Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cassandra Cries

Irish comedian Dara O'Briain calls nostalgia "heroin for old people" but still I must confess that I yearn for the olden golden days of publishing; before all the houses were bought up by global conglomerates who have no interest in books per se, but only in sales and profit. (And don't get me started on the chain bookstores who simply use books to sell their coffee and donuts.) This is not a moan. It's a fact. Everything has changed, changed utterly and horribly. Back in the 1980s (here we go, into the main vein) I could ring my editor collect from wherever I was in the world and she would always accept the call. There was always time to chat. If I hadn't called her in a while - I am talking different editors here, actually - she would, gasp, ring me! For both of us, there was time for editing, time to discuss the book, time to think about the heart and soul of writing. Yep, in the old days, my publishers actually cared about me as a human being and an artist. Now the whole business is all nerve-wracking deadlines and production schedules, Nielsen ratings and sales and promotions. Will this be a bestseller? If not, it's worthless! What I am trying to say is that there is no cherishing of the author any more. It's all "get the work done and sell for us or piss off." And I'm not talking about the people in the publishing house. I am talking about the great impersonal corporate juggernaut that is driving the publishing house. We are all crushed beneath it - publishing staff and writers and small bookstores and readers.

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