Friday, March 12, 2010

Confessions of a Non-Bestseller

Author R. J. Stove, one of my favorite writers, tells it like it is:

It increasingly looks as if we have entered not only a post-literacy age but, for the most part, a post-nonfiction age, a post-publishing age, indeed a post-professional-author age. I do not deny that publishers will continue to exist, including excellent publishers like ISI. What I do deny is that the situation from which hardback, paperback, and periodical literature benefited in the 1950s and 1960s — a “perfect storm” combination of educated writers, educated readers, educated publishers, non-masochistic WASP-dominated elites, and no trash TV — will ever occur again.

Half a century ago, Russell Kirk and Hannah Arendt could live off the proceeds of their dense, demanding, and allusive books. When Petrie’s friend, fellow historian, and contemporary Sir Arthur Bryant died in 1985, he left a massive fortune that would be unthinkable now. Neither a reincarnated Bryant nor any other historian could attain anything like such an income today, unless he were a market genius or had an Ivy League senior professorship or moonlighted as a supermodel.



P. M. Doolan said...

Andrew Kean, in his interesting book "The Cult of the Amateur" says much the same.

Lindsay said...

Elena, It might be of interest to you that ISI is a non-profit publisher (who would nevertheless rather not lose money on its publications;)). The organization is struggling mightily with the downturn in the economy and is issuing a hefty public campaign to try and break even from the 1.5 million dollar shortfall they have from last year. Its future is uncertain, to say the least (as well as my own since my husband is employed there!), and any help people could offer to ensure the publication of such books (as well as other programs promoting conservative ideas and principles) would be appreciated. I don't mean to spam you, I just thought that those interested in this article might be interested to know that as well.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, P.M.

Thanks, Lindsay. You're not spamming me, not at all. My husband had a good friend who worked for ISI and we have long admired the good work it does. It is indeed a difficult time, especially for small publishers and non-profit publishers, and we do not know where it is all going.