Friday, June 12, 2009

An Editor Speaks!

I always appreciate when an editor from a big house (or formerly, as the case may be more and more) speaks out about publishing from that unique vantage point. In this case, that editor is Juliet Ulman, former editor for the sci-fi/fantasy imprint Spectra over at Bantam, who lost her job with the publishing re-shuffle and now runs an editorial consultancy, Paper Tyger. She did a q&a with Jeff VanderMeer over at Omnivoracious.

Not being a sci-fi/fantasy guy at all, I was still intrigued by her thoughts on where the potential lies in publishing, given the grim year we've experienced:
I think it's premature to be sounding the dealth knell for traditional publishing just yet; however, the landscape is changing. It is certainly true that in these times of economic upheaval, the larger publishers are not just tightening their belts, but also becoming even more concerned with escaping the unpredictability of success. I believe we are going to see (and have already seen the first suggestions of) a hopefully temporary shift back towards the "basics" upon which many houses were built, and acquisitions will become more conservative both in scope and in cost. This retraction leaves the field open for the independent publishers, many of whom are flourishing where other larger beasts are floundering because they are more nimble and more focused, serving a smaller, carefully targeted market rather than trying to reach all consumers, and serving that market with dedication and alacrity. I think of the large houses as ocean liners--their weight and bulk makes it easier to disperse pressures evenly across the ship, and they are less immediately affected by the sharp lifts and falls of the market, but that same solidity renders them slower and and difficult to turn. It's a trade-off. I think that people are frightened that the market will contract and harden, becoming an impossible playing field for the unusual or unproven, but I don't think that this is entirely the case. I think that you will certainly see this kind of contraction from the umbrella houses of publishing, and a fair bit of trimming the fat to stay afloat, but those imprints that have branded themselves successfully and are quick to move with the winds and embrace the changes in both our economy and our society will find their feet. I expect that rather than dying out, the independent press will be the fertile ground from which a new vision of How Publishing Works will emerge.

I know we've heard this before, but hey, I think it's fantastic, and I agree, and I hope we're all right!

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