If more of us writers are getting out there with more books, those of us who survive in this business and profit, says Neil Gaiman, are those who hustle. And few writers are more effective hustlers than Gaiman with his sci-fi novels, graphic novels, children’s books, a British television series, and, yes, movies. Gaiman’s written a flock of television and film scripts that have seen production, and two of his long works – Stardust and Caroline – have been turned into top-rated films. The Graveyard Book is the next slated for filming.

As a promoter of his own work, Gaiman maintains an interactive blog, a Twitter feed, a website, pages on Facebook and elsewhere – all right, he’s got help. And he’s out touring.

Smart authors, he told NPR’s On the Media host Brooke Gladstone, may wind up reverting to the world of Charles Dickens.

Printers here cranked out pirated editions of Dickens’ books and sold them. There wasn’t any profit in that for Dickens, so, when he couldn’t stop the pirates, he decided to go after the Yankee dollar another way. Dickens came here, and he hit the lecture circuit. He gave readings from his books for a price.

Says Gaiman, Dickens gave people the one thing the pirates couldn’t give them – Charles Dickens. And we Americans in that day came out for that. We bought tickets to get into the theaters and auditoriums, so we could see and hear the man who wrote A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, and so many other books.

Gaiman believes we may be heading for a world, in the next 10 to 15 years, in which Stephen King won’t make any money from his new book, but he instead will pack our country’s arenas and read the book – well, portions of it – to his audiences.

That, Gaiman told Gladstone, will be fun.

Later today: Borders now selling e-books

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Comment by Jerry Peterson on August 1, 2010 at 4:55am
Jon . . . You are right. I can think of only a double handful of writers for whom I would pay to be in their audience. They are of the caliber of Neil Gaiman and Dave Barry, hugely entertaining and know how to put on a show. The vast majority of us writers will struggle to make our expenses through book royalties and honorariums.
Comment by Jon Loomis on July 31, 2010 at 2:02am
What Gaiman's talking about is essentially the model now for the music industry, since much of the profit from album sales has been wiped out by file sharing. It worked for Dickens, sort of, though he endured considerable hardship along the way, and much of what he wrote about his first American "tour" in 1842 was extremely negative--he was appalled by much that was characteristically American at that time, from the nearly universal male habit of chewing tobacco to the vile institution of slavery. When dickens returned to America after the civil war he was in poor health, and although he earned the (then) astounding sum of 19,000 pounds for a series of performances his ability to travel was much curtailed, and he suffered greatly. So, not fun.

The problem with performance as the main source of income for writers is that people have to be willing to pay to hear you read, and there aren't that many writers in this country for whom that's the case. It worked for Dickens because he was already hugely well established--without question the most famous writer of his time. I've given many readings of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. I'm a good reader, I always get laughs and nice comments from audience members--but I've only been paid to read a handful of times, and even doing college readings the honoraria have been pretty minimal--a few hundred dollars at most. If I had to do it for a living, I'd starve.
Comment by ms.pamila on July 29, 2010 at 10:58am
Good points. That is why I'm developing my skills as a narrator. Hearing a story read is a new and different experience from reading it. I paid for a ticket to see and hear Gaiman read and speak about his writing process in Los Angeles and really enjoyed it. Expensive, but worth it. I hope someday people feel the same way about me. I'm also posting stories for free on my blog because I see that it's up to me as a writer to find an audience. We can complain about the loss of the old ways, or launch ourselves forward like Gaiman.
Comment by cj forrest on July 29, 2010 at 8:22am
Thanks for posting this, Jerry. Gaiman and the illustrators that work for him have been a huge inspiration for me. There hasn’t been enough credit given to graphic novelists for their literary prowess, but Gaiman’s skill as writer has finally got the publishing world to take notice that the graphic novel format is something to take serious.

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