Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blogging and Publishing Cynicism

I was just writing a comment on this post at OF Blog of the Fallen, and it got away from me. I'm not sure it entirely makes sense without Larry's original post -- so go read that -- but I'll stick it here as well, just because.

First, the fact that not all copies of a manufactured commodity are eventually sold is not at all unusual. What's different about the book/magazine industry is the ability of retailers to return unsold product; most retailers just have to eat unsalable goods. There's no such thing as "returns" in consumer electronics or evening wear, but there definitely is a percentage of unsold and unsalable goods on every single consumer product. Many are marked down in place, but many more are destroyed.

(And, yes, a book is a consumer product. It may be other things, but a consumer good it always is.)

Second, this is not cynicism; it's realism. Newspapers and magazines are vastly reducing their coverage of books; they were even before the economic crisis, and it's gotten much worse. Publicists and marketers are trying to get their books into the hands of people who will talk about them to a reasonable audience, and bloggers are such people. This might not be business to you, but it's business to them -- you're getting that book because The Ann Arbor News went under, and those marketers and publicists would really like someone to see and appreciate their books.

Also, unless your numbers are much higher than I suspect, or your response rates are vastly through the roof, any one (non-superstar) blog will probably move a dozen or so copies of a novel, at best. But, then again, The Ann Arbor News probably didn't move more books than that, either.

And those now out-of-work newspaper people were just as passionate about books as any of us. Sure, they were usually paid (badly), and we aren't, but otherwise it's mostly a different of format and preferred genres.

(Also, what Charles said -- I won't repeat it, but it's all true.)

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