Saturday, December 6, 2008

Publishing talk and my essay available from Random House online!

I am thrilled and honored to report that my essay, The Grief Diet,  in the soon to be published Random House anthology Feed Me, edited by the sublime Harriet Brown, is now posted as one of three essays online--part of a sneak peak.  I truly am honored (oh, I said that already.) It was from a difficult time in my life, and I hope I turned that into art.

Changing gears, I want to talk about publishing in general. I realize I am going to sound naive, but with all the horrific things going on in publishing, I wonder if there is a better way to run the whole business.  Because books are so expensive and money is so tight, wouldn't it make more sense for publishers to do away with hardback/paperback and just put everything out in trade paper? Cheaper books mean more readers willing to take a chance on unknown authors, which means profits, no?

I also feel these huge advances, which are often unearned, are also killing the business. If a publisher cannot recoup a $500,000 advance, there is that much less profit for them, and we all know what much less profit means.  We've seen it all this week with the firings, with Harcourt Houghton Mifflin not acquiring new books. 

What about a system where advances are reduced and authors, instead, get 80 percent of sales? I know of so many writers who got 200,000 advances and earned back $50,000 of it.  Or less. Of course I want a good advance, but if it meant opening doors to other writers or helping to transform the business, isn't it worth at least a try? (I have this same rant about the movie business, by the way. And the music business.)

Art matters.  But am I totally naive? 


Clea Simon said...

I think that's a great idea, Caroline! Smaller advances, larger royalties -- and more paperback originals, too, to keep people buying and trying new authors. Maybe the latest round of cutbacks will scare the publishers into trying some new ideas.

Leora Skolkin-Smith said...

I absolutely agree with you and Clea, Caroline. These are extremely valuable ideas and I wish publishers would listen to them. About the huge advances, especially...yes, yes, yes.

Unknown said...

Just read your essay, Caroline. It's wonderful! I'm so glad you worked through your grief -- and that foodless relationship -- and found a guy who orders you two desserts. :)

Cari said...

Beautiful essay, Caroline!

Caroline said...

Thank you, Cari and Lisa. That means a great deal to me.