Monday, April 11, 2005

Big boys beat you up

Mediachannel.org (via booktrade.info) has an article about the power of the big corporations, and what creative people can do about it. One answer, it seems (but not the only one), is to do your own thing. Which is precisely what I said in my recent essay On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile.

The mediachannel article deserves to be read in full, at the very least because it contains some extremely interesting data. Here are some samples, drawn from the US market:
Just six firms dominate US book publishing. Two huge national retail chains sell 80% of books. Sales from independent booksellers dropped from 42% in 1992 to just 20% in 1998. Publishers give big advances to authors with a built-in audience, like Bill Clinton. Little is left for mid-list authors and new writers. If they are 'lucky' enough to be signed, most authors receive just 7-15% of royalties. Less than 1% of writers make more than $50k a year, just 6% of writers make a living as authors.
The position is not much different anywhere else in the world.

The article also reveals that more than 10 million creations have been distributed using Creative Commons licenses. For example, the online record label Magnatune has 326 albums by 174 artists -- all using Creative Commons licenses. Artists can now directly build a royalty base and a loyalty base for future projects, allowing them to create their own cottage media industry without 'selling out' to corporate conglomerates. Director Robert Greenwald sold over 100,000 copies of the DVD of the movie Outfoxed through House Parties organised by MoveOn.org. (More on this way of proceeding can be found here.)

Another comment from mediachannel is that writers, in particular, are thoroughly displeased with the way the big corporations treat them. Here is what Pat Holt has to say:
Everywhere you look, authors have changed their approach. They don't depend on agents or editors any longer .... Today's savvy authors hire their own manuscript consultants and their own publicists. ....The reason is that the industry treats them like garbage - still patronizes them, condescends to them, dismisses them, doesn't read them, sends them out on exhausting tours if they're lucky, and dismisses them if the numbers don't work.
Hmm. Once again, it is interesting to note that there are people out there who are much grumpier than I am.

2 comments:

Andrew said...

Bill Clinton, Oprah and Doctor Phil are, frighteningly, samplers of what American publishers salivate over. Holt's points are excellent and, if one accepts writing as an inept way of getting rich anyway, we may be watching the evolution of the publishing industry. I just hope it doesn't take as long as the dinosaurs.

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