Chokehold on Publishing

Huffington Post has a sobering article on the state of publishing today:

What looks like a simple price war between Amazon, Target, and Walmart over a handful of bestsellers is symptomatic of a much deeper problem in the book business. The larger fight is really over what you get to read.

One of the dirty little secrets of the book business is that publishers often check in advance with the buyers for the chain stores and mass merchandisers before agreeing to publish a book. If the answer they get is no, the book may never see the light of day.

I have to admit I had no idea the situation was THIS bad. When Target decides what I can and cannot read, it surely is a sign of the Apocalypse. We’ve got three of the Horsemen: Let’s call Walmart Pestilence, Amazon can be War, and Target can be Famine. All we need now is Death. Can’t be far behind.

5 thoughts on “Chokehold on Publishing

  1. It IS sobering, but when the big three stop selling books, it’ll all go underground, and anything that goes underground becomes fashionable and trendy after a while. I plan to keep reading – even if I have to find the stuff scratched on the walls of caves -until the next Renaissance.


  2. I can’t imagine them not selling books, but I almost wish they wouldn’t. I remember years ago my former m-i-l buying those cheesy paperback romances by the basketful (5 for $1) at Target, but they don’t seem to carry those anymore (I don’t think??). Now I see whatever is trendy (Rachael Ray cookbooks, Oprah’s pick, etc.) on the shelves there. I’ve never been to a Wallyworld so have no idea what they typically stock. The Evil Empire of course has access to anything and everything with an ISBN. That article just made me wonder how many Barbara Kingsolvers are we missing out on because of this new business model?


  3. Oh, compared to Walmart, Target is the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue. At least Target might have a novel you’d take to the beach, or a plausible best-selling biography or something. All WM has is Dan Brown books and those crappy romances with the giant print – not for the visually impaired, mind you, but the ones w/really big print on really cheap paper, with really ugly brightly colored covers.


  4. Sadly, this post doesn’t surprise me at all. Remember when I mentioned how when I worked at the bookstore our overstock would be absolutely flowing with King novels (and a few other big names)? Yes, King is very popular. But we never needed *that* many of each of his titles at a time. And I’m pretty sure he’d agree.

    Meanwhile, we’d have one or two copies of midlist type books. If that midlist author was lucky enough. Who knows how many fantastic books we’re missing out on?

    Bookstores need variety. Customers browsing, want variety.

    I keep hearing so many agented authors complaining that their books are being turned down by the publishers, with glowing compliments, but told, “their kind of book doesn’t sell.” Uhm- how do you know if you don’t try? Case in point: over and over again, I hear that it’s difficult to get a book published that takes place outside of either the US or England, because “Americans don’t like to read about other places.” Really? No one ever asked me that.

    Would it be so difficult to judge each book on an individual basis? How is this book’s writing? And does it have a gripping storyline?


  5. I do remember you talking about that. While I can understand they want to have enough of whatever is predicted to sell well, you’d think they’d be better at predicting anticipated demand. Forecasting is part of any business. The bean counters should have a better handle on it than that by now. Or maybe they thought more would sell if there simply were more available? Hard to know what they think, I guess.

    Some of the hottest sellers lately have been set in locations outside the U.S. and the U.K. (The Kite Runner, The Da Vinci Code, anyone?). I sure hope that’s not true, because my vampire novel is set almost entirely outside the U.S.


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