Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be writers. That’s the take away from the latest report by the Authors Guild of America. It examines the current lack of opportunities for writers. Writers’ incomes have dropped by nearly twenty-five per cent in the last seven years and more than half of people who earn their living by writing full time have an income below the federal level of poverty.
Christine Larson a journalism professor at the University of Colorado says the era where a relatively large number of people enjoy financial success as writers is coming to an end due to the closure of thousands of newspapers and magazines and the fact that e-books, sold mostly by Amazon, generally earn less money for writers than print books. Bestselling authors are still doing fine but other writers are seeing their source of income evaporate.
I know first hand how incredibly difficult it is to get published these days. I have been in the journalism game for several decades so I am still able to earn money for some long-standing freelance writing gigs and their attendant connections, but in the new genre of children’s writing I have been exploring, I have hit a brick wall when it comes to publishing.
This week I heard that Couteau Publishing, the Canadian company I thought was the best fit for my middle-grade novel set on the prairies, is going out of business. No wonder I didn’t receive any kind of response when I sent them my manuscript.
Another prairie publisher Great Plains, to whom I submitted my manuscript, has reduced production to only eight new books a year across all of its various markets. They were kind enough to send me a letter of rejection so I knew where I stood with them.
A major Canadian publisher I approached about a picture book of mine that had won a contest for new Canadian children’s writers, said my book wouldn’t appeal to their American audience which makes up 60% of their customer base.
I guess the good news is that you can publish your writing online, as I do every day with this blog and in that way, I can share my writing with a small audience. To widen that audience, however, I would have to pay substantial fees to social media sites and the hosts of my blogging platform.
I did meet a woman recently who is earning a healthy income from blogging but she must embed a great deal of advertising for a lengthy roster of businesses on her site and she goes regularly to blogging conferences and takes blogging courses, another financial investment.
I have started exploring the possibility of self-publishing for my children’s books, which is increasingly becoming the way authors share their work. This means writing will become an expensive hobby rather than a source of income but maybe that’s okay.
I wasn’t really serious when I said parents shouldn’t let their children grow up to be writers. I believe everyone should be a writer, able to express their thoughts, ideas and feelings in writing for a whole variety of purposes both personal and professional. But writing as a career is becoming a much less viable way to earn an actual living. That’s just reality.