This essay by Paul Greenberg in the New York Times Sunday Book Review starts with a joke about a writer selling his car, flat screen tv, and couch. Mr. Greenberg says he is tired of the nation-wide writing=loser stereotype, and suggests a bail out or buy out, to lure other writers out of the field. He says,
“So how would my big St. Bernard of a bailout dig the publishers out of their drifts? According to the industry tracker Bowker, about 275,000 new titles and editions are published in the United States each year. Let’s say we want to eliminate half of them. Assuming it takes about two years to write your average book, we would offer book writers two years of salary at the writers’ average annual income of $38,000 a year. Add it all up and you get a paltry $10.5 billion to dramatically reduce the book overcapacity.”
The essay goes on to say that now, with people losing their jobs, there are even more, “Refugees from other professions take cover behind what they hope will be the respectability of the writing life.”
In another section of the Book Review, there is a description of the post-depression days when publishers had to buy back unsold books, and new editors would be initiated into the business with a walk through extensive warehouses filled with dusty books as a warning about chosing their titles carefully.
So here we are in the depression era again and as far as statistics show, Americans are reading less than ever before in history. So what does this say, what does all this mean? Mr. Greenberg’s tone is humorous, but is it funny that the average yearly income for writers is $38,000? Can a bail out fix the lack of demand for an over supply of writing?
Maybe a bail out isn’t such a bad idea. And while we’re at it, maybe we should think about a bail our for stay-at-home parents too.