Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The book biz

A couple of interesting articles from on the book business, the future of publishers and writers.
  • About the book business in an article on Slate:
Forget all the myths about the book business: the parties, the poring over manuscripts, and passionate arguments. The book business is a distribution business, pure and simple. It's about getting the words and ideas of a writer into the hands of a reader.

...Few readers buy books based upon reviews anymore. Listen to Farrar Straus and Giroux's editor in chief, Eric Chinski: "Reviews don't have the same impact that they used to. The one thing that really horrifies me and that seems to have happened within the last few years is that you can get a first novel on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, a long review in The New Yorker, a big profile somewhere, and it still doesn't translate into sales."

What does translate into sales? A direct connection to the reader. That comes from publicity or word of mouth.
Read all of the The Kindle Revolution

  • Branding
On the contentious subject of branding, if you read the interview with popular agent (and founder of the Lawton Doll Company) Wendy Lawton a few days ago, you'll know where she stands.



Jill Priluck at Slate takes a slightly different view.

Brands are often the elephant in the room no one wants to confront. Some authors consider it unwise to be branded as, er, brands; it's a signpost for low-brow, mass-market sensibility.

...In today's fickle marketplace, the Internet—with blogs, videos, Twitter, and other promotional tools like Amazon's Author Stores—is the modern-day equivalent to hand-selling. Thomas Friedman even posted a chapter of Hot, Flat and Crowded on LinkedIn and asked members to weigh in. (Disclosure: I was part of Friedman's publishing team.) In a way, authors are empowered in this new model, provided they can leverage their networks into living, breathing communities who have a stake in—and benefit from—an author's ballooning platform.

But it comes with a price. When authors are beholden to a brand, they ally themselves, almost like actors and athletes, with agendas and meanings that are well beyond their control. In their desire to fulfill the dictates of a brand, authors can compromise their integrity as writers, especially if they cubbyhole themselves.
Read all of Advertisements for Yourself - Can and should book authors become brands?

In the area of branding, I'm more amused onlooker than anything. Long ago I blew my branding potential by branching out into all kinds of genres -- kids, poetry, writing how-to, book reviews, articles for adults. Now I love my mercurial life far too much to limit myself to one particular brand. And so I'm content to remain an unlabelable and unknown writer -- which would probably have been my fate in any case.

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