Terry Deary on Libraries

I have no idea who Terry Deary is, but evidently he’s one of the lucky few that get to make a living writing.  He also had this to say about libraries:

“Because it’s been 150 years, we’ve got this idea that we’ve got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers. This is not the Victorian age, when we wanted to allow the impoverished access to literature. We pay for compulsory schooling to do that.

“Books aren’t public property, and writers aren’t Enid Blyton, middle-class women indulging in a pleasant little hobby. They’ve got to make a living. Authors, booksellers and publishers need to eat. We don’t expect to go to a food library to be fed.”

Have you seen the kind of books they tell you to read in school Mr. Deary?  Sure there are classics like 1984, Animal Farm, and Brave New World that are as enjoyable to read as they are teaching materials, but by and large, the type of books one reads in high school are severely lacking.  And, high schools give students virtually no exposure to contemporary fiction.  How are you supposed to inspire a new generation of writers if they never get to consume or express themselves with anything created in their lifetimes?

What Dreary fails to understand is that is isn’t the libraries that are ripping writers off, it’s the agents and publishing houses.  J.K. Rowling was rejected several times before she finally got a paltry advance from an unknown publisher that only picked up the book at the urging of the owner’s daughter.  At last count, she’d sold one book for every fifteen people ON EARTH.  How does a supposed professional in the industry whiff that bad on something?  How do dozens of them?

And when these people do finally put a book on the market, they take almost all of the writer’s money on it, with no guarantee of success.  Despite of all this, authors are constantly told that the only way to achieve mainstream success is to spend hours dealing with these people, writing dozens of query letters and synopses with the hope that somewhere an agent and publisher are benevolent enough to let you make half a dollar for every book you sell.  That’s bullshit.

If Dreary wants to drop some math on us, why doesn’t he outline the royalty difference between traditional publishing and e-publishing?  (Between 30 and 70%.  Or the media types that constantly hamstring indie authors.)  For most writers, that’s going to make a lot more of a difference than any library shenanigans.  Dreary should focus his ire on publishing houses who insist on breaking into the e-book market with print prices despite drastically reduced overhead costs.  If anything is biting into an author’s take and popularity, it is this.

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About Alex

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