14 August, 2009

On Rarified Air and Hoopla

I am bored with all the snark aimed at the publishing industry/authors for wanting to make a buck. Undoubtedly, many of you have been following the recent criticism leveled against the Dune and Wheel of Time franchises, and if you haven't you should be. Adam rightfully tore the continuation of the Dune series a new one, as the saying goes, and he did a marvelous job of it. His arguments were well research and succinct and you can't help but agree with him by the end of his post. I don't even think the authors could formulate a reasonable counterargument if they wanted to, nor should they. I would like to add my two cents to the fray on a more... philosophical level, and if I miss the mark it isn't for want of trying.

Publishing is about money, punto final; try as we might to ignore the fundamental calculus of the industry, it is impossible to deny the fact that the bottom line is king. Obviously, words such as integrity and leadership spring to mind, but they are just subsets of a greater numeric rationale--when an imprint is perceived as having integrity and being a trail blazer, guess what, it sells more books. The best publishing houses strike a profit maximizing equilibrium between pandering and professionalism, quality and sales. This is not a criticism, it is a compliment. If tarnishing the legacy of one great author allows you to print new and remarkable talent, then by all means do so.

I am a realist. I realize that in today's market ideals will only get you so far. Ranting about how one series or another is motivated purely by it's profit margins, while true, will only hurt the publisher's bottom line, and on the flip side give you one less marvelous debut this publishing cycle. Sure you are angry, and so am I, but that is the world we live in. Or at least, that is the world as I see it. There has been much blame tossed into the void that is the mighty Internet recently, and a significant portion of it fails to contribute to the debate, opining instead for the witty condescension and venomous repartee which are all too often the hallmark of snark. In the context of this debate, I find it humorously ironic that 'snarky' posts get more readers.

Regardless, the bittersweet truth is that the snark must continue. Just as publishers strike a balance in their offerings, so to is up to the reader to redress blatant profiteering. My sincere hope is that criticism and debate can be held in a context that admits to and gives weight to the complexities governing publishers' rationales. While economic considerations are undoubtedly preponderant, the reader must realize that the power is in her hands, quite literally.


Anonymous said...

Regarding the snark, I know what you mean. Unfortunately, and errantly, it would seem that many find snarkiness to be comedic, of virtue and/or symbolic of superior intellect. In a minority of cases it may be these things, but, mostly, it's just snarkiness.

ediFanoB said...

Snark - A word I didn't know before. Thanks to Urban Dictionary for explanation.

In the end author is a profession like carpenter or baker. He needs to make money like millions of other people. So he is part of a company and in the end most authors aren't independent. They depend on their publisher.

as you wrote it is business.