I think Jon has hit the nail on the head here, which is in essence
exactly what Brian was getting at already. There's a demand for dark
works, but it's primarily niche, and the sources that are meeting that
demand are independent publishers.
Has publishing in NYC changed? No, not the core of it. At the core,
publishing is an industry, and publishers want to make money. Editors
may still get excited about concept/theme/story for the sake of the
writing, but the reason you have to jump through hoops and have
meetings with guys on the marketing team before you sign books is
because what's most important is whether or not they believe they can
sell the book. That's the root of it. And determining what you can
sell means determining what there's a demand for. Publishers are
going to pay for and invest in a work based on what they perceive is
the demand for the work in the current market. You can't compare the
market today to the market in Jim Thompson's time - that's ridiculous.
That's 50+ years ago. It would be like expected car companies to form business plans based on the demand from five decades ago. It's ridiculous.
What's being published may have changed, but that's not the same as
saying that NYC publishing has changed at its core. If, in a few
years, demand changes, there may be a lot more dark offerings coming
from the big publishers and it may take small independents to rise up
and publish cat mysteries. We see these same shifts in other forms of
entertainment - look at TV programming. Reality shows are in,
everyone jumps on board. Reality shows are out, everyone jumps off.
Dramas cost too much to produce so we'll try moving Leno up, but that
backfires and everyone scrambles back to dramas. It's all a game of
trying to figure out what people want and give it to them.
If NYC isn't readily embracing noir, it isn't because NYC is
anti-noir... it's because they don't see a large enough demand to
publish more than what they are. Let's be careful before we say
nobody's publishing dark works, because there are several authors,
including ones on this list, who are published by major NYC publishers
and write as dark as anyone out there. Ken Bruen isn't getting paid
As a writer, there's a conundrum you can face. Well several. You can
decide you want to put the technical quality ahead of all other
concerns... and not ever see your work sell because, technically
brilliant as it is, the tone or story is all wrong for the market. Or
you can decide you want to be marketable, and write commercial
If you're lucky, you get to fall somewhere in between. You slip in
there, and can write with quality, and write something you're
passionate about, and still get the sales to stay alive, but the
market is nowhere near what it was in the days of selling 750k copies
of some of those classics that have been referenced. You didn't have
the competition from TV, movies, computers streaming programming 24/7.
I recently read one of the big push books for the year - Still Missing
by Chevy Stevens. It's a debut and it's got a six-figure marketing
campaign behind it, and from St. Martin's. (Aren't they known for
Now, there may be a few spoilers here, so skip the next paragraph if
you don't like that...
I read this book and in the past I've been told people won't read
books when women are raped and children are in peril or killed, and
I'm wondering how the hell this book got a six-figure deal. I never
want to read a goddamn detailed rape scene ever again. Killing a
baby? A baby? How does this book break these rules and get a big
deal? Was it the writing, the concept?
Who knows. Who really knows. But one thing I'm convinced of is that
if, at the end of the book, the protagonist ate a gun, it wouldn't
have gotten a six-figure deal. At least, not in 2010.
On Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 11:10 AM, New Pulp Press <email@example.com> wrote:
The question: is it lack of demand or just lack of
distribution/marketing? I tend to believe that the demand is there but
not enough for the NY publishers to bother with. NY publishers have no
use for a niche readership, even if the niche is a fairly big one like
noir fiction. The good news is that the dark books we crave are out
there, you just have to poke around a bit...
> Jon Bassoff
> New Pulp Press
-- LULLABY FOR THE NAMELESS Dec 09 Dorchester http://www.sandraruttan.com/
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