The Science of Success

Last month, the publisher Simon & Schuster announced a partnership with a Web site called MediaPredict, which would use the collective judgment of readers to evaluate book proposals. The deal drew scorn from many, who saw it as evidence that publishers, in an era of stagnant sales, had so lost confidence in their own judgment that they were reduced to the methods of “American Idol.” Asking readers to weigh in on a book’s commercial prospects was a recipe for mediocrity, and the experiment was “doomed to fail.” Yet even the idea’s critics recognized that it was a response to a real problem: most books today are not economically successful, which means that much of the time and money that publishers invest in projects is wasted.

[Thx SA]

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Published in: on July 7, 2007 at 2:59 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. This is really funny, to my way of thinking. I’m a minor writer of science fiction, and I’m convinced I know exactly what the publishers’ problem is: the poor slush pile readers. There is no way anyone, let alone an English major, could read the drivel that comes over the transom and retain the consistent ability to find the gems buried in there. Every once in a while, something bursts through (eg Harry Potter), but there’s often a story behind those. Such as that somehow a more senior and less overburdened editor looked at it.

    Add to that, professionals have different tastes than those of us who want books for simpler reasons. The chance that they’ll choose something people actually want to read is slim.

    Because of both those things, I’ve said for years that they ought to be using all the enthusiasts on the web for first readers.

    Unfortunately, it had to go be Simon & Schuster which has one of the most exploitative author contracts and copyright agreements in the business. They don’t deserve to succeed. But I bet they will with “my” brilliant idea.


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