Charles Dickens began his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities with the line, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Depending on your point of view and current position, that line might describe what is happening in publishing today. For authors, it really is the best of times because there are more ways to get published than ever before. If you work in traditional publishing, you might think it is the worst of times as the industry goes through a transformation similar to what has already taken place in the film and music industries.
Over the weekend, I read an article by Stephen Marche in Esquire magazine where he offers that this is the absolute best time in history to be a writer. His opening statement declares that writers are whiners, but right now they have nothing to complain about. To read the complete article, you will have to pick up a copy of the magazine on the newsstand, because it is not online yet, but here are few of the key reasons for his claim.
- Celebrity authors command more money than ever before. J.K. Rowling is a billionaire. Tom Wolfe got $7 million for his last book. By contrast, Charles Dickens total earnings in present value was around $10 million.
- Small presses are putting out more good books than ever before. In 2010, the National Book Award and the Pulitzer for fiction went to small publishers.
- Self-publishing has lost its stigma. Books like 50 Shades of Grey have helped demonstrate authors can take control of their own publishing futures and generate great results.
- It’s not just the novel. Essays are making a comeback as well. Good writers can use blogs and online content hubs like the Huffpost to practice their craft and get read.
- The e-reader is creating a new market, not destroying an old one. People with e-readers read more books than people who don’t have the devices, and on average American adults read seventeen books in 2011. That number has never been higher since it started being tracked in 1990.
In summary, Marche suggests that we are in the midst of a massive rebirth of reading which means there is more opportunity for writers. His closing line in the article says, “The whining by writers is not just untrue; it’s becoming embarrassingly untrue. New advice: Be grateful. Revel.”
What do you think? Is it the Golden Age for Writer? Use the comment section to let me know if you agree or disagree with his claim.