Writers of all kinds, from the nakedly commercial to the wilfully abstruse, look for two things: love and money. The traditional publisher, to a greater or lesser extent (this is part of his/her competitive edge) provides this. As the Hachette memo states, the publisher both curates new and continuing talent (with a “gatekeeping” function) and also acts as a banker (or patron).
This traditional model is simple, but also highly evolved. No amount of “self-publishing” (which I use to describe the many alternative models on display) can equal this, at least when harmoniously engaged with the retail and copyright sectors. That’s the issue. The Hachette model used to be fully integrated with the literary marketplace. Not any more.
And here’s my second point. For 50 – perhaps 100 – years, writers, publishers and booksellers followed a literary map which a) they all believed in and b) described the cultural landcape perfectly.
Some time between 1990 and 2005 – we can debate the actual tipping point – this map became irrelevant and then redundant. The many book tribes (writers, agents, editors, booksellers) on the lonely route from the moment of putting black on white to the point of sale found that the map they’d relied on for generations no longer described the environment they inhabited.
A new map for the books world | Books | guardian.co.uk. But what is the “new map”? Doesn’t seem like anyone has one yet.