RARA-AVIS: Re: Richard Barre and Midlist Crises

Kevin Smith (kvnsmith@colba.net)
Sun, 3 Oct 1999 09:51:43 -0400

Reed, speaking about Richard Barre, wrote:

>Someone said he's been dropped because the chain stores
>aren't selling enough of his books, and so his publishing house is
>kow-towing to the buyers. Big problem being widely discussed among
>writers these days.

Gee, this topic seems familiar. I think I'm having DorothyL d骠 vu. In fact, it's the fact that supposedly Barre wasn't selling enough at Barnes and Noble, even though it was greatly discounted, that prompted his being dropped from his publisher's list, and hence much rattling of teacups.

But regardless of whether you like Barre or not (alas, I'm still not convinced, although I keep trying, just because everyone thinks I should be a big fan), this is an ominous sign. Publishers paying attention to buyers? Yikes! Next the buggers'll be wanting to turn a profit.

It seems to me publishers have always watched the bottom line, and seemingly popular authors have always been dropped. But the truth is that publishers generally don't drop writers who are making them money, and usually drop those who don't. Perhaps things are a bit more cutthroat than they used to be (although I don't really know), but it's certainly nothing new.

Short of us all buying a coupla hundred copies each of every favorite author's books, I'm not sure what we can do (although I'm sure any authors on this list have no prob with that stategy). Lists such as this one, though, do help a bit, in spreading the word about books we love. Alas, it also further divides the market into tinier and tinier sub-genres, further and further from the mainstream.

And it's been suggested to me by a few writers that perhaps it's best these days to be first published in paperback, since the stakes are lower for the publisher, and it's easier to build a core audience. Certainly, it's no mark of shame when you think about how many writers we've gone gaga over on this list who first appeared in PBO's.

And, in regard to books that we love, may I submit the following for your consideration:

Neil Smith wrote:
>You've got tons of people sending you stuff, though, so who's hot out of
>those folks?

Ah, if it were only true. I do get lucky every now and then, but the freebie intake is probably best measured in grams, rather than tons. And the best books by a "new" author I've read lately were ones I actually paid money for: John Shannon, who someone else mentioned. Anyone who likes Stephen Greenleaf or Ross Macdonald will get a kick out of his very caustic, very cynical THE CONCRETE RIVER or THE CRACKED EARTH. If you think Chandler was a bit disgusted with LA, you've just gotta to see what a few more decades of decay have done to the City of Angels. Shannon's disillusioned PI Jack Liffey adds the civic infrastructure and and the area's geology itself to the long list of things falling apart, and uses a series of almost surreal vignettes and a Greek chorus of homies to bring it all back home. Probably not recommended by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

Oh, and Gary Phillip's Ivan Monk makes a neat cameo.

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.colba.net/~kvnsmith/thrillingdetective/ Come soon: The October issue, with some cool stuff about Dashiell Hammett.

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