The Market from Hell

The supply side could be reasonably compared to a high-pressure fire-hose:

A new poll for YouGov of almost 15,000 people found that 60% would like to be an author. The news may come as a surprise to the bestselling and critically acclaimed novelist Sebastian Faulks, who this weekend expressed his wish to find a job, writing in the Spectator that he has “now spent almost a quarter of a century alone in a garret staring at a blank wall, and I think it has driven me a bit mad”. […] … According to a survey carried out by Digital Book World earlier this year, almost a third of published authors make less than $500 (£350) a year from their writing.

Here’s the demand sink they’re feeding into:

ADDED: Relevant musings of Albert Jay Nock.

April 6, 2016admin 36 Comments »


36 Responses to this entry

  • Fatalist Says:

    There’s an old Russian joke about this.

    A Chukcha (a native people in the Russian Far-East) applies for membership in the Union of Soviet Writers. He is asked what literature he is familiar with.
    – “Have you read Pushkin?”
    – “No.”
    – “Have you read Dostoevsky?”
    – “No.”
    – “Can you read at all?”
    The Chukcha, offended, replies, “Chukcha not reader, Chukcha writer!”


    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 3:54 pm Reply | Quote
  • TheDividualist Says:

    Everybody can be an author. offers to print 120 copies of a 200 pages book for about four hundred dollars. I will probably do with that with my blog at one point and troll public libraries by donating it to them. Making ebooks is even cheaper.

    Actually being read, selling copies for real money and especially making a living out of it, now that doesn’t happen. But if you just want self-publish and see your name on the cover because vanity, it has never been easier.

    And I think is making a killing because vanity is big. I would call it something like a reverse market. It is not about earning any money with your book, it is about earning status by giving a copy to a friend or putting it on your resume or calling yourself an author on your blog while actually spending money on it. So the people actually making money are, in this example, the printing presses or the sites that offer ebook composition until there are good enough open source tools for that. I wonder how many former professions became such reverse markets? Music? Homebrewing?


    Seth Largo Reply:

    Along the same lines, all the smart people who wanted to be rock stars sold their guitars and bought small recording studios instead.


    TheDividualist Reply:

    And what this all suggest? I think it suggest an intensification of signalling and status-competition. Or, alternatively, that the process that status-competition is less and less about wealth and more and more about these kind of stuff, which I figure we knew already, is stronger than maybe it seemed. In 1985, the average guy (as the lyrics is based on a real rant by a worker) seemed to envy mostly the wealth of rock stars:

    30 years later, it is more like “everybody” is envying and simulating the prestige of rock stars, even if it costs them money. (I haven’t looked into it, but I take your comment as an indication that many bands are self-publishing records and losing money on it, they don’t sell as much as they need to pay to the studio.)

    Just occurs to me that years ago I drank with a Brit guy who turned out to be the drummer of a small punk band. They too tried selling records at their gigs and it did not worth it, then had a smart idea and had t-shirts made in China for €1 and sold them for €20 or maybe similar numbers in GBP, roughly that order of magnitude. And this turned out to work well. Because apparently a lot of “fans” did not actually care about listening to their music much, but they do care about wearing the tee of an obscure band and thus hipstering about it.

    This sounds like the intensification of signalling, although it can be that it is just the way it is done changed.

    I must admit I don’t feel at home this period. It makes no sense to me. I rather signal with actually useful things like wealth or strength, like we did in the eighties.


    John Hannon Reply:

    Whereas the real rockers just carried on regardless of financial reward, honing their craft playing for next to nothing week after week purely for the love of it.
    From the punters point of view, the live music scene has never been better, such that on any given weekend its possible to catch at least four or five excellent bands and not have to pay a penny.

    BTW, went to see the newly opened Stones exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London yesterday and can highly recommend it. Even if you don’t like their music (what the hell is wrong with you?) it’s still an utterly fascinating exhibition purely in terms of cultural history.


    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 3:56 pm Reply | Quote
  • The Market from Hell | Neoreactive Says:

    […] The Market from Hell […]

    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 4:02 pm Reply | Quote
  • T. Kekkonen Says:

    Writing is basically jewellery-making for wonks and romantics


    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 4:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • Erebus Says:

    Those statistics are spurious. They’ve floated around the internet for years, and seem to lack attribution. They appear to have been cut out of whole cloth in 2003.

    There are more trustworthy and recent statistics here:
    http://www.pewresearch. org/fact-tank/2015/10/19/slightly-fewer-americans-are-reading-print-books-new-survey-finds/

    “In the most recent survey, those most likely to be book readers included women; young adults (those ages 18-29); those with higher levels of education and higher household income; and whites. These patterns largely hold for overall book reading and for the different reading platforms – printed books and e-books.

    The average woman read 14 books in the past 12 months, compared with the nine books read by the average man, a statistically significant difference.”

