12 January 2004

Glut? What Glut… of Good Books?
In yesterday's Observer (UK), Robert McCrum observed that:

This is nonsense. Writers of Louis de Bernières's stature are not going to be affected by the vagaries of publishing. They write because that's what they do. Their work is happily immune to the publishing climate. No publisher with the typescript of Captain Corelli's Mandolin on his or her desk is going to say: 'Awfully sorry, Louis, old boy. Simply can't publish this till the year after next. Cutbacks in the adult list.' Any publisher who did that would be taken into Bedford Square, hanged from a tree and pelted with remaindered copies of Jeffrey Archer's Prison Diaries.

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Book publishing is a hit and miss business, but it has always reliably been a mirror to society. If it is now producing more books than ever, this is because there is an appetite and, globally, a market. No amount of list-cutting is going to make this go away. But there is a solution. The problem British publishers could start by adopting far higher levels of discrimination in the books they commission.

"Unhealthy Bounty" (11 Jan 2004) (emphasis added).

Perhaps over here, we'll just offer them some cement overshoes and send them to swim with the fishes in the East River, after pelting them with copies of [insert your favorite recent publishing disaster involving a multimillion-dollar advance here]. The problem is that they'd just track mud from the river bottom into the lobby at their new employer—another publisher in New York.