Wednesday, November 1, 2023

How Authorship Has Changed

There is a new article up at The New Yorker, on "How Has Big Publishing Changed American Fiction" by Kevin Lozano. It's a kind of slanted take on a new book, Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed the Publishing Industry and American Literature, by Dan Sinykin.  I haven't seen Sinykin's book yet (though I've read excerpts and reviews), but I look forward to reading it, as it gives a pretty good analysis of how authorship has been changed by the totality of corporate bean-counters, much to its detriment. This aspect is little understood by readers in general, and by anyone outside the industry.

The article notes the following:

Before conglomeration, Sinykin asserts, writing a book “was a completely different experience.” Once, a would-be novelist’s chances of being published depended on “how easily you could get your book in the right editor’s hands.” As the number of those involved in publication expanded, authors had to meet new criteria. “Could marketers see a market? What would the chain bookbuyers think? Could publicists picture your face on TV, your voice on the radio? Could agents sniff subsidiary rights? Would foreign rights sell at the Frankfurt Book Fair? Might your story be remediated? Would it work in audio? On the big screen?”

Sinykin calls authors who successfully navigated the maze of agents, marketers, and booksellers “industrial writers.” This group includes chart-topping genre writers, such as Danielle Steel, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King, and also literary novelists who managed to work within the new system. 

The full article is here (though it might be blocked by a paywall). 

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