the last five years. Highly discounted books sold by discount department stores (such as Kmart, Target and Big W) also impact on an author’s income.
Nearly a fifth of all authors earned over A$101,000 in the period of the survey, and a small proportion of authors (nearly 3%) earned more than A$101,000 from their creative practice alone.
An author’s capacity to earn income from other paid work is boosted by high levels of education. They also possess technical skills (the ability to compose, write and edit) that lead to work that does not produce creative output.
One of the greatest limiting factors for authors is finding time to write. Table 1 (below) shows the proportion of authors for whom insufficient income prevents them from writing further. Domestic responsibilities and the need to earn income from other sources affect more than half of authors.
Another pressure on trade authors’ time is their increased role in promoting their books. With the rise of social and online media as important channels for promotion, more than half of all trade authors spend more time promoting their work than they did five years ago – and the rise of social media hasn’t negated the importance of in-person bookstore appearances.
Although we examine how changes are affecting all types of authors, in the remainder of this article we focus on the challenges facing literary fiction authors and poets in particular (while we use “literary” fiction, we are aware of the debates around the use of the term).
Literary fiction authors
Changes in the industry are increasing opportunities for authors to publish their work using cost-effective digital technologies and small print runs. Even so, nearly a third of these authors report being worse off financially compared to five years ago.
One factor for this may be the shift of a considerable amount of literary publishing in Australia from larger publishers to small, independent presses – very small presses may have more constraints on the size of advances, if any, they can offer authors, for example.
The top-earning quarter of literary authors earn on average A$9,000 a year from their writing. Literary fiction authors are the most likely to report that insufficient income from their writing prevents them from spending more time on writing (70%). Although the top-earning quarter of literary authors earn on average A$85,000, the majority of their income comes from other types of paid work.
The situation for poets is even more challenging. Nearly three quarters of Australian poets have changed the way they publish, distribute or promote their work. Poets are particularly innovative in finding new avenues for paid work and are also experimenting with self-publishing – but the average income earned from their creative practice by those in Australia’s top-earning quartile of poets is only A$4,900, the lowest average across any of the different types of authors.
Over half of poets reported no discernible change in their financial position over the past five years. Even though they are innovating and experimenting in their professional practices as well as stylistically (see, for example, the work of self-published performance and multimedia poet Candy Royalle) those changes are not leading to increased incomes.
At the launch of our research findings, Australian poet and author Steven Herrick encouraged poets to write in other genres to increase their incomes.
Herrick self-published a series of cycling memoirs set in Europe through Amazon, starting as an experiment. He quickly established a readership in the UK and he is about to release his fifth title in the series.
The market for literary fiction and poetry in Australia
At the moment, the market size for most Australian-authored literary works is modest. Most literary titles – apart from those by high-profile authors – have print runs of 2,000–4,000 copies.
Print runs for single volumes of poetry for adult readerships are even lower – often between 300 and 1,000 copies. In keeping with a centuries-old tradition, authors are creating their own publishing opportunities such as Kill Your Darlings, a literary journal founded in 2010, taking advantage of digital technology to keep costs down.
The actual size of the market for literary works in Australia, particularly for Australian-authored work, is unclear. There are no reliable statistics about the sales of literary books as a proportion of total trade sales, but during 2015 one member of our research team estimated that literary books comprise roughly 5% of trade sales, and less than half of these comprise Australian-authored literary works (onshore trade sales are worth approximately A$900 million).
A related question then arises as to whether it is possible to grow the size of readerships for literary works, and if so, how could that be done? Literary publishers around Australia are endeavouring to increase the size of their readerships but there are no short-cuts.
That’s because the pleasures and rewards of reading literary works are an acquired taste which develops over time. Further, Jim Demetriou, Sales and Marketing Director of Allen and Unwin, commented:
With literature each one of the author’s books is a totally different “animal” to the previous book, so you have to sell the concept and the idea behind each individual title. It’s generally a slower build unless it’s a big-name author who people recognise and understand.
The way forward
There are no easy answers but the survey findings – and the initial discussion around them – suggest that Australian authors are engaging with changes in the industry and exploring new opportunities.
One feature of the Australian book industry is that authors, publishers and booksellers share a collaborative commitment to its cultural and commercial success. That’s something the new Book Council can bank on, with confidence.
For further information about the research, visit here.
The link below is to an article that reports on the changing reading habits of children, from traditional to digital material.
I am currently in the process of changing the domain name for this site from https://atthebookshelf.wordpress.com to simply http://atthebookshelf.com. I have already registered the name and I am now just waiting for the change over to occur. The previous name should simply redirect to the new domain once the process is completed.
The link below is to an article that looks at how to change the time on a Kindle ebook reader.
The link below is to another article commenting on the future of the traditional bookstore. Do they have a future? Question really is in my opinion, are they prepared to look at changing their approach and practices to embrace mail order possibilities, the digital age, etc?
‘Phantoms on the Bookshelves,’ by Jacques Bonnet was translated from the French original by Sian Reynolds and has an introduction by James Salter. The copy I have is a Kindle edition. It was first published in Great Britain in 2010 by MacLehose Press. It is a relatively short book at 123 pages in length, so it won’t take too much to get through it.
The introduction to the book by James Salter is a good, brief read concerning the author of the book and his book collecting ways. It could easily describe me, though I have nowhere near as many books as Bonnet, even though I have thousands myself in traditional form and/or digital format. I see similarities between the description given of Bonnet by Salter and myself, with my far fewer volumes. I too struggle now to find room for them all, with my virtual bookshelves requiring expansion in the near future to accomodate my book collecting ways into the current century and digital age. Traditional books have long run out of room in this house, as I suspect they have in Bonnet’s apartment.
