Readersforum's Blog

January 9, 2013

Why book buying stats might stifle the next great author

webbooksJOHN BARBER

Given the pressure to reduce costs, something had to give in the formerly genteel world of book publishing, and it’s not the publishers. Rationalizing with mergers, capitalizing on global fads and making up in digital sales some of what they have lost in print, the big houses are stubbornly resisting their oft-foretold extinction.

The true dinosaurs of the new age are authors. Once happily enclosed in the “stables” of publishers willing to nurture and develop their talent, even if they never wrote a major bestseller, droves of so-called “mid-list” authors now find themselves roaming among the ever-present throng of wannabes flogging unpublished work in an indifferent market. And that throng is most likely to produce tomorrow’s bestsellers, even if they begin life as obscure, self-published digital texts that, onloy after they find a following, are taken up and heavily marketed to mainstream prominence by major publishing houses.

Many mid-list authors have fallen victim to increasingly sophisticated, widely available sales data, according to agents and publishers. Publishers can now assess every author’s lifelong sales thanks to such services as Nielsen Bookscan in the United States and BookNet Canada.

And once reduced to pure numbers, those track records determine the fate of proven writers looking for cash advances to begin their next books.

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