There’s a lot of talk everywhere these days about the doomed economy and what it means for all businesses, large and small. No doubt the climate is grim, and people are worried. There have been discussions within the confines of book publishing that speak to all sides of the issue, and reports that book publishing is “recession-proof” given the relatively low price point for books and the fact that people are staying home more, and looking for inexpensive alternatives to entertain themselves. The holiday season will soon show if people will be buying more books, and less of other things, but we are all hoping for good news.
But what about outside of the consumer level – agents selling books and publishers buying them? Will there be a slowdown there, will publishers be buying fewer books and spending less money on them? That debate has been going on through the years and continues through this downward economic cycle with great concern from authors, agents, editors and publishers alike. But really, midlist and backlist books at the big houses have taken a back seat to front list titles for years already, so that’s not really new news. So far, the market seems to be cautiously conservative in some ways and grandiose and lavish in others with a mixed bag of returns. For every gloom and doom story out there, there’s another that’s equally as uplifting and encouraging.
Doubleday just announced a number of layoffs in part because of disappointments like paying over $1 million for Andrew Davidson’s first novel, The Gargolye, and recent reports like New York Magazine’s article by Boris Kachka about the end of publishing as we know it continue to spread pessimism about the future of books (see
So while there will always be disappointments and books that publishers paid too much for, they seem to keep spending aggressively on the books that their staffs and p&l statements say will break out as a “big” book and continue to make money for everyone for years to come. So far, we don’t really see that changing, and we all continue to search high and low for that next great book, the one that we can fall in love with, and that hopefully can make us all lots of money, too, whether the advance is seven figures, or just a small fraction of that.