Monday, June 30, 2014

Bemoaning the state of publishing

Joining James Patterson and Richard Russo, yet another senior novelist of the Baby Boomer generation laments the state of American and British letters. (These complaints usually heap blame on Amazon.com for making books cheaper and more widely accessible to consumers.)

According to Val McDermid, things were so much better back when everything was calm and clubby and less market-driven, and publishers cared about "nurturing" a stable of hand-picked authors, through thick and thin:

"Val McDermid, the best-selling crime writer, has claimed that she would be a failed novelist if she were starting out today because the publishing industry no longer allows for slow-burning careers.
 
 
McDermid has sold 10 million copies and her series about the psychological profiler Dr Tony Hill was turned into the BBC drama Wire In The Blood.
 
 
However, she was far from an overnight success. Report for Murder, her first novel, was published in 1987 but she did not give up her day job until 1991 when she finally secured a two-book deal.
 
 
"If I published my first three novels now, I wouldn't have a career because no-one would publish my fourth novel based on the sales of my first three," McDermid said."
Reality check: There has never been a good time to make a reliable, long-term income as a novelist. The business of fiction writing has always been what economists call a "tournament", in which a small number of players claim a disproportionate amount of the rewards. 

What is true is that the publishing industry has consolidated considerably in recent years. But this has been offset by new opportunities in independent publishing--which wasn't a realistic option for almost anyone 20 or 30 years ago.

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