Literary Love & Publishing Woes
I walked into a bookstore the other day. The front of the shop was dominated with celebrity books. At the very back, squeezed into two small shelves, were some books under the heading of ‘Classics’. You can guess from the layout of the shop what books the store was pushing to the public at the front, and what books it was relegating to the ‘unmarketable’ corner at the back. I almost didn’t find the ‘Classics’ shelf at all, I really had to look for it. This is a metaphor for how the whole publishing industry treats books and authors these days.
You could say in the publishing industry’s defence: ‘well, publishing companies are a business, they have to make money. So they’re simply giving the public what it wants’. The thing is, I’m not convinced that books about Snooki and the Kardashians are what we, the public, really want. It’s been decided for us, it’s been assumed. It’s been relentlessly pushed and marketed toward us. It’s sort of like what women’s and gossip magazines do: they are saturated with celebrity gossip and the argument is that gossip is what sells. But if gossip is all that is provided, how do magazine editors actually know what we want? Do we really have much of a choice? It’s like a self-perpetuating myth: ‘this is what we’re selling, because this is what you want. But what you want is what we decide you want, so this is what we’ll sell’.
If publishing houses and magazine editors actually opened their eyes to peer beyond the glaring dominance of ‘marketing’, they would realise that part of the enormous popularity of blogs and self-published, independent books and magazines lies in the fact that people are generally tired of being sold the same old crap, and are forging their own voices. They are telling these companies, in large numbers, what they really want. Isn’t it about time editors and publishers started listening?
-Read the rest here. This post is my response to Lacy’s great article on the current state of the publishing industry.