Monday, 13 July 2009
Can Anyone Save Publishers from Themselves?
Contemplating (above) the fresh honeysuckle in my Radnorshire garden I try to hold on to some sanity in a world where publishing seems intent on a course of wild self-destruction. In today's Independent a two-page spread with a silly heading: "Two Weeks to Save Britain's Book Trade" attempts to say what is wrong with the business [meaning: the big hitters like Coetzee will all be published in our equivalent of the French rentrée littéraire in September in a two week period hoping to stem the losses so far this year being incurred by publishers]. Conventional wisdom says that publishing always rides the recession but this time it isn't happening and sales have slumped. Publishers are sacking their staff, advances are crashing down and things, as this blog has been saying for some time, are looking very grim indeed. Even Richard and Judy seem to have retired from the fray. In this article, however, one ray of light shines out. Someone actually enunciates a simple but incontrovertible truth about how we got into the mess that is contemporary British publishing. Step forward Jonny Geller, managing director of the books division of the Curtis Brown literary agency who tells it like it is: "Publishing has become quite reactive. It is sales-led. We need publishers to start taking risks again." He is saying that publishers should become publishers again. Give that man a gong.