A writer is someone who writes. Seems easy doesn’t it? But, at what stage do writers become professionals? Not so easy. Is it when they write their first article, story, novel, or book? Or is it tied to publication? And if it’s tied to publication, what kind of publication? Does publication in magazines count? What about online magazines? Does it have to be a book? And what about e-books? Do you have to be published by one of the Big Six to be recognised as a professional author? In my opinion that would be a bit restrictive. So, should this be extended to other publishing houses who are not part of the Big Six? And what about the multiplicity of independent publishers (Indies) that are springing up?
I started to wonder about this after chatting to the membership secretary of the CWA (Crime Writers Association) who indicated that the number of self published e-book authors who were applying for membership was increasing. This resulted in the CWA having difficulties convincing self published authors they were not eligible unless published traditionally by a mainstream publisher. Self published authors often argued that their e-books were successful with multiple downloads, and therefore could not understand why they should not be eligible. However, the problem for the CWA is how to differentiate between quality e-books and those of lesser quality. Their main concern is to ensure that quality is retained in the books published by the authors they accept.
Of course this reflects back to the situation where anyone can publish a book electronically through Amazon, Smashwords, and others like them. And it has to be admitted, that not all e-books meet the standards required by mainstream publishers, although I would argue that there are many which do.
Many self published authors, although not all, are now seeking entry to the professional organisations which support writers. Organisations such as the Society of Authors, the CWA (Crime Writers Association), the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association), and others. Considering my conversation with the membership secretary of the CWA, it would appear that some of these organisations are struggling with the concept of indie publishing, never mind indie authors.
It seemed to me that the professional organisations had reached a stalemate, which was why I was so pleased to see the recent Guardian article titled “Traditional publishing is ‘no longer fair or sustainable,’ says the Society of Authors”. This article argues that figures from a recent ALCS (Authors Licensing & Collecting Society) survey shows that authors’ earnings are decreasing and have fallen by 29% since 2005. The Society of Authors states that publishers, retailers and agents are all now taking a larger slice of the profit when a book is sold, and that while “authors’ earnings are going down generally, those of publishers are increasing.” The survey indicates that self-publishing is becoming an increasingly attractive option for writers and they found that just over 25% of writers had published something themselves, and that 86% of those who had self published said they would do so again. The article is well worth reading in its entirety and I would suggest you make the time to do so.
Now, the main reason I like this article was because of the statement by the Society of Authors that they include self published writers among their members if they have sold 300 copies of a single title in print form, or 500 copies in e-book form, within a 12 month period. They further state that most writers would “still prefer a traditional publishing deal but the terms publishers are demanding are no longer fair or sustainable”.
Of course, there is another option, and that is ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors), this is the professional organisation for Indies. There is, of course, an annual subscription fee, but this is no different from the other professional organisations who all require subscriptions.
I’ll sign off by saying please read the Guardian article I found it extremely interesting.