Category Archives: writers

Dead books thrive

Rigid Male Ship Publishing

MUCH wailing at the wall and gnashing at the teeth follow from the recent ill fortunes of the publishing industry.
Newspapers are in the midst of a shake-up which is just beginning in book publishing
As a journalist and author, I appear to have accepted not one but two third-class seats on the Titanic.
Thankfully for books, it is not all doom and gloom.

With what some observers considered undue haste, Penguin and Random House have announced a merger.
Here is how the China Daily called it.
Penguin/Random Houseis estimated toseize 25 percentto 30 percentof the global consumer publishing market. Pearsonand Bertelsmann (respective owners) hope tocope with theebook era throughcombination of thetwo leading publishers.
The two sidesbelieve that thecombined organization willhave a stronger platform andgreater resources toinvest in newdigital publishing models andhigh-growth emerging markets.  
In other words, we will throw heaps of money at the problem and it will run away. That is not going to happen.
We in the publishing business cannot even agree what is the problem. Bitter heritage publishers will tell you the explosion of cheap poor-quality indie books has eroded industry standards and destroyed consumer confidence in the product. Amazon says pricing models of the heritage publishers are antiquated and unsustainable.
Let’s establish a few ground rules and throw in some statistics before we all decide to go to the pub to down our sorrows.
Ground rule #1
Ebooks are real. If print books disappear, except as expensive novelties over the next 10 years, it will not be the death of publishing. Uncertainly abounds in discussions on our topic. If you are reading an analysis which distinguishes between real books and ebooks, stop reading immediately; your brain will thank you for it.
Do you believe in ghosts or ebooks?
Ground rule #2
Our story has no villains. The Big Six, or Five, publishers, Amazon, indies who price at 99 cents, heritage media and universities who have downgraded literary criticism, internet spammers are all players. Demonising them is a convenient way of dismissing the best ways forward as all too hard.
Ground rule #3
The best books have never made anywhere near as much money as inferior books. Genre books, once disparaged as “pot-boilers” will always make the most money because they are literally addictive. Once hooked, the reader needs the fix of the formula. Also anyone can read “down”. It takes a level of sophistication to enjoy reading a “literary’’ novel  The contemporary literary novel is also competing against the great works of the past while newness is prized in genre fiction. The importance of this ground rule is it casts doubt on the heritage publishers’ central contention about the erosion of quality. Those publishers themselves have based their fortunes on the inferior writers in their stable. This was a benign system as the most popular authors effectively subsidised their more talented peers. The emphasis is on wise as the system has been shattered.
Pick the Nobel Prize winner
Now for the stats, only a few as they hurt some people’s heads.
Stat 1
In 2001 162m books were sold in Britain.. In 2011 229m books were sold. If there is a crisis in publishing, it has nothing to with the popularity of the product. SOURCE
Stat 2
Ebooks account for less than 25 percent, probably closer to 20  percent, of books sold. I believe this will rise above 80 percent in the next decade, but the point is, if there is a crisis now, there is a lot more at play than ebooks.
As quoted here
Stat 3
In one year in Australia, more than half the novels sold were written by either Dan Brown or J. K. Rowling. (Sorry I am unable to locate the reference, a story on how all but one university chair of Australian literature had been axed. From memory, the percentage to total sales of Brown/ Rowling was more than 75 percent so you can accept more than half). The point here is that sales of books is increasing  but the mix of books sold has become more constricted.
Finally an excellent article on modern publishing which exposes the real scenario on decreasing standards. Surprise, surprise; it has little to do with ebooks.
This is the first installment in a series on the “crisis”.  I will leave the reader to ponder what they think is the relevance of the above.
Come, walk with me down the boulevard. I’m sick of walking alone.

Make the sort of money your book, art or performance deserves

I had the privilege of listening to Dr Ernesto Sirolli for more than an hour today.

He was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Moreton Bay  

Creative Industry Expo 2012

Moreton Bay is a region of Queensland Australia and is where I live.

I will try to explain as simply as possible what Dr Sirolli had to say.

If I do what you consider a good job, please send a link to this post to everyone you know who is an independent writer, artist or performer.  It concerns how good artists can make a decent living from their work. Anybody working in the arts knows that is just not happening today.


Dr Ernesto says all work offered for sale involves three processes.

1.       Production

2.      Marketing

3.      Administration, including finances



The second point is no-one who has ever lived or who shall ever live has been, is, or will be excellent at all three skills.


What this means for an independent artist (a writer or a performer is an artist, in my book) is they need to find a marketing expert and a financial expert for their business to have great success.


You do not find these people through formal partnerships but by seeking out passionate people who may be retirees, students or relatives and friends who believe in your talent.


These people may work for free as volunteers or for the promise of payment when you are financially successful. If you think this is fanciful, remember that Dr Sirolli has helped create thousands of successful enterprises in 300 communities throughout the world based on these principles. He also cites this as the way billionaires such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates began their careers.


Dr Sirolli believes people within an industry can often make more money individually as members of a co-operative, either formal or informal. I am not sure if this follows from his basic principles but it is worth including for your consideration.


Also the “enterprise facilitators” – marketeers and financial people – have been trained by the Sirolli Institute to  create those 300 community success stories.

Obviously it did not take Dr Sirolli more than an hour to say what I have presented above.   But I promised to keep it simple and I believe I have.


The interpretation is, of course, mine but I believe it is faithful to the core ideas.

Now let’s watch Dr Sirolli tell it in his own words.




Let the conversation continue. Please leave a comment and we will start the ball rolling in our virtual artistic community.  If you want to run this as a guest blog, just ask.