Jennifer Rankin writes for the Guardian about how publishers consider hugely succesful bestselling authors more like brands:
“Brand” may be an ugly word when applied to an author, literary agent Jonny Geller acknowledged, but it is only a shorthand for a way in which publishers are attempting to hold on to the reading public at a time when sales of print books are flat and electronic gadgets vie for readers’ attention.
Since I mostly see independent or smaller-press authors represented in my various social feeds, I’ve never really separated a writer from their ‘brand’ – perhaps I’m taking that term to mean something that it doesn’t in the Real World of Business.
The runaway success of Mantel’s story could be seen as a heartwarming tale for the book industry, but it comes at a time when many insiders worry such a tale will become increasingly rare as talented authors find it ever harder break through.
Again I don’t quite agree – it was always hard for talented authors to break through and, frankly, talent doesn’t really correlate very well with success. I think this paragraph is telling:
Authors with middling sales – like Mantel, before she led Thomas Cromwell up the bestseller list – are getting less care and attention from large publishers, with readers ever-more fixated on fantasy blockbusters, it is said.
I suspect that’s because large publishers really aren’t where the publishing industry is at anymore. Focusing on how they cope with the wave of new authors isn’t necessarily useful to form a view on how the industry as a whole is operating.
I’m no expert, but statements like this just don’t seem to describe a world that is any different to how it used to be:
“The large bestselling authors are taking a bigger and bigger share of the market,” said Andrew Franklin, founder of the independent publisher Profile. “Just as in every branch of late post-industrial capitalism, the rich are getting richer. New authors and struggling authors and mid-list authors are finding it harder.”
It’s an interesting and long read, nonetheless, and my pick-and-choose critique doesn’t quite do it justice. Have a read and let me know if I’m missing something: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/13/publish-brand-literature-hilary-mantel-jk-rowling