Publishing: 'Not Like Any Other Business'

"When people say publishing is a business--actually it's not quite a business. It's part gambling and part arts and crafts, with a business component. It's not like any other business, and that's why when standard businessmen go into publishing and think, 'Right, I'm going to clean this up, rationalize it and make it work like a real business,' two years later you find they're bald because they've torn out all their hair. And then you say to them, 'It's not like selling beer. It's not like selling a case of this and a case of that and doing a campaign that works for all of the beer.' You're selling one book--not even one author any more. Those days are gone, when you sold, let's say, 'Graham Greene' almost like a brand. You're selling one book, and each copy of that book has to be bought by one reader and each reading of that book is by one unique individual. It's very specific."

--Margaret Atwood in an interview with the Globe & Mail.


Suzan Harden said…
Very smart woman. Except for the part where she denies she writes science fiction.

I highly recommend The Cloning of Joanna May.
Claude Nougat said…
It sure is NOT like any other kind of business, particularly with the on-going digital revolution!

But it's not quite true that you sell a book like a product rather than an author's oeuvre.

It is true that literary agents expect you, the newbie, to contact them with one book proposal but the industry as a whole works differently: it's definitely an author's game where branding is all encompassing. If you're a big name, like say Stephen King, you can sell anything in the millions!
Claude Nougat

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