Social Capital in Publishing, Pt 1

Fiction publishing is a relationship industry. Whether you are published, where, and how your book gets publicity is largely driven by who you know and how much they’re willing to do for you, and it’s only getting more unequal. As a marginalized person, I think about this a lot. Socioeconomic status is an intersection of a number of factors–  disability status, race, gender, education, etc.– but I want to talk today about specifically social capital. I’ll talk about what it is, how it fits into publishing, why it is vital to build it, and why the Internet’s not really a good place to do it. In Part 2, I’ll talk about potential strategies for marginalized creators to build it in the service of their careers.

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Publishing as a “business”

Publisher’s Weekly recently started writing about the widening gap between front-of-list titles and the midlist (that is, bestsellers and everyone else; “backlist” refers to older books who publishers have the rights to which still sell reliably). Publishers are increasingly paying debut authors less and frontlist authors more.

Here’s the goddamn problem: nobody knows how to sell a book.

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