The Honest Truth About Trade Publishing

September 14th, 2009

Those in the business recognize a distinction between trade publishing (i.e. books of general interest sold through regular retail and online outlets) versus, for example, educational publishing (books for schools and higher education). We don’t hear much about the great bestsellers in educational publishing (although I can assure you than many earn both their publishers and their authors a great deal more than the average new novel). The glamor is in trade publishing: great bestselling fiction, whether thrilling or more appealing to the literate mind. Illuminating memoirs and histories of great wars and empires. Poets who have received the Nobel Prize. Yes, this is where the glamor is.

Well to put it all in perspective I recommend most highly “Redactor Agonistes” by Daniel Menaker, published on (one never knows where the great essays and blog etries will emerge — this one brought to my attention by my sister Sara).

As they say, “An optimist is only a pessimist who has not yet heard the bad news.” Here you can find the bad news, particularly unfortunate news if you are an author, but as I comment below the piece, really very bad news for the whole industry.

Mr. Menaker makes a game effort at the end to try to point out what makes publishing still worthwhile for those in the industry, but one feels him straining.