Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Publisher's Point of View

Earlier this month I heard Lynn Neary on All Things Considered talking about a publishing house called Publishers 12. Their gimmick is that instead of publishing loads of books, they just pick one per month and focus all their attention on it. It was an interesting take on the publishing industry as a whole; one of the people interviewed for the story called book publishing "legalized gambling" and I can see why - for a new author, it's impossible to predict what books will be successful. (I was going to say, "or which ones will fail" there, but actually I think you can be pretty sure that a coffee table book on broomsticks, even though it might interest a strange few, will soon be found in the bargain bin of your local Barnes and Noble.)

Anyway, it seems like a reasonable idea to pick just a few really good books - this is great for the environment because it doesn't waste paper on crappy books that no one will buy (and will end up with their cover ripped off, sent back to the publisher), and it allows the publisher to give a lot of personal attention to the marketing and editing of each book. However, the idea is also worrisome because I certainly don't want some person I don't even know to make the call on what book is worth reading. I especially don't want one who, like the owner of Publishers 12, judges their success by saying that several of their books are on the NYTimes bestseller list, since that seems to me to be entirely about advertising rather than book quality.

But most of all during this All Things Considered piece, I wondered how on earth Publishers 12 makes enough money off its one publication a month to justify all the attention placed on each book. I just hope Marketplace picks this up someday and fills me in.

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