Monday, 26 October 2009

The Thing About Publishers

I’m still digressing, and doubtless regressing, but here goes.

I just love the business (some would venture profession) of publishing. On the one hand, you have those fresh-faced editorial assistants, with a humungous passion for books and a deeply Romantic notion of the author as solitary creative genius. On the other, you have a few ginormous egos in charge of a powerful marketing and publicity machine, ruthlessly operating under the belief that where we used to have artists living in garrets, we now have promotable celebrities. (Or that even when you come across genuine talent too big to ignore, it can always be made bigger with some help.)

Science long since gave up on the idea of individual genius. In that plain-speaking, objective way it has about it, it seems to have concluded that many heads are better than one. Today, the individuals that shine out like rare gems are ‘entrepreneurs’, not inventors. With ever-increasing specialisation and technological complexity, individual scientists are no longer famed for new discoveries made – it’s all a matter of collaboration.

Well, never was there an industry more slavishly in pursuit of individualism than publishing. So much so that vanity publishing is a term that deserves a broader remit. The literati is full of extraordinary egos: author, agents, salesmen, editors alike all believing in the individual genius (always their own and occasionally their authors’ too). And it strikes me that this has a powerful attraction in our recessionary times. The thought that individuals have unique and irreplaceable talents, offers soul-filling comfort of the rarest kind. With every P45 that’s handed out, another applicant for Britain’s Got Talent is born.