Written in the heydey of the 20th century magazine era, Lemuel De Bra’s The Truth about Writers and Writing is an interesting article from 1924 about the realities of writing from someone who made their living writing magazine fiction stories.
In a lot of ways, things were far easier for writers in De Bra’s time- it was an era where printed fiction was still the main entertainment media and even radio hadn’t quite taken off yet. People read, and they read a lot, so writers could make their living doing something they loved without having to quite jump through the hoops they do in the modern publishing industry.
But, at the same time today might not be such a bad time for writer’s either. The possibilities of connecting people with stories through the internet are still being explored, and who knows? We might just be on the verge of another renaissance in the print media. Net fiction hasn’t quite caught on yet because people still like printed books, but once the non-print experience is as comfortable as the print one perhaps we can see a day when more people can again make a living writing for others.
I’m sick of jumping through hoops, with no good end in sight. I saw a manifesto on Literary Rejections on Display that at first I wanted to scoff at for being over the top, but it stuck in my head. I think about the fact that years ago your stories would be read by so many people, while now it’s just a tiny group of writers. Why bother to publish anymore? I don’t know the answer.
While it’s hardly the norm, look at it this way- the last Harry Potter book sold 375 Million copies and was translated into 64 languages. That’s 375 million people who read, and even if most authors only get to reach a tiny percentage of that then that’s still one hell of an audience of people who finished a book and then looked around saying “what do I read next?”. In other (non-English) countries where I lived, reading was still a major activity for people and bookstores were huge centers of social activity.
Print is far from dead, and writers can still write and make money doing it, they just have a heck of a lot more crap to deal with.