»The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.« – Albert Camus
Civilization starts with the invention of letters which enabled reading, communion and communication with past generations, with other cultures, nations, ideals.
Flaubert’s dictum Read in order to live proposes that books and literature can teach us ethics and the human condition in its private and universal aspects, as well as exemplify the madness and achievements of our own epoch, our principles, of our challenges.
There is no doubt: Society and every Individual need books and their writers. But what do writers need from society?
We as writers have to face more challenges than in the decades before. The rising »Blockbuster Mentality« and the »Bestseller-Chasing« of Publishing Houses narrows the diversity of literature and lowers the average advances for the middle-listed and debutants.
The impact of Amazon on price-dumping, its relentless hunger on more and more percentage, and the fatal idea of presenting an »all-you-can-read-buffet« of Flat rate-Model books has also declined authors’ earnings – as well as the respect for the work in every piece of written work. The ongoing infringement of copyright by E-Book- and Audiobook-Piracy is still ignored by policy; meanwhile, the expectations on writers to work unpaid and »for exposure« grows. A lack of remuneration systems such as PLR and ARR, but more copyright and authors’ right-exceptions even without renumeration, do its part on oppressing writers’ income and life.
But the »money-question« is just one part of the ecosystem of books and writers.
The other parts were evaluated by The Royal Society of Literature, funded by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS): »A Room of My Own. What Writers need to work today«, published on Dalloway-Day (19th June). How class, ethnicity, gender play through the writing lives and what do writers themselves say they most need in order to thrive? »A room of my own and space to write«, means support from peers, emotional support, financial and industry promotion and even more aspects. I highly recommend this read.
As President of the EWC, this UK-based research, dedicated to Virginia Woolf, inspires me to define our own manifesto together with EWC Members. The manifesto shall include our common needs. Not only in legal aspects – but aspects of support, protection and esteem for our works and the values for societies, in details of book-pricing and distribution, in a wealthy book market, with cultural rights and with a strong voice on the political parquet.
I would like to invite you to join this discussion in Madrid at the AGM 2020 (6.-8.6.2020) at the EWC BarCamp.
Brussels, 20. June 2019