In "From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author's life?", editor Robert McCrum interviews authors who find themselves struggling to adapt to an era of reduced advances from publishers. The article suggests that the mid-list writer is an endangered species. Read the article, and then come back.
I was astonished by the defeatist mindset of the authors who were interviewed in the article. They seemed to assume that if they were no longer getting livable advances from publishers, the game was over. Say what? Has no one in Britain heard of indie publishing? Indie publishing wasn't even mentioned in the article (one reader did describe indie alternatives in the Comments, which sounded a bit like Sir Walter Raleigh bringing news of the potato and other New World wonders back in 1589.) Other commenters then proceeded to confuse the indie industry with vanity publishing.
Most of all, the article mourns the passing of a more "genteel" era in publishing:
Publishers were toffs, booksellers trade and printers the artisan champions of liberty. Like the class system, we thought, nothing would change. The most urgent deadline was lunch. How wrong we were.Indeed. When it comes to adapting to a changed publishing model, I think American writers are ahead of the curve. People on this side of the pond are used to changing the way they work. Many former mid-list writers have reinvented themselves as their own author brands. (And in so doing, have been astonished to discover that they're making more money than they did under the old system.) Other writers are content to remain in the legacy publishing fold, or they become "hybrids" who do both legacy and indie work. It's a matter of finding your own comfort level.
But judging by the Guardian article, one has to conclude that British writers are stuck in the Grief stage about the changed publishing world.
It's not helpful to remain mired in the past. Maybe we should send our British friends some copies of WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?