Via The Globe and Mail, a provocative argument: ‘There will be no more professional writers in the future’. Excerpt:
Ewan Morrison is an established British writer with a credit-choked resume and a new book out, Tales from the Mall, that the literary editor of the venerable Guardian newspaper hailed as “a really important step towards a literature of the 21st century.”
By his own account, Morrison is also being driven out of business by the ominously feudal economics of 21st-century literature, “pushed into the position where I have to join the digital masses,” he says, the cash advances he once received from publishers slashed so deep he is virtually working for free.
“I’ve been making culture professionally for 20 years, and going back to working on spec again seems to be a very retrograde step,” Morrison says. “But it’s something a lot of established writers are having to do.”
And not only them: From the heights of the literary pantheon to the lowest trenches of hackery, where contributors to digital “content farms” are paid as little as 10 cents for every 1,000 times readers click on their submissions, writers of every stature are experiencing the same pressure.
Authors are losing income as sales shift to heavily discounted, royalty-poor and easily pirated ebooks. Journalists are suffering pay cuts and job losses as advertising revenue withers. Floods of amateurs willing to work for nothing are chasing freelance writers out of the trade. And all are scrambling to salvage their livelihoods as the revolutionary doctrine of “free culture” obliterates old definitions of copyright.
The economic trajectory of writing today is “a classic race to the bottom,” according to Morrison, who has become a leading voice of the growing counter-revolution – writers fighting fiercely to preserve the traditional ways.
“It looks like a lot of fun for the consumer. You get all this stuff for very, very cheap,” he says. But the result will be the destruction of vital institutions that have supported “the highest achievements in culture in the past 60 years.”
In short, he predicts, “There will be no more professional writers in the future.”