Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Another Consolidation, Another Challenge in Book Publishing

At this moment of my life, I'm trying to market my first novel--CLOG!--and below is what I face (as do many writers, editors and imprints) in a world turned upside-down. This is from the New York Times today:

"Consolidation carries costs you won’t find on a price sticker. Dozens of formerly independent firms have been folded into this conglomerate: not just Anchor, Doubleday, Dutton, Knopf, Pantheon, G. P. Putnam’s Sons and Viking, which still wield significant resources, but also storied names like Jonathan Cape, Fawcett, Grosset & Dunlap, and Jeremy P. Tarcher. Many of these have been reduced to mere imprints, brands stamped on a book’s title page, though every good imprint bears the faint mark of a bygone firm with its own mission and sensibility.

"Decades of consolidation have cost writers and consumers alike. There is, for one, the persistent gripe of writers and agents: companies either forbid (as at Penguin) or restrict (at Random House) their constituent imprints from bidding against one another for a manuscript. That means not only lower advances, but also fewer options for writers to get the kind of painstaking attention — from editors, marketers and publicists — that it takes to turn their manuscripts into something valuable. 

"Among the imprints that survive, the tendency is to homogenize and focus on a few general fields like ambitious nonfiction, accessible literary fiction or thrillers. “Legacy” publishing does best in the first category: it commands the advances needed for research, the editing talent to shape the writing and the marketing muscle to distribute those doorstop biographies on Father’s Day. 

"So many books are published — almost certainly, more than ever — that predicting a blanket decline in quality would be ridiculous. But whether literary culture is best served by the ceaseless centralization of publishing is a question worth asking."


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