A little while back, we asked you about you. What made you write. What you wrote. What you expect from your writing. And what holds you back.
And here are the answers.
I guess that most users of this site won’t be utterly surprised by this chart. Writing for you guys (and for me, if it comes to that) looks a lot like a lifetime passion. Most of us have been in this game for years – and those who have been active for less than a year are probably going to continue for some time yet. Good for you! And good for us!.
Next, we asked about what you write. You And you write this:
That seems like a good, balanced range to me. It’s not far off from a snapshot of the trade publishing industry, in fact, which suggests to me that what we read and what we write is pretty much in synch. In terms of why we write – well, duh! – we write because we love it and always have done:
I didn’t answer the survey but my answer would have been the same as most of yours: I’ve always loved it. A TV crew came to my school once when I was about ten and they filmed a group of us answering the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ My answer: author.
In terms of the challenges you face in trying to get published, the most common answer by a distance was finding out which agents/publishers to approach (an answer cited by 86% of you). The next commonest answer (rather oddly to my mind) was ‘Getting good feedback on my work’ (80%). And there was me thinking we’d sorted that. And thinking you’d probably noticed the results.
The next question – the biggest barrier to getting published – provoked some interesting responses:
Mostly, I think you have it right. There’s only one substantial barrier to getting published and that’s writing a good enough book. The vast majority of published authors (including me) were unknowns when we were taken on. It couldn’t really be otherwise. The Katie Price brigade annoy me too, but they don’t take a huge share of the market. They’re not the issue. And yes, getting an agent is tough … but really that just works back to the Big Issue. Write a good enough book and you’ll have agents fighting for your signature. Honest!
The next set of answers isn’t perhaps surprising – but gosh, it shows which way the wind is blowing:
I agree with you completely. Self-publishing will become more common. E-publishing will account for a huge proportion of our incomes. You’re downbeat about the future path of authorial incomes. I’m a bit more agnostic, myself. Certainly the path of writing income has been relentlessly downwards in recent years – but I do actually think that the ease of self-publishing and the rise of e-pub is altering the balance of power between authors and publishers. In the past, we’ve never been able to tell the buggers to jump in a lake. The power has been entirely on their side, never (unless we’re bestsellers) on ours. And that’s starting to change. I don’t know how these things will play out, but at least the wheel is in spin. That’s a good thing.
A further question about the future is also revealing:
We’re not just going to be e- and self-publishing, we’re also going to be marketing ourselves. I think that’s true. And I also think that underlines the point about the changing balance of power between publishers and authors. As we’ve noted before on this blog, self-published & self-marketed authors (especially if they’re WW clients) can fight on levels terms with the biggest names in the industry. Fight & win. The marketing is more work, but at least we can achieve some much needed independence. Hooray for that.
And finally – who should be most scared of the future? You’re not sure:
I think it’s probably right that booksellers have cause to be anxious. Right too that readers will be fine. But aspiring authors – do you really need to be so concerned? Readers want your stuff. Entry to the industry is hard – but it always has been. And you can, for the first time since Caxton & Gutenberg, go it alone. I wouldn’t say that the future’s rosy for us, but the one certainty about the future is that readers will read and will need writers to write. We’re going to be OK, readers and writers both. It’s the guys in the middle who need to be fretting.
The full results of the Writers’ Workshop survey can be found online here. Harry Bingham is available for direct comment by email or on 0845 459 9560. You are welcome to reprint any of the facts or coments from this survey or blog post, but please link to the Writers’ Workshop site when you do so.