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December 12, 2008


I. J. Parker

As I've said elsewhere, given the fact that publishing is a business with an eye for profits, it is highly unlikely that the "fewer" books will be "better" books. Considering which books have in the past reached bestseller status, the reverse will be true: "fewer" books will mean only bad books.

Philip Hawley, Jr

I.J. and I see this issue from opposite perspectives.

Fewer books will mean, on average, better books. This simple principle applies to virtually every human endeavor. The evidence is overwhelming.

And sure, everyone can think of an exception, but that's why they're called exceptions!

David J. Montgomery

I think it's inaccurate that only lousy books make money. There are plenty of good books (and good writers) that sell a lot and make a lot of money. Sure, there are bad books that are bestsellers, but there are also a lot of bad books that fail miserably -- and plenty more of the latter, I think, than the former.

I think it is quite possible for editors of discernment to publish fewer and better books, and still make significant profits.

Dave Zeltserman

I think IJ's guess is closer to what will happen, although instead of bad books it will be safer books. Fortunately, independents still exist, like Serpent's Tail, Bitter Lemon Press and SOHO who will continue publishing the riskier, more interesting books.

Dennis Heintz

I love how it's always frustrated writers - people who have desperately wanted successful careers as authors, but haven't had the talent to rise above what are nearly vanity presses - who are saying fewer books will mean worse books.

Dave Zeltserman

Dennis, not sure who you're referring to here, but since IJ and myself are both saying that fewer books will mean either worse or safer books I'm assuming you're referring to one of us. In IJ's case, she's had a string of successful mysteries published by Penguin books. In my own case I'm being published now by Serpent's Tail, and am very happy about that--and am very happy with how things are going with my writing career with my latest book, Small Crimes, being picked by both NPR and the Washington Post as one of the best mysteries of the year, and my film agent at APA finalizing a movie deal for yet another book. My thoughts/post came from phone conversations I've had with editor working for large houses in NY who I've become friendly with, as opposed to a completely uninformed and kneejerk post like your own.

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I wish you great blessings and love.*

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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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