In the Dallas Morning News, publisher Jonathan Karp discusses the problems plaguing the publishing industry and offers five options for overcoming these problems:
1. Add more titles to augment sales.
But no one knows whether the books will sell! When a new project is acquired, we base our sales projections on the way similar books have performed in the marketplace – an assumption based fundamentally in blind hope. Often, these financial projections turn out to be more fictional than the novels we publish.
2. Sell more copies of existing authors and titles. A worthwhile endeavor, but also a difficult one in a retail environment that is essentially flat.
3. Ask popular authors to "increase output." Which can result in twice as many of those ingenious serial-killer books per year.
4. Diversify your "product line." Which is why there are six new diet books and presidential biographies every season: Publishers are engaged in an endless war for market share in the same limited categories, even though there's little demand for new books in many of them.
5. Cut costs, pray to the gods of movie tie-in paperback editions, or hope that one of your authors gets his or her own talk show.
Given those pressures, I understand why a conscientious publisher would choose the first option – to add titles fast and hope to catch some cultural wave. Think of Hannah Montana, Obama-mania, entrepreneurial self-promoters with a brand to build or political provocateurs such as Jonah Goldberg, whose pointless thought exercise Liberal Fascism is just the latest example of what the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once termed "boob bait for the bubbas."