The image of the impoverished writer scratching out their masterwork in the freezing garret continues to be true today as it was a century ago, as outlined by a completely new report commissioned by Arts Council England (ACE), which said collapsing sales, book prices and advances mean few support themselves through writing alone.
The report found print sales of literary fiction are significantly below where they stood inside the mid-noughties which the asking price of the common literary fiction book has fallen in real terms within the last few 20 years.
The development in ebook sales in genres for example crime and romance has not yet composed for any shortfall in literary fiction, prompting ACE to outline ways it promises to support affected authors.
“It could have been obviously unnecessary during the early 90s with the Arts Council to take into account making an intervention inside literary sector, but a lot is different since then C the internet, Amazon, the demise in the net book agreement C ongoing changes that are fitted with enjoyed a massive effect,” said ACE’s literature director Sarah Crown. “It’s a lot more unforgiving ecosystem for authors of literary fiction today. We inevitably get a situation the spot that the people best positioned to create literary fiction are the type to whom earning money isn’t crucial. That has an impact on the variety of who’s going to be writing C were losing voices, and that we do not want to stay in that position.”
Carried out by digital publisher Canelo, the report analysed sales data from Nielsen BookScan observed that between 2007 and 2011, hardback fiction sales slumped by 10m. Paperback fiction experienced a more extreme dip, seeing declines every year after 2008. Next year, paperback fiction sales were 162.6m; by 2012, they were 119.8m.
The few literary works that contain sold in excess of 1m copies include Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Plenty of time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and Life span of Pi by Yann Martel. Last year’s bestselling literary novel was Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins, which sold 187,000 copies C roughly half the 360,000 copies of Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, the bestseller of 2015.
One reason suggested with the report for any decline in literary fiction sales would be the recession, happening concurrently since the rise of cheap and easy entertainment. “In comparison with this smartphones, literary fiction is normally ‘difficult’ and expensive: it’s not free, also it requires more concentration than Facebook or Candy Crush,” the report’s authors write.
ACE stated that “historically, there has been an assumption that literary fiction fell from the sphere of business publishing, and consequently required little in the way of direct intervention with the Arts Council”. These days it is proposing to help with more individual authors through its grants to your arts programme, to prioritise its funding of diverse organisations, particularly outside London, also to increase its support for independent literary fiction publishers C one of the few bright areas noted via the report, which pointed to “a flowering of latest independent presses specialized in literary fiction”.
It is likewise aiming to begin discussions when using the government around the introduction of any tax relief for small publishers, in order to support opportunities for reader development.
“There’s a belief that anybody can read, so everyone seems to be a reader, truly, we’re on our phones all the time, on Twitter everyday,” said Crown. “We ought to recognise there are more demands on people’s time, and we are stating that you will discover so unique and important and necessary and fundamental about literary fiction specifically, which we ought to consentrate on it and support it.”
However, literary novelist Will Self wasn’t hopeful for the sector’s future. “Literary fiction is already being subsidised C imagine many of the writers whorrrre continuing to earn a living now by teaching creative writing. They represent a difference occurring in literature – It is similar to quilting,” he stated, describing books written on creative writing courses as “collective undertakings”.
“I imagine that creative writing programmes can be a force for conformity and insufficient experimentation,” said Self. He predicted that “as you realize the large degrees of writers who definitely are registering for these courses are going nowhere [serious fiction] has to be ‘conservatoire’ form, practised by teenagers and gentlemen, and with a select group – like classical music or easel painting.”
The print publishing industry was buoyed in 2015 in the event it was revealed that physical book sales had risen in my ballet shoes in 4 years. A higher appetite to cook books and colouring books among consumers was credited for the shift, which continued in 2016 as ebook sales shrank 4% and print jumped 2%.