While there have always been big brands in publishing, as the industry becomes more reserved in order to cope with the monumental changes taking place, publishers are relying more heavily on these big brands to fund everything else. And despite being the books that demand the highest advances and are the biggest risk, publishers now consider them to be crucial to business success. The mid-list is being squeezed out in order to make way for this handful of big risks, despite the fact that it is a series of small, long-term risks that builds the career of a mid-list author.
–On the disappearance of the midlist in favour of Big Name Authors.
This article is sort of doomsaying (“oh won’t someone think of the literature!”), but anyone who’s been around The Wyrd for a while will know I don’t disagree with the premise–that is, that the midlist is dying–with two exceptions.
The first is the use of the word “risk” to describe the big money thrown at high-profile authors. Yes, it’s technically correct (the best kind of correct!), but… really. The article is trying to argue a publisher throwing a mil or two or ten at the Dan Browns of the world isn’t going to pay off for them? C’mon. That’s like arguing that buying shares in Apple is “risky” because the stock price is high and the company is profitable. (And, yes, that example is intentionally ironic.)
The second is that no mention is given to the fact that the midlist won’t disappear, exactly, so much as it’ll stop getting free money from New York. Again, as I’ve mentioned before, I think authors will, increasingly, have to self-start their own careers on the indie circuit, particularly in crowded markets like genre fiction.
The other thing I disagree with is the implication that this shift in business model will somehow hurt readers. I don’t think it will; yeah, maybe going to the bookstore won’t be what it used to be… but it isn’t now what it was when I was a kid, either. Things change, and it’s not the readers who’ll have trouble adapting…