Muggles Exist Too: Not every book is Harry Potter and not every book gets a movie deal

The publication industry has seen a lot of change within recent years as to how writers and authors can earn income or receive compensation for their work. Technological developments and evolution of popular media and culture has greatly affected noticeable trends in the book publication industry and the way authors can approach the business model. In the past, writers and authors would earn a majority of their income through author advances and royalties distributed to them by their publishing houses, but with the rapid growth of the movie industry and massive market of Hollywood, many avenues have been opened for authors to earn even more money. With the success of authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer having had their novels turned into major motion pictures, there has been a shift in what authors look for or strive for when pitching manuscripts to different publication houses. While this business model of making a majority of income through outside sources such as movie deals or memorabilia, as opposed to physical book sales, has helped some authors hit the jackpot with success and fame, it also creates a long tail effect of books in the market. Not every book is Harry Potter, and not every book achieves that kind of fame and success. When a book becomes a hit movie or a specific genre becomes trendy in popular culture and media, authors will often attempt to replicate it, or publication houses will publish books that fit into that genre, which results in a very large number of books on the market, but very few authors who's books will be picked up by a major film producer. This business model also has the potential to harm the book publishing industry as authors will attempt to produce replications of what has already proven to be successful, and fairly quickly, as to follow the trends and hopefully ride the pop culture wave. Diversity of material, as well as quality of writing, arguably decreases as authors and publishing houses attempt to produce books that may not have been quite as fully developed or polished, in an attempt to follow successful genres and trends.

It's no secret that being an author or a writer is not typically a high paying career path. Author's can spend months, or even years, pouring their hearts out into producing a manuscript to send to potential publishing houses, only to find countless rejection e-mails and a plethora of try again next time's. Even when a publishing house does decide to turn a manuscript into a novel, authors can earn as little as six to nine cents per word, or advances ranging from five to ten thousand dollars for a first novel (Pinchefsky, 2006). Those numbers often are not even enough to cover monthly groceries or minimal survival costs, and many authors find their main source of income elsewhere (Pinchefsky, 2006). With low income often associated with being a writer or author, it comes as no surprise that many people want to jump on the bandwagon when they hear about the success of someone like J.K. Rowling or J.R.R Tolkien. Earning even one percent of royalties on a movie adaptation worth multiple billions of dollars is extremely appealing, and is the reason why many authors turn to this sort of business model in hopes of achieving success. Even having your book considered for a movie adaptation, or "optioned", can earn authors a few thousand dollars just for simply selling the rights to their work (Pinchefsky, 2007). Movie adaptations have become such a huge success, with movies like The Hunger Games or A Fault In Our Stars, authors and publishing houses look for trends in the young adult genre in an attempt to churn out the next big blockbuster (Strickland, 2014). The already large number of young adult books on the market only increases as trends in the genre come and go, but the number of authors who hit the jackpot with movie adaptations remains relatively small. This creates a long-tail business model of a very large number of books and authors, but a very small amount that actually achieve multi-million dollar success and the opportunity to see their work come to life. While this business model arguably provides an opportunity, no matter how small, for writers and authors to earn a substantial paycheck, the negative implications it has on the book publishing industry can be argued to outweigh the positives.

The new financial model for authors has skyrocketed some straight into fame and fortune, but Smedley argues that "success tends to breed imitation, and imitation stifles innovation" (2012). Many emerging writers are inspired by huge successes like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, but instead of being inspired to write something new and creative, they often seek to replicate the genre or story in order to best suit what they consider to be audience desires. The extreme popularity and blockbuster success of the Twilight series sparked an unfathomable amount of vampire love stories hitting book store shelves, but very few of them were picked up and turned into movies or hit television shows. This model of obtaining income from outside sources has put what can be considered a creative halt to the book publishing industry. Fame and fortune are transforming the industry into one of homogenisation; hundreds of books are being published in hopes of replicating the success achieved by previous authors, and they all look relatively the same. Whereas the young adult section used to be extremely diverse and full of options, you would be hard pressed to find a novel about a story that has not already been told before in some way or another. Not only does it change the inspiration or purpose behind new material that authors and writers create, but publishing houses also aim to publish the next big movie adaptation. Because the new objective is to imitate or replicate a storyline that is already popular or successful, new and original material can sometimes be overlooked (Smedley, 2012). Strickland’s article stresses the importance of diversity of content in the publishing industry, not just for the market, but for the consumers as well (2014). Teen fiction should never move in only one direction, and successful books should inspire new and emerging authors to take the book industry to another level instead of replicating it and remaining stagnant.

It is no secret that being an author or writer is not necessarily the highest paying job available. The writing and book publishing industry is one reserved for those who are passionate about their work and are willing to spend time on low payout material. However, the new business model of movie rights and merchandise, made popular by Hollywood, has introduced new and exciting ways for authors to earn higher income. At first glance, this business model may seem like it provides authors with some amazing opportunities, and while it does, it also has some negative repercussions on the industry as a whole. The immense success of authors like J.K. Rowling have inspired newer writers to follow in their footsteps by attempting to replicate their material in order to market to the same audiences. This imitation puts a halt on the creative and innovative progression of the publishing industry and creates a long tail of books to hugely successful authors. It also pushes publishers to search for manuscripts that follow these trends, and can limit the new and original content that is picked up by publishing houses and later sold on shelves. New advancements in technology and developments in any industry can never be seen as a one-way road, and with positives will always come some sort of negative consequence. While this business model can provide a much higher source of income for a few authors, a balance between money and passion must be found in order to promote creative innovations in the book publishing industry and progress it in the right direction.

Pinchefsky, C. (2006). Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The financial reality of writing science fiction and fantasy. Wizard Oil. Retrieved from http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/cgi-bin/mag.cgi?do=columns&vol=carol_pinchefs\nky&article=015

Pinchefsky, C. (2007). When Your Book Becomes a Movie: pitfalls, rewards, and Volkswagen Beetles. Wizard Oil. Retrieved from http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/cgi-bin/mag.cgi?do=columns&vol=carol_pinchefs\nky&article=016

Smedley, R. (2012). The YA Genre Is Killing Itself. Fuel Your Writing. Retrieved from http://www.fuelyourwriting.com/the-ya-genre-is-killing-itself/

Strickland, A. (2014). What Teens Will Be Reading Next. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/14/living/young-adult-trends-diversity/

 

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    I understand this essay to be purposefully provocative, using some hyperbole to make a point. However, I find too many of the claims that it makes to be unsubstantiated, making it difficult to follow the author's arguments and insights on the effects of the book industry. There is little evidence (and none provided in the essay) to suggest that publishers are choosing books based on their likely cinematic success, nor that authors are writing with movie deals in mind. Without such evidence, it is difficult to interpret the rest of the essay. Even if we were to assume those claims were true, the essay does not play out the consequences for the industry as a whole, beyond making comments about how variety in writing is a good thing.

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