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Junk Bonds, Blue Chips, and Publishing

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I learned about this great post from Ed last week and meant to share it with you and then just got swamped…

Levi Asher makes a fantastic comparison of the similarities between banking and publishing. “Big hits like Da Vinci Code and Cold Mountain inspire book executives to take great risks on possible future successes,” Asher writes. “Given the reflective and hype-hungry nature of book publishing, these risky investments generate a lot of attention but then crash and burn more often than they succeed. Sales and marketing efforts create big expectations, but junk is junk, and you can’t fool readers into buying a book they instinctively dislike. These highly visible failures are what lead to the mistaken impression that consumers must not be buying books, when in fact consumers are buying books. The publishing industry is simply tripping over itself trying to monetize their readers’ interests. They can’t stop overrating (and overpaying for) their junk.”

The rest of the post is thoroughly interesting so definitely check it out. Obviously, I’m not sitting in the editorial offices of any publishing firm so maybe I’m completely in the dark here. But it seems as though the publishing industry sometimes goes way overboard in terms of the risk it takes. As Asher writes, they over-rate their risky investments.

Case in point… the New York Post is reporting that publishers are offering Tina Fey millions for a book. Now, there’s no doubt Fey is talented, well-liked, successful, and with a huge platform. But is a book from her really going to be worth a $6 million advance? How many copies does that translate to? Maybe they’ll prove me wrong, but that many millions seems like a prime example of the industry over-rating the potential.