Ah, publishing, that glamorous world of 7-figure advances (8, if you're REALLY big); long lunches at expensive restaurants, all on the publisher's ticket; world-encircling book tours; and mongo book launch parties where the only thing more lavish than the food is the cost of the author's pen as he signs his books for the teeming masses...
Well...that's how it looks in the movies. And, to be fair, that's how it was--and is--for a select few. I confess, too, that in the 26 years I've been in publishing, I've done my share of wining and dining (okay, not literally "wining"!) authors, both prospective and those already on our list. Taking a group of authors to an expensive restaurant is just a way of showing appreciation.
At least, it was.
Several articles have been written lately about a new "austerity" in the world of publishing. Now, publishing has been called a lot of things, but austere? Hardly. Until, according to the NY Times and this site, now. As I read these articles, I couldn't help but wonder if this coming "austerity" wasn't actually more a coming back to reason. Just like the publishers who are stepping back from massive (or any!) advances--a move we started seeing in '07 among publishers such as HarperCollins and supported by, among others, Mark Taylor of Tyndale in his thoughtful, thought-provoking letter to ECPA Members. (I know this letter stirred a flurry of fury from agents and authors, but I can't say I disagree with Mark. Seems too many forget publishing is a shared-risk proposition, and books not being profitable doesn't help anyone. I know there's more to being profitable than earning out an advance, but it's a definite factor.)
So, where does that leave us? Acquisitions lunches at Burger King? Author dinners at Denny's? Nickle and diming ourselves, and our authors, to death? I can't see that happening. But here's what I do see: publishers are taking a far harder look at what it really costs to be effective in publishing. And while some may find it hard to believe, those I know in publishing are trying to determine what most benefits not just the publishers, but the authors and their readers. In today's economy, everyone is hurting, and we all need to tighten the belt. I see that as simple wisdom, so long as the decisions made are done strategically and with consideration for all parties. I don't want to see authors mistreated or devalued any more than I want to see publishers going under.
So I'm curious. What do you think? Where should we tighten the belt? What do you see as wise and strategic moves for publishers and authors in the face of an ever declining economy?
How can we make publishing a win-win proposition?
Can't wait to read your thoughts!