AWMonline: the true value of reading and writing     Literary criticism is dwindling in importance in mainstream print media, yet there are more readers than ever in America. The NEA report goes against the grain of the general contraction in the publishing industry at present – like at DC Comics and Oxford

In Australia, we have an estimated 600,000 plus people engaged in writing, of whom a mere 20,000 odd are professional writers. It all paints a daunting picture for beginning and emerging writers. While reading is a favourite activity of 61% Australians, even if there remains a market of readers, will there be the other necessary cultural and business infrastructure needed to publish?

There’s always the hope that the recession might work in our favour: we may spend our limited personal income on entertainment in a miraculous biostatic feedback loop of stress and pleasure. Amazon’s sales are up, so maybe it’s true!




3 Responses to “More readers, fewer jobs…”

  1. Brenton,

    Do you have a breakdown of those numbers? 600,000 engaged in writing – is that the combined membership of all writing associations plus competition entrants? Is there a tick box on a census somewhere? What constituts a writing for inclusion in this number?

    Out of the 20,000 professional writers, how many of these are journalists, reporters, freelance article writers? How many are purely writing fiction? How many are writing poetry only?

    I’m guessing the majority of beginning and emerging writers are in the short story market or poets, sending submissions to non-paying or low paying markets, trying to get a foot in the door and build a resume of credits. How many other like-minded Australian writers are they competing against.

    Numbers like this are daunting, but they ultimately mean very little. Any chance of sourcing more relevant numbers?

  2. Meg,

    You’re so right, Brenton. The numbers are meaningless: most creative writers write because it is our passion. But I believe a rising tide floats all boats, so any growth in the writing and publishing industry is good news for those who wish to become professional writers.

    The 600,000 figure comes from, as you guessed, a tick box on the last census form – people who identified as being engaged ‘in writing’ in some way. Writers are often also prolific readers, so the more the merrier, I say!

    The 20,000 figure comes from a report by the Australia Council called “Artwork 2: A Report on Australians Working in the Arts”, which I believe is going to be updated again next year – the new figures will be interesting to see. You can take about 15,000 off that figure for journos etc. The links I provided take you to some detailed figures if you want to see the breakdown e.g. they counted 3,300 authors in Australia.

    I appreciate your comment – as usual, informed and insightful. Happy writing!

  3. Speakeasy » Blog Archive » Trucks, hard liquor, poetry, and art.,

    […] the postulating about the recession leading to better book sales might come true, if this article is anything to go […]

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.