    …This is still dismal, and “author” is an utterly terrible career choice, but things are not nearly so bad as Mangan’s post suggests.


    XVO Reply:

    14 books 9 books…..that is unbelievable…it can not be true. Maybe .10 and .05 books would be more believable numbers.


    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 4:30 pm Reply | Quote
  • Future Murder Says:

    Not unrelated: Peter Sloterdijk’s “Rules for the Human Zoo.”


    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 4:50 pm Reply | Quote
  • Aaron Says:

    What’s a “bookstore”?


    TheDividualist Reply:

    One half of a coffee shop.


    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 5:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • Kwisatz Haderach Says:

    42% of college grads never read another book? That’s got to be the worst of the bunch.

    Human trash is gonna trash, and those who pay attention know that by now.I no longer find it surprising when the depravity of the underclass is formalized into statistics, and I always discount shock statistics about the general population with the understanding that these stats count the People of Walmart, tootling around on their little electric scooters, to the same extent that they count my social circles.

    Even so, it is sometimes it is helpful to be reminded about how ignorant the average person actually is. For instance, a few weeks ago this blog (or a link from this blog) informed me that a majority of US voters do not know which party is in control of the US Congress. (How could anyone support voting rights for people that don’t such thingss?)

    But the 42% number goes to show how far along the trashification of the uni system has progressed..


    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 5:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • odoacer Says:

    Mangan’s stats are almost certainly bogus. Come on guys.


    Seth Largo Reply:

    Exaggerated, yes, but not bogus.


    Kwisatz Haderach Reply:


    Come on what? The way I’m reading the chartyou linked, it’s showing numbers that are consistent, or nearly consistent, with Mangan’s tweet.

    For instance, the accepted answer shows a chart that say that, in 2002, only 377% of high school grads had read a book in their leisure time in the last 12 months. The number is therefore consistent and passes a basic sanity check against “1/3 of high school graduates”never read another book after high school. 66.3% haven’t within a year, leaving plenty of room for 33% “haven’t ever after”. The same graph noted a rapidly declining trend in the reading rate as well, and the report was made 14 years ago.

    The college stat is that in 2002, 47.3% of college grads haven’t read a book in the last 12 months. This is consistent but not quite reasonable for “42% haven’t ever read book since college”. But again, that was 14 years ago.

    Maybe the cited numbers are a bit too high, but you haven’t exactly proved that they’re bogus.


    Erebus Reply:

    Mangan’s stats are wrong. (And unattributed, and old, and we know nothing of their methodology.)

    I posted about this earlier, but it’s stuck in the spam filter.

    For now, suffice it to say that the results of a recent poll are here:

    >”Among all Americans, the average (mean) number of books read in the previous year was 12 and the median (midpoint) number of books read was four. Some 27% of adults said they hadn’t read any books over the past year, while 1% said they did not know or refused to answer.”

    It’s not good, but the situation isn’t as dismal as Mangan’s stats imply, either.

    Incidentally, of the spurious stats, “one-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives” is closest to the truth. The others are absolute nonsense.
    (It is likely that one-third of high school graduates don’t know how to read well enough to enjoy books…)


    Grotesque Body Reply:

    Mangan’s stats may be inaccurate, but his sentiment is dead-on.

    The precise statistics don’t really impact on the point being made either. It’s simply a fact that self publishing and blogging have unleased a horde of self-important retards who have nothing useful to say but still think they need a voice.

    “It’s not good, but the situation isn’t as dismal as Mangan’s stats imply, either.”

    I guarantee the number of people in the United States reading the old books (Yarvin’s method) is basically negligible. Wringing one’s hands over low literacy rates is laughable when American literacy in effect means getting the latest “The Twilight Games and the Philosopher’s Stone Saga: Oprah Book Club Edition”.

    Measuring the cultural currents of today as gross sales of 15th century technology (mass-produced books) is full retard.

    Into the archive we go.

    Erebus Reply:

    I agree with you. I wholeheartedly believe that modern “literary culture” is absolute garbage, and that no truly great books have been written within the past 80 years. Even some of the 19th century’s pulp mystery serials (e.g. the works of Wilkie Collins,) are vastly superior to anything produced today. I believe I have expressed these opinions here before.

    Having said that, it’s still bad form to throw around false statistics. And if you’re correct about Mangan’s sentiment, then his post is misleading and poorly thought-out: “People don’t read at all” is not the same thing as “people waste their time reading worthless books.” His false statistics do not adequately convey the latter.

    Odoacer Reply:

    @Grotesque Body
    Sort your data out first before you worry about “sentiment.”


    Grotesque Body Reply:

    The multinationals can have the data. Warriors need heuristics.

    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 5:54 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rec0nciler Says:

    Can you do a blog post on overproduction?

    (We’ll pay market rate).


