Fear of Competition: E-Book Sales threaten Writer Livelihoods?

In her technolog piece for MSNBC, “E-book sales, devices soar,” Suzanne Choney quotes Gramham Swift as saying ebooks threaten the livelihood of writers “because the way in which writers are paid for their work in the form of e-books is very much up in the air.”

Signs that writers are afraid the upheaval in the writing/publishing universe threatens their ability to make a living can also be found in the discussions on Linked-In, Goodreads and elsewhere, where some writers angrily decry the dramatic increase of self-publishing, royalty issues with publishers including the impact ebooks are having on pricing, and the decline of big box bookstores.

This despite the fact that book sales in all formats from hardcover to e-book are rising.

When my 14-year old grandson heard that The Hunger Games was being made into a movie, he started to re-read it on his android phone. (Is ‘phone’ redundant?)

The facts are these. 1) Technology is uprooting the publishing/writing universe that existed a few years ago. 2) In upheavals, some suffer while others gain. 3) No one knows where it’s all going.

If you think these changes are going to undermine your ability to make a living, you have two choices – get angry and find someone to blame (authors who self-publish, for example) or figure out where the opportunities lie to be paid for what you can do.

I quoted in a recent blog post a novelist whose contract was not renewed by Random House. That hurt at the time, but today she thinks it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her. Since she started self-publishing, she’s sold 170,000 copies of her 10 novels and is earning more than before.

By the way, people are still buying books in print format and not just new ones. The average price of used books that I’ve sold on Amazon this summer is $12.37.

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