NPR had an interesting story about the struggles of literary writers to sell books. According to this report, the books on the short list for the Man Booker prize in England are simply not selling. A well-known serious writer named Anne Enright sold only 9,000 copies of her latest book in England. Tom McCarthy, the author of Satin Island, sold 3,500 copies of that title. A literary agent named Jane Dystel claimed that for a literary author to sell 25,000 books would be "sensational." The decline in book sales seems congruent with a sped-up and more superficial world. I wonder how many readers are left who can commit to a lengthy novel that will challenge him or her to do such things as pay close attention and think deeply. That is hard to accomplish with your phone alerting you to a new Facebook update or email about every 20 seconds. Writing literary fiction in the 21st Century may prove to be an abstruse exercise done primarily for the sake of doing it. Fame, and apparently fortune, are not rewards for writing these days. The serious writer of this era may be creating works that are noted by an ever-smaller group of people, mostly academics. That said, there is no reason not to write literary fiction. Tell your story the best way you know how. Put it up on Amazon. Then go to work because that is the only way you are going to pay your rent.
NPR Story On Book Sales