I was shocked to see the revenue generated by modern media products last year.
Hollywood - as you'd expect - generated a hefty income - around $17 billion. This seems low when compared to the $25 billion earned by the music industry. But surprisingly it was video games that claimed the lion's share of media revenue at $30 billion.
But what of books, you ask.
Well, in 2010, the entire world revenue for books, magazines and newsprint actually struggled to make it to a mere $1 billion. In the US, book sales accounted for a measly $120 million - most of which went to a handful of bestselling authors and their publishers.
Makes you wonder whether we're in the right business, doesn't it?
With potential meagre earnings like this, split amongst around one million working writers, it's no wonder that many commentators believe that the real world publishing industry is in trouble.
On the plus side, the latest projections for the publishing industry predict a tripling of the revenue generated by books by 2013. BUT - over two thirds of that revenue is expected to come from the sale of DIGITAL books - that is, ebooks.
Imagine that - in two year's time over two thirds of all books sold will be computer downloads!
Amazon, Google, Apple, Sony and MSN are all now scrambling to make sure they're part of this ebook revolution - and I would advise authors and writers like you to be ready to jump onboard - as quickly as possible.
Because the beauty of the ebook bonanza is that authors can now compete directly with publishers WITHOUT having a publishing deal.
Just edit and format your book or novel or anthology, make a PDF and put it up online - either independently on your own web site or through one of the many hundreds of ebook publishers (like Magellan Books) or even through Amazon - all of which you can do for free.
The revolution will happen whether you're ready or not.
You may not sell thousands of your ebooks all at once - but let's face it, neither do real world publishers sell vast quantities of B list books.
One of the great secrets that the publishing industry doesn't like to brag about is that they simply don't sell that many books anymore.
Yes, if you're Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, JK Rowling or James Patterson, you might sell millions - but the rest of us?
The average writer makes barely enough to keep her in pens and a laptop. Around $12000 a year for the average 'successful' working writer was the last estimate I heard - and apparently 80% of people who call themselves professional writers make less than $10000 per year.
No wonder we have this image of writers living in garrets!
As an aspiring writer, you may feel that having a real world book out there is the only sure sign that you've actually made it, but this is in fact a bit of an illusion...
Many real world published authors may have the satisfaction of owning a copy of their own book BUT this does little to secure their careers - indeed, may even hamper it.
The fact is, digital does not have the same stigma to MODERN READERS, who will increasingly, I suspect, before anyone realizes what is going on, have huge libraries of digital books on their iPads, cells, PCs and all the other forms of modern data storage devices.
You probably have a few yourself!
And you probably think they don't really count as real books.
Am I right?
If so, then in monetary terms, you're mistaken...
But if you absolutely must have a real paper and card version of your work to make you feel better about yourself, then there's still good news. A similar revolution is happening in POD.
It makes perfect sense not to print up a book until someone buys it. And the new Print On Demand technology makes that entirely possible.
Yes, you may have to pay a nominal set up fee but then each book, printed often one at a time, should cost you around half of what you can sell it for.
Another secret the publishing industry keeps to itself is that many mainstream publishers have been using POD themselves for the last few years. Their own print runs have become smaller - because the price of printing POD books keeps coming down. Plus, if stocks run down in the event of bestseller, they can always print up new books quickly to satisfy any unexpected demand. And let's face it, a runaway bestseller is always unexpected - because ever since the beginning of time, nobody has been able to successfully predict what the public will want at any given time.
Nowadays, print publishers desperately try to create bestsellers - just look at how they're promoting Stieg Larsson (though sadly no longer with us) at the current time - because they know that exposure plus promotion plus a media angle and ideally a film deal can create enormous bestsellers - just like it did for The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter and Twilight.
But this is good - because this is where we independent writers can also compete. We just play the same game - on our own terms.
Publish the books - ourselves - then generate as much interest as we can online and jump on every opportunity to publicize ourselves and our books.
Sound too much like hard work?
Fact is, even mainstream publishers want you to do this work for them anyway. Have you seen modern submission guidelines that ask you what you personally intend to do to publicize your own work?
Real world publishers know they can't do it all by themselves - and are increasingly relying on authors to do the hard work of creating a viably commercial product.
Get ready to ride the wave.
Ours is an abundant, technology led, brave new world. There's lots of money to be made out there as a writer if you simply switch your mindset - and appreciate that the times they are a changin'.
Later this year I'll be starting up my own POD company as an adjunct to Magellan Books. I'll keep you posted on that because, yes, your success really is my ultimate concern.
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write
“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.”