Sunday, September 12, 2010

On Way to Reader's Manifesto

If you haven't done so already, I would recommend you head over to the Booksquare blog to read Kassia Krozser's post about the "question of value" in books. Krozser nails a lot of problems in publishing these days. She calls into question the gatekeeping role of publishers who get so hung up on an author who sells well that they publish anything that person sells, even if it's utter shite, resulting in a loss of faith from the reader. The reader is left wondering whom to trust. Krozser goes on to make a point we have certainly made here at SotB:
The truth is, as readers, we have no idea how good a book is when we purchase it, nor can we guess at the quality of what we get, generally, until we read the entire work. Yes, there are publishers (hello, Unbridled Books) who have a tight, focused list that reflects a consistent point-of-view while publishing a diverse list. I love it when I can trust a publisher. I feel the same away about Harlequin. It’s a compliment to both publishers. Readers may not love every book published by these houses, but they know there is a certain focus they can trust. Very few large publishers offer this kinda, sorta guarantee.
I know we're not going to return magically to a world where a publisher's name, at least a big corporate publisher's name, means a whole helluva lot. But I'm always pleased when folks point out how independents are often still defined enough that, if you find one that aligns with your taste, you can really learn to trust them.

So Krozser asks the hard questions about what publishers are adding in value to books:

Rather than accusing retailers and cheap consumers — and we are cheap, particularly in this economy — of devaluing content, how are publishers enhancing the consumer perception of the value of books?

Are they rejecting crappy books from established authors? Are they offering advances based on reality, the marketplace, rather than fantasy? Are they pricing books base on that same reality? Are they listening to what readers say?

Whoa. These are good and fair but very tough questions for publishers, but questions that must be asked. An an Editor, I appreciate someone basically asking, Are editors able to do their jobs and create lists that are recognizable? She also pushes for more transparency, which I've had mixed feelings about but I'm kind of coming around to. More on that in another post.

I appreciate Kroszer adding to this discussion and I'm very pleased to see many comments beneath the post. We need to keep thinking through these issues as we move to a digital world where more and more content is free, but is also of incredibly mixed value. But you may not know the value, good or bad, until you've already invested in the book.

Who do we trust these days?

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