Writers’ battle for “royals”

In 1981 the writer Joyce Carol Oates He was about to publish his novel Belflor, priced at $16.95 per copy. His publisher suggested a deal: Charge a little less up front In order for a 600-page novel to be affordable ($12.95), print more copies, and spend more money on promotion and advertising. Before Oates, and that summer it became a novel best seller. We’ll never know what would have happened if Oates refused to cut his share. Fortunately, the formula for literary success remains a mystery.

What is not a mystery How few writers get paid: one in ten What we pay for the book. 30% of the price is taken by the publisher who chose the author and who takes the risk of selling the book or not. Another 30% goes to the distributor and 30% to the bookseller. Only 10% goes to the author and if he has an agent he takes 1% of the total. The novelty, as Ana Abela explains, is that from now on, for the first time in Spain, bookstores will provide the sales figure so that Writers can see how much their novel has sold. Hitherto they had no access to this information and the publisher was responsible for paying them the small piece of the pie, which informed them of their accomplishments.

Oates’ anecdote is taken from an article in Ph New York times 40 years ago, but the issue of fragility and struggle for proceeds It is as old as the book world. Both in the United States and England, where there is no fixed price, as is the case here. According to the Collective Association of Spanish Writers (ACE), in 2019, the release of 77.2% of writers had an income of less than 1,000 euros Annual copyright.

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Anthony Beevor and Stephen King, in defense of their colleagues

He also complained about the loss of purchasing power Anthony Beevor In 2018. In England, the author warned against Stalingrad, the income of professional writers has fallen 42% since 2005. In the same year, a study by the United States Authors Guild estimated the median income of those who devote themselves to writing at $20,300, less than half the median annual salary. And very King Stephen He (one of the few wealthy writers) testified six months ago against the publisher that publishes part of his work, Simon & Schuster, in a lawsuit to prevent a merger with the behemoth Bertelsmann, which would have given the resulting group almost complete control over developments in the North American literary market. The trend seems clear: groups have become publishing Bigger and richer, writers don’t.

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In Spain, the most notorious quarrels between publisher and author were those that separated paths Anagram and Javier Marías. divorce Arrived after the Madrid writer sold hundreds of thousands of copies The heart is snow-white in Germany, where the high priest of German criticism called it a masterpiece of TV show Das Letterrich Quartetand then “The disciplined German reader rushed to bookstores & rdquor;Jorge Herald mentioned it in his memoirs A day in the life of an editor. Three years later, Marías signed with Alfaguara.

It is true that it is the writer who risks the least money compared to the publisher and the bookstore, in the whole network, and no one guarantees the sales or the return of the investment made. But the writer remains base of the pyramid, the cause of everything. The fact that he has not yet had minimal transparent access to what he has sold his work doesn’t speak well of a sector that has seen some of its costs drop in recent years (such as digital printing), something that hasn’t moved margins a millimeter. Now a new chapter opens for the book. They will not get rich, but they may be less poor.

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