Sunday, October 26, 2008

David L. Ulin; Todd Mason

David L. Ulin Book editor of The Los Angeles Times wrote an interesting piece on what our national ecoonomic catastrophe may mean for the publishing business. He's more optomistic than I am but it's a different take.

"(Neyfakh's) piece went on to suggest that, with money getting tight, publishers might start to consider only books or writers they see as sure things, and that for lesser-known talent -- the so-called mid-list authors -- "the advances are going to be lower and it will be that much harder to sell them."

"Maybe so, although this is hardly a new argument; I've been listening to it for 20 years.

"What's more likely, I think, is that publishers will scale back some of their higher-end advances, especially in regard to certain risky properties: books blown out of magazine stories, over-hyped first novels, multi-platform "synergies." At least, I hope that's what happens, because one of the worst trends in publishing -- in culture in general -- over the last decade or so has been its air of desperate frenzy, which far more than falling numbers tells you that an industry is in decline."

for the rest go here,0,5551013.story

----------TODD MASON

Where has Todd been lately? Haven't heard from him in a couple of months.


Bob Randisi said...

I was thinking just the other day that this would be a bad time to try to break into publishing, with publishers less likely to take chance on a new author, choosing instead to stick with the tried and true. So maybe those of us who are already in the system might be the least affected. Just a hunch (and a prayer).



An interesting post and bad news for me. My first novel is due next June from Robert Hale LTD. I'm praying that things improve very quickly with the economy. This is getting to be world wide now and I've already lived through one recession that lasted years. I don't want another.

Rick Ollerman said...

When you quote "industry in decline", I can't help but think that to a large degree publishers are doing this to themselves. I used to buy new books every week; now I buy a handful a year. I don't read any less on the whole, instead I scrounge for remainders and used hardcovers. New books are just too damned expensive.

One of the unfortunate results is that I don't reliably read authors whose every book, at least in some form, was published. Now instead of a portion of every book I buy going to an author royalty, a portion goes to UPS or the post office for shipping.

I absolutely refuse to pay ten dollars for these new inch-taller mass market paperbacks. I just saw John LeCarre's most recent paperback shelved next to its trade version. The trade is fifteen bucks, the inch-taller abomination is ten, and the physical difference is that the abomination is an inch shorter and an inch narrower.

So I can go into a bookstore and buy ten mass market paperbacks, the year-after-the-hardcover literature-for-the-people version and it will cost me a hundred bucks? If I could afford that I'd just buy the hardcovers.

It seems publishers would rather publish books at a higher price point to maximize the dollars they can get from the diehards who will simply always buy books and damn the rest. The problem is that that is a movable border and it moves in the wrong direction all the time. Especially with the current economy.

As soon as they no longer print enough hardcovers to supply the used book market I'm done (unless they change; Hard Case Crime's prices are $6.99 and if I didn't buy them to read I'd likely do it on principle). This is sad and not my preference. When I was a kid I often bought a dozen paperbacks for the price of one of these modern con jobs. Before that I was at the library. Which appears to be back to where I'm heading.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks for asking after me, Ed...stealing back too many moments of late from the insane gig, while the database grinds slow but not all that fine. Pun production veering far closer to Piers Anthonyesque than toward the Joycean, but it cheers me up, anyway (managed to stop conversation on Rara Avis tonight, not that that's too difficult of late). Trying not to rain too hard on Patti Abbott's anticipated inaugural parade this hour, but it all just makes me mad (--in the voice of John Cleese as Bruno the mildly disturbed chef with a good-sized cleaver--"The Wound!").

Ed Gorman said...

Good to hear from you Todd. Thanks for writing. Ed

Anonymous said...

This is something I've thought about quite a bit lately. I've got three different books at publishers, waiting for decisions. On one of them, my agent and I were told months ago an offer would be forthcoming. At this point, nada. Some of that is the general inefficiency of the publishing industry. But I also believe publishers are nervous about the economy. But as bad as it could be for me, it might be worse for a few new writers I met at Bouchercon. Writers with absolutely no name who had just sold debut novels to St. Martin's and a few others. These guys already have their deal in hand but now find themselves in this economy with absolutely no guarantee the publisher will do anything to sell their book and in fact, might kill the deals outright in favor of the next book by the current 'name.'

It's a tough business, this wanting to make a living by producing what many consumers consider a luxury. And when there ain't enough money for Baby's medicine, you can't bet there ain't enough money for a $27 hardcover or $10 pb.

Trey R. Barker