It’s Not Like Selling Beer

My head was nodding vigorously in agreement when I first read the following quotation in a Shelf Awareness e-newsletter. It’s an excerpted portion of an interview with author Margaret Atwood. After the quotation, click on the link provided if you want to read the whole interview.

“When people say publishing is a business–actually it’s not quite a business. It’s part gambling and part arts and crafts, with a business component. It’s not like any other business, and that’s why when standard businessmen go into publishing and think, ‘Right, I’m going to clean this up, rationalize it and make it work like a real business,’ two years later you find they’re bald because they’ve torn out all their hair. And then you say to them, ‘It’s not like selling beer. It’s not like selling a case of this and a case of that and doing a campaign that works for all of the beer.’ You’re selling one book–not even one author any more. Those days are gone, when you sold, let’s say, ‘Graham Greene’ almost like a brand. You’re selling one book, and each copy of that book has to be bought by one reader and each reading of that book is by one unique individual. It’s very specific.”–Margaret Atwood in an interview with the Globe & Mail, by Rosalind Porter, first printed March 16, 2011, updated March 17, 2011.

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