Friday, October 19, 2007

Sending Reserves to a Successful Sector of the Battlefront

Doris Lessing on the military mindset of publishers:

In certain military academies there is this exercise: The examinee is to imagine that he is a general in command of a battlefront. In one area his troops are only holding their own, in another are being routed, in a third are driving back the enemy. With limited resources, where is he to send support? The correct answer is: to the successful sector; the rest must be left to their fate. It seems few people give the right answer; they mislead themselves with compassionate thoughts for the less successful soldiers. This is how publishers think. An already successful or known author gets advertisements, but struggling or unknown ones are expected to sink or swim. When the public sees advertisements for a novel on the underground, they are seeing reserves being sent to a successful sector of the battlefront. They are seeing a best-seller being created from a novel that is already a success.

From Doris Lessing, Walking in the Shade: Volume Two of My Autobiography 1949-1962 (1997).


Sassy Lucy said...

Great blog glad I stumbled upon it. Will be linking you to my Book blog, and will be visiting yours again. Wish my husband and I could share reading...our tastes are not too similar...last book we both read was a Stephen King book, but it was an edition of Edgar Allen Poe works, that proved to us that we were soul mates...we both owned the same book.

Ann Darnton said...

As someone who has in the past worked for a large chain I know just how impossible it is to buck the trend when you're told what to push. This is why I love independent bookshops because you never know what you're going to find prominently displayed.

Seachanges said...

Interesting observation this, and so true of course: you find exactly the same books displayed in the major chains wherever you go ('three for two' and 'buy one get one half price'....) and we all fall for it, most of the time. I like reading the blogs however, because you come across quite a wider range of authors!