Never mind the folly of dismissing Goodreads, a social network dedicated to books with 13m+ members and is steadily growing, or even Pinterest, where Random House has inexplicably attracted 1.5m followers, but the very idea that “something is really, chronically missing in online retail discovery” is arguably contradicted by Amazon’s 2012 results, suggesting that “online retail discovery” isn’t really a problem for readers. It’s a problem for publishers.
In the beginning, when I was trying to sell my first novel, I had a weird experience of editors really wanting me to write, sort of magic realism set in the Caribbean, or about recent immigrants with a magical ability (I’ve had two editors actually give me that logline and ask if I’d be interested in writing that story, but it’s just not there for me, I’ve got other stories still to tell). There was a strong sense that, hey, this is how you can be marketed as a Caribbean novelist.
For the third consecutive year, I had the pleasure of doing a presentation on social media for my friend Peter Costanzo’s M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media class at NYU last night, and while preparing for it, I was surprised by how much has changed since the first time, and how much hasn’t. Pinterest and Tumblr are bigger deals now (or at least perceived as such), while Twitter is steadily maturing (from a business perspective), Facebook changes its approach every six months, and email is still the underrated king of the hill.
Interestingly, Spiegelman nails the underlying problem with poetry in general, though he seems to imply it’s a flaw related more to a poet’s level of experience with form rather than an inherent flaw in poetry in general, but especially that written for the page. While formal poetry has never been my cup of tea, the vast majority of poetry — formal and free verse, written and oral — actually bores me to tears for the exact reasons Spiegelman notes.
Being sold for only slightly more than the revenue you brought in the prior year isn’t exactly a signal that anyone believes the company has a lot of growth potential, especially not one whose roster theoretically covers the full gamut of shiny author services so many seem to believe are publishing’s revenue streams of the future. Plus, ASI was apparently on the block for a while with no buyer, so I find Penguin’s CEO John Makinson’s claim odd, as reported by Publisher’s Lunch, that he expects there will be a “new and growing category of professional authors who are going to gravitate towards the ASI solution rather than the free model.” So then, what’s the real angle here?