Today's publishing market has never been more unforgiving to new authors, whose chances of making a living are slim -- even if their material sees print. To escape these restrictions, authors are embracing cutting edge technologies of weblogs and subscription model websites. Self-publishing, an option pursued by classic writes like Walt Whitman, is also gaining ground as a respectable alternative. Celebrities also top the list of prospective authors, though negative perceptions can hurt their efforts' sales.
A Current Snapshot
Nothing better illustrates the state of current publishing than writer-filmmaker John Sayles's inability to find a home for "Some Time in the Sun," a 1,000-page novel set in 1890s America. Although previous books garnered rave reviews, they have not been best-sellers, Sayles told the "Los Angeles Times" in May 2009. With book sales continuing to fall, and publishing houses laying off editors in droves, there is little tolerance for projects that cannot generate immediate returns, Sayles acknowledged.
Posting material on weblogs, or "blogs," has become an increasingly popular tactic for writers weary of conventional publishing strictures. Blogging coach Jennifer Dunn advises writers to pick their best five to 10 posts, which can then form the backbone of a free e-book to test public interest. Writers can produce them through applications like "Anthologize," which helps bloggers reformat their old entries into e-book friendly formats like PDFs, according to an article posted on Boston.com.
Celebrity status offers the fastest track to deals, as evidenced by the $2 million deal announced for actress Demi Moore's first book. The price tag is higher still for megastars like Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, whose autobiography reportedly netted him upwards of $7 million, "The Daily Beast" reported. However, not every celebrity hits the jackpot. Comedian Sarah Silverman, for example, earned a $2 million advance for her book, "The Bedwetter," which sold just 34,000 copies.
Self-publishing has become another favorite method for authors thinking outside the traditional system, including heavyweights like John Grisham for his book, "A Time To Kill," "The Washington Post" stated in September 2004. Startup costs are expensive, as syndicated radio host Steve Boorstein discovered. Boorstein spent $7,500 on the first printing of his book, "The Ultimate Guide to Shopping and Caring for Clothing." Authors also need to pay for an ISBN number, the identifier that retailers use to track and order books.
Using a low-maintenance software publishing engine, authors can set up subscription-model websites, whose visitors then pay a small access fee to view the content, according to the Internet Tips website. This method bypasses traditional startup costs for printing and promoting a paperbound book, while allowing complete control over the content. The site administrator can also reshape the book as he wishes to meet his audience's needs, or use the material as grist for a sequel.