Prufrock's Page

Monday, March 20, 2006

Publishing Woes

Australian novelist Brian Castro, whose Shanghai Dancing was much lauded (after being rejected by Harper Collins) has depressing things to say about large publishing houses in his country: "I think they're killing literature...everything is about the bottom line. It's absolutely massive." And author and academic Mark Davis adds: "The project of the 1960s to the late '90s, in which publishers competed for prestige, of constructing a national literary canon, has otherwise ended ... It's reasonably safe to predict that the activities of reading, studying, writing and publishing literary fiction will increasingly become - if they aren't already - the preserve of a rump of 'true believers'."

Harper Collins' Shona Martyn says that suggestions that sales and marketing people don't appreciate literary books "is frankly insulting". However: "Our job is to produce books that people want to read. We are a business. We can't be any more sentimental than a business that is selling ice cream or clothes."

That, really, is at the core of the debate, and not just in Australia. Small publishers, while wanting of course to stay afloat, can and do make decisions based almost solely on the quality of prose. With the larger ones, costly overheads get in the way. Then again, the smaller fish can't match the advances, publicity and distribution of the larger sharks. And so we go around the mulberry bush...


  • also, we have a small market size here which makes things harder generally :-)

    By Blogger flygirl, at 5:27 AM  

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