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Publishing -- It's a Business
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In a comment to my previous post, Mark Terry reminded me of an entry in Tess Gerritsen's blog. As Mark summarizes:

Tess, who is a very solid bestseller, did drop-ins at chain stores while visiting in Hawaii where she lived for 12 years, and the doofuses in the stores had no idea who she was, looked up her name in the computer, said, "Oh, you have quite a few books here, you must sell pretty well," but still refused to let her sign stock because they claimed they couldn't return it if they did (which is no longer true). This was sort of stunning and dispiriting and ultimately depressing, such a pathetic look at an industry we're so actively involved in as writers and book buyers. It always seems to me that the industry--namely publishing--goes out of its way to shoot itself in the foot, but to watch the booksellers do it, too, goes way beyond misery.

I did read Tess Gerritson's blog and now I understand why, when I did a book signing years ago and offerred to sign the unsold copies of One For Sorrow (i.e. all the copies ordered) the manager nearly had a fit.

Perfectly understandable, of course, from a business standpoint. You can't have these authors cutting into your slim profit margin.

This pretty much mirrors the typical attitude of American business, that those who actually produce what is sold are the worst impediment to profits. If you're not making enough money the first thing you do is fire a bunch of those miserable, useless slackers, who do the work.

Do CEOs dream of a corporate Nirvana where product appears at the will of the executives without the necessity of those inconvenient, profit draining workers?

When I stop thinking about the "publishing business" and just concentrates on the "business" part, a lot of what goes on becomes more understandable. Writers might be artists when they are writing, but when it comes time for their books to be sold, they're just the workers who produce the product. Of course they are held in contempt, underpaid, and considered to be disposable. You want to be treated decently, you should've got an MBA and become a publishing company vice president.

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