Just as Hollywood studios have abandoned making movies that don’t promise blockbuster potential, so have major publishers narrowed their interests to “big” books. Increasingly, risks in new authors are taken by small, nimble presses with small staffs. They invest in these writers, and, when they become successful, bigger publishers snap them up.
Increasingly, “risky” authors, those who’ve been rejected over and over again by traditional publishers or dozens of agents, are being picked up by small presses whose modus operandi is to take risks on literature that is exciting, innovative, or that they deem important either stylistically or politically. Then the big publishers swoop in and profit from the hard work and risk-taking of the small presses.
That is a good thing, in a way, because it means everyone makes more money from the art and a wider audience is reached. But it does seem like big publishers are hedging their bets more and more often, operating as if they are not too big to fail. It is a shame that the heavy lifting is being left to those who are only big in ambition.
As our creative industries are being de-institutionalized, large institutions are less and less able to be nimble and experiment than are smaller startups without legacy costs.