Saturday, November 07, 2015
On Book Publishing
A long New Yorker piece on Amazon and books from earlier this year is disquieting to say the least. It seems that Amazon has become the Wal-Mart of book publishing, making demands that publishers can't afford not to accept. It's not a pretty picture.
On the other hand, at least since the 1980s, New York publishers adopted self-defeating business practices, aping inappropriate business models, in which books became "product," etc. It bred arrogance and (among real editors and authors) disillusion, so there weren't a lot of people left to feel sorry for them.
And the condition in this quote has been going on for quite some time:
Writing is being outsourced, because the only people who can afford to write books make money elsewhere—academics, rich people, celebrities,” Colin Robinson, a veteran publisher, said. “The real talent, the people who are writers because they happen to be really good at writing—they aren’t going to be able to afford to do it.”
This became obvious to me as an author more than a decade ago.
As for the book business, the article cites one example of a counter-approach, which essentially has publishing going smaller and selling direct to readers. Whether or not this would work, I believe Andrew Wylie is largely right in his quoted statement: "The [publishing] industry thinks of itself as Procter & Gamble*. What gave publishers the idea that this was some big goddam business? It’s not—it’s a tiny little business, selling to a bunch of odd people who read.”