Interesting article on the publishing industry in US here, by Daniel Menaker, who was Senior Vice President and the Executive Editor-in-Chief of Random House. In other words, he wore two hats and saw the business from two different angles. If you are a writer, or thinking of a career as an agent or in the publishing business, best to read and think about it. I imagine it’s not so very different in other parts of the world.
Some random snippets to whet your appetite (in bold):
About 60 percent of all publishing employers “experienced layoffs,” …
…electronic-book-text digitization begins in earnest. That will happen in a financially and organizationally seismic way very quickly, I think…
Most trade books do not succeed, financially. Three out of four fail to earn back their advances. Or four out of five or six out of seven, depending on what source you consult.
I’ve always suspected that salespeople’s and (the bookshop/retail) buyer’s biases and preferences play a greater part in a book’s fortunes than most editorial people want to allow themselves to understand.
Genuine literary discernment is often a liability in editors.
Financial success in front-list publishing is very often random, but the media conglomerates that run most publishing houses act as if it were not.
…most of the really profitable books for most publishers still come from the mid-list — and the above media conglomerates have failed to see this because of the blockbuster factor
Review coverage means far less than it used to —
The shrift given to actual close and considered editing almost has to be short and is growing shorter,
Many of the most important decisions made in publishing are made outside the author’s and agent’s specific knowledge.
…the books for which the company has paid the highest advances will be the lead titles, regardless of their quality (because most readers don’t want quality)
My reaction: I am so glad I write genre.