It took almost two weeks, but Salon is on board with our assessment of the book publishing arena posted October 27th, concerning the merger of Random House and Penguin. The ever edgy and astute online Salon magazine titled the bad news this weekend: “Book publishing crisis: Capitalism kills culture.”
Scott Timberg provides a lucid assessment, most of which you could figure out yourself, but his admission of a few logical details, sanctified by mere association with a big name like Salon, should help everyone who is trying to sell a book understand why life is not as it was twenty years ago: “[A]uthor advances . . . now stand, by some estimates, at about half of what they were just four years ago.” This, Timberg explains, is due to “[t]he digital revolution [which] has effectively marginalized traditional publishers.”
Some authors who got a two million dollar advance five years ago probably helped cripple their publishers who didn’t see the change coming. On the other hand, publishers, like movie producers, count on unexpected sales to make up for the massive advances given to books that don’t pull in the expected $$.
Another truth which I have long felt in my gut is articulated by Timberg, and I take my hat off to him since I didn’t have the gumption to say it yet in a post: Amazon is the new dictator.
How many struggling authors have put their books up on Amazon? Each percentage earned by Amazon, even on those books that are so bad readers try to philosophically cut their losses–nothing worse than a Venti purchased at Starbucks, right?–is money in the pocket of a growing giant. We are both grateful and afraid.