Publishing is a corporatised, market-driven, bottom-line privileging of the blockbuster […] Like any of the giant conglomerates, the publishing megalith is maintained by low-wage drudgery; in this case it is writers who toil for poverty-line rates with no security and few rights. The figures speak volumes.
In 2014-15 the British and Irish publishing industry turnover was £4.6 billion, up from £3 billion in 2013. Against this apparent boom the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society warns that author’s incomes have collapsed. The median income of established professional authors is £11,000, down 29 per cent since 2005. But the typical median income of all writers is less than £4,000 and declining yearly. Output of books is rising steadily: 185,000 releases this year in the UK and Ireland. The writer’s share of this benison is about 2.8 per cent – that’s 28 cents on a €10 book.
The disparity between a seemingly buoyant industry and third-world income- streams for those generating the product is deeply puzzling, concerning, appalling, actually.
The Big Five publishing giants – Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin/Random House and Simon & Schuster – point to the techno revolution, evidencing their struggle with even bigger monoliths such as Amazon as the problem, rather than their own exploitative tendencies. But it is in the nature of corporatism to externalise costs wherever possible. The costs of living as a writer get passed on – writers teach, edit, review, ghost-write, cab-drive, put out in myriad ways so that they may write the books that support the global corporate entity that is modern-day publishing.
–Fiona O’Connor on industry.
The point here is essentially that publishers, including anyone who self-publishes and has a day job, run a subsidised business. It’s one that’s subsidised by all the other day jobs authors have. This isn’t new, exactly, but I think it is getting more difficult to get out of the “day job trap”.