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'This huge, discounting, rights-trading, jargon-babbling profiteering melée'

8 March 2010

'To begin to write a book these days seems more than the average folly. Publishing appears to have been hit by a storm similar to the one that tore through the music industry a few years ago and is now causing unprecedented pain in newspapers. We are told that fewer people are reading, that book sales are down, that the supermarkets which sell one in five copies of all books care more about their cucumber sales, that the book is shortly to be replaced by the ebook and electronic readers sold by, among others, Amazon, which seems bent on reducing publishers to an archipelago of editorial sweatshops and the writer to the little guy stitching trainers in an airless room. ...

If you feel sorry for publishers spare a thought - and a dime - for writers, on whose shoulders this huge, discounting, rights-trading, jargon-babbling profiteering melée rests. As things are, the writer's share of a book that sells for £10, after his or her agent's fee, hovers between 35p and 40p: more than 95% is kept by the agent, publisher and retailer. The fierce discounting in supermarkets means that writers are now even less likely to earn out their advances. At the same time advances are being cut and authors' contracts are being summarily cancelled.'

Henry Porter in an article in The Guardian