From The Globe and Mail:
Given the pressure to reduce costs, something had to give in the formerly genteel world of book publishing, and it’s not the publishers. Rationalizing with mergers, capitalizing on global fads and making up in digital sales some of what they have lost in print, the big houses are stubbornly resisting their oft-foretold extinction.
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The true dinosaurs of the new age are authors. Once happily enclosed in the “stables” of publishers willing to nurture and develop their talent, even if they never wrote a major bestseller, droves of so-called “mid-list” authors now find themselves roaming among the ever-present throng of wannabes flogging unpublished work in an indifferent market. And that throng is most likely to produce tomorrow’s bestsellers, even if they begin life as obscure, self-published digital texts that, onloy after they find a following, are taken up and heavily marketed to mainstream prominence by major publishing houses.
Many mid-list authors have fallen victim to increasingly sophisticated, widely available sales data, according to agents and publishers. Publishers can now assess every author’s lifelong sales thanks to such services as Nielsen Bookscan in the United States and BookNet Canada.
And once reduced to pure numbers, those track records determine the fate of proven writers looking for cash advances to begin their next books. “Everybody knows the numbers now,” Toronto literary agent Denise Bukowski said in an interview. “You can’t lie about the numbers.” Retailers don’t order books from authors whose previous work sold indifferently, she added, so publishers respond by cutting them loose.
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“The professional authors are the ones who lose out,” Lorimer said. “They’re professionals, they’ve established themselves, but they’re not top-tier so they’re not going to have a runaway bestseller. They are going to find it very difficult.”
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Even the decline of advances is positive, said Good, former head of Penguin Canada. “It means that everybody’s basing what they pay on history and reality rather than hype and stars in your eyes,” she said.
Link to the rest at The Globe and Mail and thanks to Phil for the tip.