I'm guessing that a lot of you already saw this piece from the weekend's NY Times on how bloggers are still being offered huge book deals. Basically, for those of you who haven't yet read it, the article highlights a recent (rumored) $300,000 deal for a blogger who runs a blog called, Stuff White People Like. There are then various quotes as to why this is a ridiculously high number, how bloggers are still sought after but most of the hot ones are already taken by agents, and how a good many of these books, including Gawker's, fail.
Interesting. To be honest, I didn't realize that this was still such a trend: I thought that publishers had maxed out on bloggers and weren't really pursuing their deals with the same frenzy.
Evidently, I don't know what I'm talking about.
This article - and the $300,000 figure - were being discussed on several boards I frequent, and the general consensus was some sort of weird ire at the blogger. Or maybe I mistook that and people just thought the publishing house was insipid to throw this sort of money at an unproven author. But in my mind, certainly, the author shouldn't be blamed. In fact, I say, good for him! If he can milk that money out of a publishing house who foolishly threw it at him, who am I to hold it against him? It's the publisher, the one who got caught up in the bidding frenzy, who should be held responsible - as noted in the NY Times piece, it's highly unlikely that said publisher will earn back that money, but then again, ya never know, and I guess they wanted to take their chances.
But herein is the big problem with our industry: no one knows which books will sell. Maybe it will be this $300,000 purchase, maybe not. There is little to no market research, little actual marketing beyond the first few weeks of a book's release, and while many people involved love books, they don't have a real understanding of the financial decisions behind the business, and thus, many books "fail," despite these huge advances and/or buzz.
My husband, who is in finance, always shakes his head and says things like, "It's like no one wants to make any money in publishing." And while, obviously, this isn't true, the net effect of it is the same: few books do make money, and no one is really fixing the problem. In my opinion, the problem is this: too many books are published and then left to languish with no marketing or publicity behind them. Too many other books are given huge pushes, and it turns out that they're not so good. When a book does succeed, sometimes it's serendipity, sometimes it's a really good book, and sometimes, it's just luck. So what's the solution? Gasp...I think the industry should publish fewer books and rather than try to meet some sort of quota with how many they have to churn out, focus instead on finding gems that will resonate (or even be heard of!) with their respective markets.
I've rambled. I meant to stay on topic about bloggers and book deals because certainly, some can do well, like the success stories of Jen Lancaster and Stephanie Klein. But the larger point, I guess, of this post, is that when a publishing house throws $300,000 at an author, and no one buys the book...who is to blame? To me, it's the publishing house, even though the author will be the one to take the fall.