And I thought I was the one writing about ice ages:
But how much trouble is the British publishing industry really in?
Certainly publishers are frozen. The rate of announced acquisitions in this country has dropped to an extraordinary low over the last year. The US, a market that is five – six (let’s be generous) times our size has deals running at a rate of 25-30 a day; in the UK it is less than one a day.
Traditionally at this point publishers talk about lack of retail outlets, tough market conditions etc.
All no doubt true enough, but when has the market been anything but tough? How about this: there’s an almost total industry wide loss of editorial confidence? UK publishers are deeply unsure about what they should be publishing any more…
The trouble is that sales marketing and publicity only want what’s already popular. Really they’d just like to republish last year’s successful books. In theory publishers hire editors to judge what the trends are going to be two years from now.
That involves making mistakes. The only books that the committee will ever feel entirely happy about acquiring are either by celebrities, brand authors or New York Times bestsellers: books that represent the lowest possible risk and the probable death of British publishing.
That’s from the Bookseller, too. I can’t imagine a more pessimistic outlook for struggling writers, which just goes to hammer home the fact that – first and foremost – you should write because you enjoy the process of writing. I used to think that you should write because you want to be read, too, but I’m never sure how quixotic that is these days.
My other tip – to minimise the chances of being rejected – has always been to get into a bookshop to get a flavour of what editors are looking to buy. I wrote about it a couple of years ago. I know it has the whiff of selling out, but it’s not meant to be – more of a reality check that publishing is a business. Given such a bleak outlook, I think those thoughts still make a great deal of sense.