So over my vacation I decided to put my money where my mouth was and read up on how the publishing industry works from a more general and financial viewpoint. I've never worked in a publishing house, but I thought, "Well, I have a web log about it; maybe I should find out how it operates."
This was a last-minute decision and I just went to B&N and picked up the publishing book that looked the most professional - The Art and Science of Book Publishing by Herbert S. Baily, Jr. It had a certain air of distinction that the other books on the shelf ("How to Get Published in Thirty Days") didn't quite have.
Five pages into this book, I realize: I do not understand anything about book publishing. This book was so amazingly technical that I don't understand who would possibly read this other than an experienced manager in a publishing house looking to verify his numbers. For example:
What? Man, I'm glad my job is just to read query letters and edit manuscripts. Fortunately the book enables me to answer this question:
I have a question for you. Just something I've been curious about, particularly with the continued "chick lit" craze. It seems if you write about a twenty-something in PR/fashion/event planning/publishing, there is no end to the crap that can end up on the shelves (although let me say, I do read quite a lot of it when trapped in an airport...). So here it is: In your experience, when it comes down to why a book is published, what percentage is based on "good writing" and what percentage is based on marketability?
Since there's no way for me to answer the actual question (I would just have to make up a number - it's to abstract a concept), I'll just reinterpret the question as, "What determines why you choose a book? How can you tell it will be profitable?"
Well, folks. Here it is. The actual formula to determine the profitability of your coming-of-age yarn or your Vietnam memoirs. Are you ready?
Here we go.
I think that should answer any questions anyone will ever have about publishing.