Saturday 4 July 2009

Chicken publishing

By that I mean "lily-livered publishing" or "white-feather publishing".

Okay, these are hard times for the Man o' the Press, when even well-established Erotica publishing programmes are put on hold, but I think this is exactly the time to get more adventurous rather than entrench in more and more of the same gutless pap.

It is the chronic lack of ambition and the increasing copy-cat, series-based nature of most of what is published today – not only in terms of contents but also in terms of cover and packaging – that is driving the world of publishing (and with it writers, agents and booksellers) towards the abyss, not the heavy discounting or the ailing chains. We need something fresh, something new: we need to reinvent the wheel.

Instead, what we get is publishers bidding over Vikram Seth's sequel to A Suitable Boy – to be entitled, guess what, A Suitable Girl (to be published in Autumn 2013), and to be followed no doubt by A Suitable Mum, A Suitable Dad, A Suitable Granny etc. etc. in due course. The lucky bidder is rumoured to have offered something in the region of £1.7m, which means that the publisher either sees this as a giant loss leader or expects to sell a couple of million copies – probably the latter. "That's a gamble," I hear you say, "and it's far from being a safe bet – you are contradicting yourself." Well, maybe. But my idea of risk is slightly different, and I only see this as a reflection of our wasteful, celebrity-driven society.


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