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TinotopiaLog → Book Publishing and Classics ( 2 Apr 2003)
Wednesday 02 April 2003

Book Publishing and Classics

Slate has a story about the sales of classic books. The gist is that classics sell surprising numbers of copies, more than just about anything other than current best-sellers.

Book publishing is in serious trouble as a business, because of a strong emphasis on best-sellers. Every publisher wants at least one Tom Clancy-type author on their list. Clancy’s novels sell in incredible volume, and quite predictably.

The problem is, because Tom Clancy produces a totally predictable product, the publisher assumes almost no risk. If Random House isn’t willing to pay Clancy’s price, then it’s not much work for him to find another publisher who’s more than willing to put their name on the spine of his book. Publishers make almost no money on people like Tom Clancy and Stephen King. With authors like these, the publishers mainly serve as prime contractors for the problem of manufacturing, distributing, and promoting the books.

Classics and mid-list books — this last category is now sadly depleted after the last few decades of best-seller-seeking — are where the publishers make their money. Predictable best-sellers from brand-name authors like Grisham, Clancy, Knig, et al. return nothing to the publisher but publicity.

Posted by tino at 21:37 2.04.03
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