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Erik Hare

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Member Since: Mar, 2007

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Blogs by Erik Hare

Regional
5/28/2008 6:53:08 AM

Why are sales of fiction difficult at best, with about 1 work in 5 actually making money for the publisher? There are many reasons for it. Competition with other forms of entertainment is a very big issue, since a book requires a sturdy commitment; a video from Netflix can be popped into a laptop, watched, and sent back in just 2 hours time.

But I think people would still make that commitment if there was something important there for them. Very few people with college degrees have stopped reading fiction altogether, but instead have dropped down to a book a month or so based on friendsí recommendations. They havenít quite lost the habit or the energy Ö yet.

I think that the biggest problem with the publishing industry is how very New York it is. Thatís not to say that books canít come from small publishers like Milkweed or Scarletta here in Minnesota; those are generally the books that I wind up reading. But the national hype machine is geared towards those books that have a chance of buying their way onto the NY Times bestseller list (and those positions are indeed bought). How can a smaller, regional book get noticed?

Itís not just that the bookselling machine originates in New York. The problem is that this is where many people expect their news about books to come from. Books have become something from over there, a place separated by distance and class from the life of a working schmoe in Saint Paul. What is being sold hasnít had the resonance with ordinary people in a long time, so gradually they learn to ignore it. What hasnít happened is that people start to expect to hear about books from other sources.

Literature, the most dead of all genres of fiction, is important culturally because it tells us something about who we are as a people. Telling stories often gets us to an understanding of the world when a dissertation would only bore us. The reason literature is dead is that itís been a long time since people found that resonance where a story illuminated part of their daily life. Regional publishers not centered in one place and class are the only way to break out of that problem and tell stories that are important culturally.

How do we do this when people still look to national hype machines for information? We have to invent new ways of getting the word out. And we have to close the loop of making sure that the regional advertising promotes culturally relevant stuff. Itís not just about cramming books into peopleís heads.

Of all the things that need to change in the book world, New York is one of them. I donít blame New York for this in particular; itís just something we have to get past. The more I think about connecting people with literature that they will like, the more I realize that it has to be regional and responsive to a local market. How to go about doing this is the next question. Stay tuned.


Comments (3)

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