We went to a fancy dinner last night with our “investment firm” (something I think of as a Daddy Warbucks kind of entity swirling around in some financial world that means little more to me than a constant drum-beat of “hold your course . . .with us”). During our meal of salad, two-meat main course, and a chocolate-covered-in-chocolate something for dessert, two representatives of the company ran through a staggering amount of financial data as it portrays the history of our country, the situation we’re in today, and what’s likely to happen in the future. We saw a dizzying array of charts and graphs.
And make no mistake–these were charts and graphs in the biblical sense; none of that infographic folderol–all of which I suspect were there to impress us ignoble investors with how smart our presenters were more than to truly communicate any tangible information we could take home with us.
So what has all this to do with writing? Well, I tried to dig into a little bit of that. Books, and specifically novels, are luxury items in life. We who write get bundled into a market segment called “Discretionary,” along with such other minor things as televisions, movies, personal computers, vacations, and the items consumers purchase out of their excess funds. Discretionary makes up about 20% of the total amount of money in the world that investors invest in. In other words, books & publishing are so small that for the most part the industry ( $200 million in annual revenues) hardly rates a blip on some money manager’s computer screen.
I even asked the man whose whole job it is to watch and analyze “Discretionary Sector” businesses about publishing as an industry . . . blank stare.
He had heard of self-publishing versus traditional (or, in the publishing industry, “trad”), but the whole industry seemed so inconsequential that I felt almost foolish for asking his opinion on where publishing was headed. He was familiar with the names, “Penguin Books” and “Random House,” and had read a little about the Hachette vs. Amazon conflict about a year ago, but interested in the industry? Small potatoes.
So now I’m supposed to be armed and ready to create a marketing plan that will launch Sliced Vegetarian with success this summer. To be honest, I have very little idea on how exactly to define that success. I won’t see any sales results until next year, and any specific marketing efforts I make will be hard (read impossible) to track for “return-on-investment” results.
Internet research suggests that most books published make less than $100, that within the large publishing houses, only one in ten books make back their advances, that the market is swamped and flooding more each year, now that self-publishing has taken a stronghold. More and more, trad published authors are choosing to go indie in an effort to grab as much of the dwindling pie as possible. Scary stats, for sure.
But when I talk with consumers–like the gentleman who sat next to me last night–they gently prod to see if I’ve been trad-published. When they find out I have a “real” publisher, my credibility seems to increase, and they become more interested in my books. More and more, it becomes clear that “everyone” wants to write a book, or is impressed with authors, but published books and money don’t seem to be even passing acquaintances, much less friends.
In the world of finance, authors like JK Rowling ($1billion), Stephen King ($400 million) and Danielle Steel ($375 million) are inconsequential. Thank you to CelebrityNetworth.com for this information.
It is so romantic to say we authors write for the love of our art, but to eat? Eating is overrated and part of the “Staples” segment. If you’d like to plan to make a living at writing, you might as well put a big red bulb on the end of your nose–you’re going to be laughed out of any investor meeting.