RARA-AVIS: NYC Publishing & Noir

From: Sandra Ruttan (sandraruttan@gmail.com)
Date: 12 Mar 2010

  • Next message: davezeltserman: "RARA-AVIS: Re: NYC Publishing & Noir"

    That's twisting it more than a bit, Dave. I said at its core, it's no different. The root intent of a business is to make money. Businesses follow trends. They follow the market. At a fundamental level, that has to be true of any business, or you stop being in business. It would be much easier to make a list of the businesses that haven't changed in the past 50 years, if you can think of any, if you want to look at simple execution.
     Much shorter. But the fundamentals are what they've always been.
     Publishers are trying to make money. They aren't going to publish stuff, no matter how many people think it's amazing technically, if they don't think they can sell it.

    You can't say someone's publishing more or less of anything, unless you do a complete inventory of everything published in the given years, categorize things by strict definitions - if you want to retreat behind a true noir definition instead of dark then you have to stick to it when you make your own arguments - and then compare percentages. Maybe we can go back X years and list a solid handful of classics, amazing books that have endured somehow and we think there was a boom for noir fiction, but what if those books amounted to only .01% of the total books published in the given year?

    My problem with these discussions is that it's easy for all of us to make generalizations, but if you want me to believe there's been some massive shift in NYC with regards to noir, then I want numbers. And I don't mean,
    "Jim Thompson sold 750,000 copies of some book in 1951 and Author X only sold 9000 copies of some book they wrote in 2009." I mean prove that in 1950 3% of what NYC publishers published could be classified as noir under your definition, and that today only 1% fits that definition. That's proving a shift. Truth is, a lot of these old, classic writers that get talked about here all the time had a huge resurgence because of works being reissued.

    We also don't even begin to talk about how readily available books were 50 years ago, how you could buy these cheap paperbacks for nickels. They were like magazines. Those authors weren't getting the payouts that the successful authors are getting now.

    As for talking dark... yeah, it's a whole other discussion, isn't it? But I'm okay standing by my opinion that at the core, not much is different from one business to another. It's how people do business that changes.
     Publishers are interested in producing books they can sell. Period.
     They'll fall in love with whatever genre or subgenre is popular at the moment in order to do that - hence all the DaVinci Code knock-offs and Harry Potter spin-offs and current vampire love we see. It is the independents that seem to commit themselves to the product first, and bring a quality to what they do that's worthy of note. I absolutely think John McFetridge would be better served by Tyrus than a big NYC publisher. It was different before his editor left, but without the editor to argue for the art, there doesn't seem to be anyone left in the equation that knows how to sell it.
     St. Martin's has been abysmal in how they've managed promoting Dennis Tafoya.

    On a really simplistic level, it's like the difference between big budget films and independent films. You don't go to the indie films for their special effects, but what they know how to do, some of them do extremely well, much better than the big guys ever could.

    Just my 2 cents, Sandra

    On Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 3:10 PM, davezeltserman

    > About your observations that publishing is no different than it was 50
    > years ago, well that's clearly not true. 50 years ago you had large
    > publishing houses, now these same houses are part of gigantic
    > conglomerations, with headquarters for at least one of them housed in
    > Europe. And then you have the large retailers like Walmart, Costco, Target
    > and the changes they've brought. And now the changes ebooks are bringing.
    > IT's definitely a different world for them and the dynamics have changed
    > dramatically. What would be interesting, and I'd love for many reasons to
    > see a study on this, is how have readers' taste changed over the last 50
    > years? Are we all anomalies here on rara avis still digging noir crime
    > fiction, while the rest of the world has moved on??

    LULLABY FOR THE NAMELESS Dec 09 Dorchester

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