    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 9:09 pm Reply | Quote
  • Brett Stevens Says:

    The problem here are people who refuse to assimilate.

    Literature has been democratized.

    We used to leave it up to the upper classes… and they produced classics.

    Now everyone can do it, and you get Fifty Shades of Grey and a new trend every week, but no classics.

    Caste systems work. 14/88 is not extreme enough. We need not just racial isolation, but promotion of the upper castes, because the proles have done nothing but shit the bed as far as fiction, literature and theory are concerned.


    Posted on April 6th, 2016 at 10:20 pm Reply | Quote
  • Dale Rooster Says:

    Books are dead. And we killed them. Everyone’s a writer now, and no one reads. So now the blog is one shadow of the book’s death. But is that really such a bad thing? (Imagine Moldbug’s influence…without the death of books.)

    How many people in the past really enjoyed reading poetry or novels or philosophy in the first place? When and where? (Are we romanticizing something that never really existed?) Classics are being produced now (I’ll place money on it), but there’s no such thing as a modern classic. We don’t know what they are and never will because we’ll be dead.

    “Wringing one’s hands over low literacy rates is laughable when American literacy in effect means getting the latest “The Twilight Games and the Philosopher’s Stone Saga: Oprah Book Club Edition”.”

    I concur, doctor.


    Posted on April 7th, 2016 at 2:01 am Reply | Quote
  • SVErshov Says:

    there is obviouse preference shift toward visual content, time for autors to become painters.


    Henry Dampier Reply:

    If prices contain information, we see that anyone involved in video production makes a multiple of what people who only work in text earn.

    Picture books (magazines) earn more per person involved in production.

    Newspapers (short articles with low-resolution pictures) earn less per person, even in specialist positions that require a high skill level. David Brooks bought a $3.95 million house in 2012, probably in cash, but there isn’t much out there about his salary.

    By comparison, Sean Hannity earns well into the eight figures by the Forbes estimate. Rush Limbaugh, the most popular radio host in America, is finishing up a $400 million eight-year contract which doesn’t even probably encompass all of his income sources.

    When you get to TV and movies the numbers get famously even more insane.

    By comparison, one of the best-selling books ever, the first Harry Potter, only moved about 110 million copies, with the publisher taking the bulk of the revenue from each sale, with the subsequent books selling less. By comparison, the top-selling Harry Potter movie grossed over $381 million worldwide, but divided across far more people involved in the production.

    What are the prices telling us? Principal producers in text are paid less because there’s less consumer demand for their products relative to audiovisual content. Many people have poor literacy skills, but everyone except the severely retarded can understand video and radio material. It also requires less effort to pay attention to, and more people spend more hours per day watching TV than any other medium.


    Xoth Reply:

    Authors also produce novel IP which can, if successful, subsequently be exploited across multiple media. If you’re both lucky and good that is. I think this has been more or less abandoned by TV and movies. Video games can sometimes serve in a similar capacity.


    A.B. Prosper Reply:

    That’s not how people work. Talent is not blank slate and its not fungible.


    Posted on April 7th, 2016 at 2:35 am Reply | Quote
  • Alan J. Perrick Says:

    In an anti-culture, it’s pretty obivous that there isn’t much good writing going on, either.



    SVErshov Reply:

    still books have some advantage, for example , one student come to professor and said:

    – I read your new book
    – so, how it is?
    – very good, it contains much more then you know

    from Doctor Russell Ackoff – Speech on Systems


    Grotesque Body Reply:

    Anything that facilitates bullying of academics has to be a good thing.


    SVErshov Reply:

    right, at least we have someone to blame for such fiasco and stagnation of human, non human, chimeric or in short: DNA based discourse.

    Alan J. Perrick Reply:



    SVErshov Reply:

    “then” is framing discourse as a ‘problem’ and problem is that we know too much already and tired reading books.
    then … ‘If racing men on foot exhausted you, what horses will do?’
    this shait isn’t pretty either way

    Posted on April 7th, 2016 at 4:09 am Reply | Quote
  • Voodoojuejue Says:

    “Should we anticipate a reactionary revolt of repressed texts against computer programs in an unpredictable future?” Vilém Flusser has a beautiful discourse on this that goes beyond the statistical woes of publishing or reading books.

    Just as texts overthrew images in the 18th cent, “…digital codes today advance against letters to overtake them”. The digital culture has doomed writing and yet there will be people who will continue to write, well aware of the absurdity of it.

    “Does Writing Have a Future?” sadly no. However, we should be excited for what our new mode of thought will be outside of print and the alphabet altogether.


    Posted on April 7th, 2016 at 6:28 pm Reply | Quote
  • VKR Says:

    The problem is not unique to our times:
    “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” – Cicero

    These wannabe authors should consider Nietzsche
    “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”


    Posted on April 7th, 2016 at 6:39 pm Reply | Quote

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