It works like this: My agent sells my book IDEA to a publishing house. The house pays an “advance”: a sum of money upfront that I can live on while I research and write the book. It’s not much money — in fact it’s an embarrassing amount of money and I also am fortunate enough to receive financial support from my spouse.
Without that assistance, I couldn’t do what I do. Period. Again, it’s not much money, and it’s the ONLY money I earn from my books. (If I were lucky enough to write a bang ‘em up bestseller, I’d earn more than the advance, but I’m not that lucky. Er, um, not that talented a writer.)
The self-publishers, in my opinion, have a distorted view of “books” and of “publishing.” In their minds, every writer is cranking out novels that don’t require much time to research and write, and the lag time between creation and payoff is short.
So I ask them: What happens when the agents, editors, and publishing houses go away? Who will write non-fiction then?