Book Marks

By Charles Salzberg

Our angry freelance writer exposes cowardice in the world of publishing.


It's not easy to sell books in this flashy era of MTV and inane blockbuster movies like Water Boy. People seldom read, and when they do their attention span seems barely long enough to focus on mini-books like Robert Waller's Bridges of Madison County, or no-brainers like John Grisham's legal thrillers. So what's a poor publisher to do?

"Most major movies, no matter how rotten they might be, gross several million dollars..."

Market, that's what. Only how do you market a book when so few people want to take the trouble to read? You don't believe we're a nation of non-readers? Well, think about it. Most major movies, no matter how rotten they might be, gross several million dollars their opening weekend. A movie that brings in a modest $7 million that first weekend (and believe me, studio execs consider that modest), means a million moviegoers have shelled out seven bucks apiece to sit and stare mindlessly at a flickering screen at their local cineplex for a couple of hours. Even a recent bomb like Detroit Rock City, grosses in the millions, which means that a couple hundred thousand Americans actually paid good hard cash to sit through 90 minutes of a group of teens trying to make it to a Kiss concert. On the other hand, if a book sells 100,000 copies it's a source of great joy to publishers, not to mention the author who can then actually look forward to a royalty check that's too hefty to be cashed at the local mini-mart.

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