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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Presque vu XXXV

Are publishers actually interested in selling books? is the title of an anonymous but well-written article over at Bookarazzi. To most authors it looks as if the publishing process comes to a dead stop at midnight on the day of publication.


The Ethics of Book Reviewing at the Book Critics Circle:

And 60.5 percent think it’s okay for a newspaper book section or magazine to ignore self-published books submitted by authors.


Jan Dalley lunches Umberto Eco in The Financial Times:

“You know, I have written 40 books, but I am famous in Italy for a few sentences in one essay I wrote in 1961, on the quiz programme Buongiorno, where I demonstrate that in every civilisation people have wanted to worship superior beings – the Greek gods, the knights of the round table, superheroes. But television has realised that while the idol was once Greta Garbo, no one could be like Greta Garbo, now the model is the nice girl who looks like everyone else – no one has to feel inferior to her. And television also gives us the fall guy, over whom everybody can exercise his own sense of superiority. In this sense television has brought a radical change.”

4 Responses to “Presque vu XXXV”

  1. Shawn says:

    I’ve never published a book before–I think not having written one has something to do with that (though I’m working on it). Nonetheless, allow me to put in my two cents anyway 🙂

    As for publishers promoting books, it seems to me that the only books that ever get any kind of promotion are books that the publisher knows will sell millions of copies. Appalling, outrageously bad airport novel authors like James Patterson are the ones who get print and billboard and print ads, as do a lot of non-fiction authors who are usually peddling books promoting some health or diet fad. The publishers know these books will sell like crazy and that they will more than recoup their advertising expenses. It seems to me that publishers have figured out a formula for which books they will promote: if the promotion costs will ultimately amount to about 5% of the sales revenue, then the book gets actively promoted, if not, then not.

    As for reviewers ignoring self-published authors, well… I really don’t intend to offend anyone, but I think that reviewers are right to ignore them. There are very good reasons why self-published books have the stigma that they do. I admit that I’ve rarely ever read a self-published book, but the ones I have read, I did not come away thinking “Damn! That person deserves a publisher.”

    There are already thousands of published books that need to be reviewed each year, books that have already gone through an editor somewhere and through a publisher that’s gone to the trouble to publish them. What self-published authors are asking of the reviewers is that they be not just reviewers, but also editors, wading through the vast global slushpile of self-published authors and deciding who actually deserves attention. Even if a self-published author is a success on the internet, and they’re selling lots of books through or that still doesn’t make them worth a reviewer’s time. Maybe you could argue that popularity does make them worth reviewing, but I still think that approval by an editor in a real publishing house still has some value–more value than mere popularity.

    jb says: Hi Shawn, Good to see you here again. These are vexed questions at the present time because the whole of the publishing industry is on the verge of change. It looks to me as though there is no advertising budget for perhaps 95% of fition, perhaps more. I’m not a business man so wouldn’t pretend to know if the advertising for the other 5% (probably less) of publications actually has a positive effect. I suppose the kind answer is that publishers wouldn’t use advertising if it didn’t work. And clutching at the same thought, that they are also right in assuming that advertising doesn’t work for most of their publications.
    They do, usually, try to get books reviewed prior to and on publication, which in itself is a kind of advertising, although not something they pay for.
    On the secojnd point you raise, that of reviewers ignoring self-published books, I find myself on the other side of the fence. I can understand why they have traditionally ignored vanity publishers, but with the emergence of the internet and modern publishing technology, self-publishing, POD, etc. the writer’s traditional path to publication has and is continuing to change.
    This, together with the replacement of the traditional editor by marketers, mean that the process of change has to be embraced by all sections of the industry, including reviewers.

  2. Jim Murdoch says:

    My wife and I have just been watching ‘Cranford’ and it is interesting to see the established world crumble around these people, the rich and the poor. They lived in a world where things were so; a doctor was a somebody, being published was something. And these standards continued for many many years. Now, not so much. No one oohs and aahs if you’re a doctor and, although getting someone to publish your book is still an achievement of sorts, the glory you get to bask in is on a strict timer. Ding! Your fifteen minutes is up. Next please!

    I’ve read quite a few articles like the one on Bookarazzi. Once a book was a something, now it is merchandise with a sell-by date. The world is changing and attitudes have to. In ‘Cranford’ one of the characters, a social reforming estate manager, is irked because he had to work with a woman. He is reminded that the world is changing but not all the changes are going to be ones he necessarily cares for. The time will come when reviewers have to accept that self-published works can be every bit as good if not better than traditionally published books.

    The statistics in the second article are interesting. They do show a changing world but not necessarily one changing for the better.

    jb says: Hi Jim. I’m just about to start watching Cranford. I’m not sure what I feel about it as serialised fiction. Seems to be a combination of realism and farce. Not at all what I remember of reading the book.

  3. Jim Murdoch says:

    Too many character actors vying for the camera’s attention for my tastes.

  4. In response to jb and POD, and in essence, I agree:
    However, POD and self publishing should not be lumped into one pod, excuse the punlet, although they may well coexist, and very well so, if it’s a niche.

    POD is a way for some independent publishers, for example, in Australia, to get their author’s works into online bookshops outside of Australia. The shipping costs are just too high otherwise. Dymocks, a big bookshop in Sydney, is going digital. Who knows, we may soon have kiosks there to print out any book at all “while you wait” that a customer may demand. The quality of POD can be the same as that of traditionally published books. There are good and bad, in content and in packaging.

    Several years ago, I heard that “respected” reviewers would not touch POD-published books with a bargepole. Today, things may be changing.

    If one rails against the conglomerates and their blockbusters, albeit ones that may help finance the publication of “better” works that perhaps don’t bring in the $$$$, then one can’t turn a blind eye to POD.

    POD is a way for independent publishers to reach a wider audience at lower cost. An added value is that POD doesn’t clog things up with so many remainders and is still reasonably green.
    Speaking of green, there are ebooks …