Bonnet is a man who loves books and his thoughts on what is normal in a home, the presence of many books, is something I can relate to. I also find myself in wonder when I see homes with no books, particularly in some of the circles in which I move or have moved. How can they get by without books? Mind you it is probably not as easy a situation to read (no pun intended – truly not) these days, with books now being able to be stored by the thousands on a home computer and/or on an external hard drive or two. Still, I have wondered this for many years and I think Bonnet would probably agree with me. Relating to others is made easier when discussing books for Bonnet and I find this an agreeable thing also. It is the way of Bibliophiles, whether we use that term or not (perhaps for some Bibliomaniac is a better term).
I did not find Bonnet’s chapter on cataloguing and organisation helpful at all, though I expect it would help some. This is probably because I have developed my own system which closely resembles that of the Dewey to almost certainly be called a Dewey system. The Bonnet decsription horrified me and I thought it would become far too confusing and disorienting for me. He is certainly right about the Internet making a major impact on libraries and the need to have as many books as he has in his collection. It is not only the storing of works on the World Wide Web, in the cloud and on other digital storage systems like computers, external drives, etc, where libraries are changing and/or have changed, but also in the cataloguing and organisation of books. I have a large number of books stored on digital devices and by digital means, but I also have access to far more over the Internet from vast libraries that I can access online. But I also have both offline and online digital methods for assisting me in cataloguing and organising my books, which I use as best I can and with great relief for being able to do so. Yet it boils down to individual choice and comfortableness, being able to manage these resources in a way that allows the individual to harness them to the greatest effect, which is indeed something of an indiviual matter and process.
The Bonnet method of reading will not be everyones cup of tea, but that’s OK too, because that is also a very individualistic thing. Bonnet likes lying down to read, I prefer sitting at a desk. Bonnet likes to underline and write in his books as he reads, I prefer to highlight and collate quotes via other media. There is no one rule for all, but many different rules for many different people. The thing is to retain what one reads in some way, that I think is the key to reading. It is certainly not a requirement to read each and every book from cover to cover, but to take a dip in each one to some extent and to achieve some purpose when doing so is required if you wish to say that you read your books and they aren’t just display items.
The manner in which Bonnet has collected his books is almost baffling to someone who has not done so in the same manner. He seems almost obsessed with completing lists and collections of books, of following every author/book line that comes up in what he reads or experiences. It seems any book mentioned must be obtained for his library. This is the way of a Bibliomaniac, that is for sure. His obsession with collecting ‘picture’ books is another seemingly crazed hobby which almost seems to be a driving force for him. I too collect books, but this insight into how another book lover and lover of reading goes about collecting his books is one that is beyond my experience. It is a fascinating world of book hunting and gathering if ever there was one. Something about one book leads to another which leads to another, or some conversation leads to a book which leads to another, etc.
Bonnet’s reflections upon his books shows someone who truly absorbs what he reads and imbibes the being of those written about. He seems to feel them, to know them, far better than any creator of them. Authors of books, whether fictional pieces or biographical/autobiographical works fade with the passing of time, if indeed a true reflection of them is left in the pages of the books they write or in the annals of history. However, those created and placed within the realms of literature remain the same and can be known almost completely. There are places to visit, whether real or ethereal, people to meet and to greet. Books bring a whole world to one’s home and experience, and even beyond that one travels into the realm of fictional lands and peoples. A plethora of experience that is only exaggerated when the library is swollen by multimedia resources. What an amazing world the library can become – is.
Buy this book at Amazon:
Ebook Reseller Program Changing
The links below are to articles concerning changes to the Google Books Ebook Reseller program.
I have been reading ‘Print is Dead – Books in our Digital Age,’ by Jeff Gomez. Having just read chapter two, ‘Us and Them,’ I must say that his point in that chapter is well made. The demise in traditional book sales has not been because ebooks have taken the world by storm – at least not at this stage – but because other areas of the digital world have. Generations of younger people have turned away from books in all their forms and have sought entertainment in other things, such as the Internet and video games, to name just a couple. It is reading itself that is being passed by, so the advent of the ebook is not that which is killing off the traditional book and by extension the bookseller/bookshop, but rather ‘dumber’ forms of entertainment.
Books will always be around in one form or another (at least I believe that), whether they remain as prolific as they now are is quite another thing, it is the habit of reading that may fall away dramatically and cause books to be cast aside – at least in the wider community. I think there will always be a group or community of diehard book readers, who eventually will have ebooks as their primary source of books and reading material. There are those who will not be lost entirely to less intellectual forms of entertainment, though perhaps some of these other forms of entertainment may play a role in the ‘reading’ of the future in the digital world (linked to videos, etc). Reading is a great skill that is being lost and the medium for ideas through the ages faces its greatest threat from a lack of it.
The next chapter, ‘newspapers are no longer news,’ deals with newspapers as a source of news and book reviews, or rather, how they are rapidly loosing their ascendency to online applications and tools. In a world that is rapidly changing and access to news as it happens online, newspapers are becoming a too infrequently updated source of news and information. Online access to news and events as they happen are so readily accessible, that the traditional source of news is fading away. As for book reviews, the avenues of discussion about books on the web via social networking, Blogs and the like, opens the opportunity for all to join the discussion. Book reviews in newspapers, like movie reviews, are opportunities for the reviewers to pontificate and/or push their own views onto a public unable to respond – online however the avenues of discussion are legion and varied. All may be involved – or not at all. The decision as to how one may be involved is left to the individual, which also translates to news stories in a similar manner. Interaction with the news and books has never been so simple and as rich an experience.