Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Big and Small of Publishing

I've been receiving the Galley Cat daily feed, and news is good for small publishing houses (or at least better than it has been for the dinosaurs). In the latest bit of news, Chelsea Green Publishing reported record sales last year. While Chelsea isn't a fiction publisher, I want to reflect on what I believe might be happening.

Purely speculation, but that's what I do.

When the purse strings are tight, people stop spending money on "extras". For a huge chunk of the popular fiction/non-fiction crowd, these "extras" would include books. Schunk! We just eliminated a swath of the big publishers' sales. Small houses (whether fiction or non-fiction) do a better job with niche markets. They know what readers (those people for whom books are not "extra") want. When the surplus money dries up, they are still above water because the dedicated readers are still buying books.

Just a theory.

Recessions have a way of forcing the cream to the top (i.e., better music, better art, better literature). Consumers must become more discerning in their purchases when their purchasing ability is limited. I hope this recession can create a renaissance, too.

10 comments:

K.C. Shaw said...

I'm glad to see that small publishers are doing well. In another year or so I expect we'll really be able to see a difference. Not to mention that a lot of authors that big publishers drop due to less-than-great sales will end up with small publishers, who are happy to get the talent and who deal with smaller print runs anyway.

Aaron Polson said...

K.C. - the bigger the monster, the more it has to eat (hence big publishers dropping mid-listers)

Catherine J Gardner said...

Lately I've been buying most of my books from small press publishers rather than mainstream.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I'm with Cate- most of what I have been buying has come from small presses. I have a few exceptions with my read pile but most of them are still mid-listers (Picerelly and the like)

Natalie L. Sin said...

It's a good theory. I think it's human nature to "trim the fat" when things get tough.

Aaron Polson said...

Cate, Jamie - I've been a small press fan for a while, too.

Natalie - ah human nature (shakes fist, but doesn't know why)

katey said...

I agree with Natalie, and like Cate, a lot of my stuff has been coming from that arena lately. So much more interesting-- not to mention a better guarantee of quality rather than mass-consumability. (Not that the two are mutually exclusive at all, of course, quite the opposite. Just saying.)

Jeremy Kelly said...

I was just thinking about all this this morning - and I'm with Natalie - this could mean more opportunity for those of us just getting started.

Bobbie Metevier said...

I think your right on, Aaron. Your theory has been proven over time even. That last bit about better music, better art, I agree. There is something angst- ridden that rises out of a recession. I think this time around it's going to be a monster called genre fiction.

Happy writing!

Aaron Polson said...

Katey - I think the small publisher like to take chances 'cause they aren't shelling out as much $$ up front. Chances = interesting work.

Jeremy - I hope so.

Bobbie - I'm ready for a new golden age.