Publish and perish

Here’s an article about how Perseus Books Group is closing down two of its imprints: Carroll & Graf and Thunder’s Mouth Press. The further away I get from my indie-publishing days, the less I can understand how any of them stay afloat. This passage summed up how I tried to see things back then:

“When you see the book world conglomeratizing, it can only mean less diversity of voices,” said Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic Books, a Brooklyn-based imprint distributed by Perseus. “When I sign up a book, it matters more that I love it than that I’ve identified a good marketing niche for it. That’s the real essence of independent publishing — it’s not a deal, it’s supposed to be a labor of love.”

Then I lost the love.

I hope the founders of those presses got a decent purchase price when they joined up with Avalon Publishing (which was later acquired by Perseus), but I have a feeling that I can see where the “labor of love” part collided with the “good marketing niche” part:

“At Carroll & Graf, we bridged the gap between small, lesser-known presses and the larger houses when it comes to gay literature,” said Don Weise, a senior editor who is losing his job. “In the four years that I’ve been here, I’ve acquired more than 100 books, and no one has ever told me no, I couldn’t do that. In the book world, that’s unheard of.”

I probably would’ve moved his attribution, along with the “senior editor who is losing his job” part to the end of the paragraph, to make my point.

One Reply to “Publish and perish”

  1. Great headline.

    I just came from a translator’s conference here in Istanbul where, at a reception, the poetry editor of Subtropics unashamedly professed her admiration for THE STINKY LOAD … or the da vinci load as it is sometimes called. One of the horrible repercussions of that book is that it proved–as if there was any doubt–that readers don’t give a flying fuck about the sentences that comprise their literary fantasy world. Essentially, the closer you can get to a spiderman comic, the better. The success of the book also consolidated the concept that conglomerate publishing houses are a good idea–there are BIG profits to be made out there by publishing BIG crappy books so everybody wants to hit it BIG now so we need BIG companies to do it. Instead of getting lots of base hits and an occasional home run, the grand slam is the holy grail of publishing. While I think it is possible for indie houses to survive, it won’t happen without substantial changes to support good literature. Alas, such changes are highly unlikely any time in the near future.

    As bad as all that is, it’s nothing of course, compared to the diastrous effects Zoroasterianism and the Bablyonian captivity had on Judaism. But that’s another story.

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