RARA-AVIS: state of NY publishing

From: davezeltserman (Dave.Zeltserman@gmail.com)
Date: 12 Nov 2009

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    I'm renaming Juri's posts on buzz and Declan's plight into one about the current state of publishing, which is bleak, partly because of the economy and massive changes on the horizon that has them scared, but also because of the direction they've been heading towards on their own volition. Last March two new crime novels came out from first time authors--Mixed Blood by Roger Smith and Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell. I've since become friends with Roger, but when I read it and posted about it here I didn't know the guy, and it was one of the most exciting and absorbing crime novels I've read in years, and other crime enthusiasts I've talked to who've read it (except for one fellow rara avian who usually has excellent taste) have felt the same way. I didn't think Beat the Reaper was in the same class, and I think the majority of rara avians (and other readers) who read both books would agree. Yet Beat the Reaper, because of the 1.5 mil advance to the author, was deemed by the industry a big book and got all the attention and promotion, while a much worthier book got ignored. More and more publishing is becoming a star system, where the 0.01% of the writers deemed stars (either bestsellers or the occasional new authors publishers decided in their infinite wisdom to make a big bet on) get 99.99% percent of the money, promotion and attention. This is an exaggeration, but not by that much. Almost any new writer starting off today in the NY midlist has little chance of seeing their 3rd books published by NY. I think this problem is systemic for our whole society where the gulf between celebrities and everyone else grows ever wider, but I think this about kills the midlist.

    Fortunately there are bastions of sanity still left in place like Serpent's Tail, SoHo Press, Bitter Lemon, Quercus, and other independent publishers, but any new writer picked up by NY now has the odds stacked steeply against them. As I said before, writers like Lehane, Connelly, Pelecanos, Ellroy, would not have survived past their 1st or 2nd books if they were starting out today as opposed to 10+ years ago.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 12 Nov 2009 EST