I’ve just finished reading Rust Hills’s book Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. I’ve quoted him a few times, and could have quoted him more; I feel compelled to wind up my reading with the sharing of this quote, which I think he wrote in 1977:
“What has happened to American book publishing in the last twenty-five years is amazing, but it is so well known it can be recounted in a series of catch phrases. First came the mergers, so there were fewer ‘houses.’ Then the corporate takeovers. The unknowing, uncaring absentee owners interested only in profits. No longer a family business. No longer a gentleman’s profession. Good editors promoted to be bad business executives. The demise of the small bookstore. The blockbuster principle — going for the big best seller at the expense of the promising first novel. The mass-market paperback tail wagging the hardcover dog. Hardcover and paperback houses buying one another out to make publishing a single process. Editors going from house to house. No loyalty to authors anymore. No loyalty back from the big authors who go where the big bucks are. Too many titles published each year, too few novels. Absurdly large advances to ‘name’ authors. Absurdly small advances to new ones.”
Here’s my two-part takeaway: 1) publishing is a business, and really it always has been; 2) that business is in flux, and really it always has been.
Get used to it.