Thursday, April 24, 2008

Real writers aren't quitters

Just ran across this bit of silliness at Times Online:

Book piracy on the internet will ultimately drive authors to stop writing unless radical methods are devised to compensate them for lost sales.

This is the bleak forecast of the Society of Authors, which represents more than 8,500 professional writers in the UK and believes that the havoc caused to the music business by illegal downloading is beginning to envelop the book trade.

My initial reaction to this gloom-and-doom prediction paralleled one of the article's commenters, who stuck his tongue firmly in his cheek and wrote:

Not writers too! I remember when all the artists stopped releasing records and Hollywood stopped making films because online piracy was so rife.

Another commenter responded this way:

Writers will never stop writing. We couldn't stop even if we wanted to.

Most writers realize they'll never make a comfortable living banging away at their keyboards. But does that stop us? No. In fact, millions of us are already writing for nothing at all. (We call those writers "unpublished.")

It's often said that anyone who can quit writing should quit. This is a hard business. Sometimes even your best just isn't good enough, and agents and editors won't soften the blow to your delicate psyche but will tell you flat out that they just don't want your stuff. Even if you score a publishing contract, you can still end up with lots of wounds to lick. Your publisher might not promote your book and you might not sell enough copies to earn out your advance. Reviewers might trash your writing. And every time you open your mouth to complain, somebody will tell you to toughen up, because that's the business.

Writers who keep going in the face of real obstacles like those aren't likely to stop writing just because somebody has uploaded all of their books to an internet file-sharing site. Real writers are, by definition, not quitters.

I'm embarrassed that a writers organization has suggested otherwise.

1 comment:

Paul Spence said...

Writers can stand idly by and lament how the Internet is transforming publishing, or they can embrace that change and make the best of it.

Musicians have seized upon the disintermediating affect of websites such as YouTube and simply get on with developing their own audiences.Writers have the same opportunity.

We developed a readers and writers community and e-books site that enables authors to upload unpublished works and readers to sample and rate each book before purchasing. To encourage authors to participate, we are running an authors competition with $5,000 in prize money on offer.

Please do check out the site and provide us with feedback.