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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm no expert...

...but based on what I've seen, this interesting article by Jay Baron Nicorvo makes some mighty interesting (and relevant) points about the current state of the publishing industry:

An excerpt:

"Editors have to run around anxious to find the book that’ll help them keep their jobs. Most editors these days are speculators. They’re no longer asked to acquire the books that readers will read a hundred years from now—books that not only preserve the culture but further it. They’re expected to acquire the books that readers will want to read today, and so instead of reading manuscripts, they read the current cultural landscape. They assess the mass market to figure out which manuscript might be the next bestseller. Literary editors at commercial publishers, the few who still acquire novels, have become investors. [John Maynard] Keynes writes that investing is, “so to speak, a game of Snap, of Old Maid, of Musical Chairs—a pastime in which he is victor who says Snap neither too soon nor too late, who passes the Old Maid to his neighbour before the game is over, who secures a chair for himself when the music stops.” But Keynes made another, more lasting, comparison, what has come to be known as the Keynesian beauty contest.

Keynes thought investing was like newspaper competitions in which “the competitors have to pick out the six prettiest faces from a hundred photographs, the prize being awarded to the competitor whose choice most nearly corresponds to the average preferences of the competitors as a whole; so that each competitor has to pick, not those faces which he himself finds prettiest, but those which he thinks likeliest to catch the fancy of the other competitors, all of whom are looking at the problem from the same point of view.” In order to win, competitors are forced to select the outcome most selected by others, whatever their personal preference. “It is not a case of choosing those which, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those which average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree, where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be.” If there’s anything that’s killing American fiction, it’s not MFA degrees and the institutions that bestow them. It is this: the third degree."

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