BookMachine | Balancing Act: Keeping publishing’s polarities in check

BookMachine_logoWhat are the crucial elements at either end of the publishing scale? Find out in this fortnight’s BookMachine article!

Publishing is an industry that operates between polarities, constantly engaging a series of balancing acts that define the kinds of books we sell and the profit margins we make. But are there canaries in the cage that tell us when we’re veering too far one way or the other? Is it possible to tell when the balance is out of sync before we reach the tipping point? And has the digital revolution of the past few years changed that?

Walking the tightrope

“We need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art,” said Ursula K. le Guin in July’s Portland Monthly. “Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit… is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.”

In one moment, she summed up the first dichotomy of publishing: ‘does this book hold literary worth?’ and ‘will this book sell?’ Stray too far towards literary worth and you risk alienating swathes of your readership. Stray too far in the other direction and readers eventually lose patience with the lack of quality control and – once again -books stop selling.

The second major balancing act in publishing, and one which is arguably harder to achieve, is publishing content that is currently trending as well as books which you predict will trend by the publication date. Engaging with pre-existing trends should also be done with care, as it’s important to drop the topic just before the general public loose interest. It requires a certain degree of bandwagon-jumping and generally involves less risk than predicting trends, which on a bad day can feel a bit like throwing spaghetti at a wall. [READ MORE]

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