Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Article - Headlines speeding up Publishing Schedules

"You’ve Read the Headlines. Now, Quick, Read the Book" by MOTOKO RICH
As the metabolism of the culture has sped up in the digital age, pockets of the publishing industry are prodding themselves out of their Paleolithic ways and joining the rush, with more books on current events coming out faster than ever before.

For generations the publishing industry has worked on a fairly standard schedule, taking nine months to a year after an author delivered a manuscript to put finished books in stores. Now, enabled in part by e-book technology and fueled by a convergence of spectacularly dramatic news events, publishers are hitting the fast-forward button.


Of course many publishers and authors suggest that taking time to produce a reflective work is what books are about, and that they should not succumb to the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle.


Publishers have released so-called instant books for decades, focusing on political campaigns, sports events and true crime. Most of Bob Woodward’s books are released on a tight schedule; his publisher, Simon & Schuster, calls it “extreme publishing.”

But the unprecedented pileup of historic news is motivating a broader industry speedup. Hoping to capture the public interest while it is still ripe — and to beat out competition — publishers are rushing out a cavalcade of books tied to the election of the first African-American president, a spiraling economic crisis and eye-popping financial scandals.


Industry insiders say more publishers should expedite their processes to keep pace with the modern media age.

Even books of high quality, if they “come out so late that they’re either obsolete or redundant, are going to lose out,” said Todd Shuster, a literary agent.

For now the quick-turnaround books represent only about 5 percent of all titles, said Kathryn Popoff, vice president for the trade division at Borders Books. But she added that there were more now than ever before, in part, “because of the news cycle.”

Many publishers maintain that books are not meant to chase headlines. “What we need to do on the book side is to do the most thorough, the best and most contextualized” work, said Ann Godoff, president and publisher of the Penguin Press.


Booksellers say that the closer books hew to the news, the shorter the shelf life. “They peak, and they are over,” said Antoinette Ercolano, vice president of trade book buying at Barnes & Noble. “If the consumer feels they aren’t getting anything new, it’s not going to work.”

Only a book that “has instant media appeal” is worth doing quickly, said Jamie Raab, publisher of Grand Central Publishing, a unit of Hachette Book Group. Most books, she and others in the industry said, require time for the publisher to edit and market the book, line up blurbs or secure reviews in magazines with long lead times.


“If this book had gone through the normal publishing procedures,” Mr. Kiyosaki said, “it wouldn’t be worth writing.”

So I pulled out the meaty bits for you.

The question this quick-to-press trends asks is: with digital media evolving the marketplace and speeding up trends, will publishers rush novels through to take advantage of pressing market trends?

Yes, this article talks about books focusing on non-fiction topics. But could you imagine the renovation of the publishing industry if the process were to speed up as an ongoing standard?

There are risks: a lesser quality book and a shorter shelf life given the piggybacking on trends.

What do you think? Is publishing heading in this direction for fiction? Or do you think the traditional cycle will remain?

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