Tuesday, 16 February 2010

An Insider's View of the Book Trade


I spent yesterday evening drinking tea and eating some very yummy M & S cake with friends - a young literary agent, a publisher’s editor and someone in the retail book trade. So, inevitably, we discussed books. What else is there? Conversation centred around a well respected author who has sold a lot of books, but whose most recent novel has been turned down - and the author is understandably furious and puzzled.
But the reasons are very clear. X has been writing the same kind of books for years - all around a theme that was very new and exciting in the beginning, but the market is now saturated and the readers somewhat jaded. It’s time for something new and fresh, which X simply hasn’t registered. And that wasn’t the only reason for the refusal. X, negotiating on past reputation rather than future potential, is expensive at a time when book sales are falling. The clincher was that X is guilty of the D-Words - ‘Difficult and Demanding’ - both of which are Death for any author who isn’t a million seller international star.
It was quite interesting, from an author’s point of view, listening to this conversation. We, as author’s, obviously have to keep an eye on the market - there’s no God-given right to be published, however many volumes you already have on the shelf - our fifth book has to be as saleable as the first. And we owe it to the people who are delivering our Darlings to the public, to be as considerate and pleasant as possible. Being a Diva, a Dragon, or a Drama-queen, can be Deadly.
Today, I had lunch with my Agent, who told me much the same thing. The Book industry is still very fragile and there is likely to be more carnage before it all settles down. Those whose books sell astronomically are safe, but for the rest of us - it pays to be flexible and well behaved!

2 comments:

  1. Books, what else indeed?
    The publishing industry seems harsh enough when it is travelling well. At least you had a chance to catch up with some friends.
    M&S cake? Marks and Spencer? Or have I missed some obscure cultural reference?

    Somehow you don't strike me as a drama queen, or a diva. I guess we'd have to ask Neil if you have any dragon in you.

    Al

    Publish or Perish

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  2. M&S - yes, Marks and Spencer - their food is more famous than their clothes these days!
    As to the Dragon Queen - you'll have to ask Neil!

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