certs they have attended, parties they have been to, bars andrnrestaurants they have discovered. They also talk about howrnhard they work and how serious they are about books. Yet whatrnremains of the industry’s badly damaged editorial process stillrnproduces delusional books suggesting that Columbus was arngenocidal maniac or that Goebbels was just a regular guy, passesrnoff grotesque novels like American Psycho as the natural outgrowthrnof Reaganism, and promotes fiction by illiterate youngstersrnwriting inner-city ghetto English as a sign of emergingrngenius. On the other hand, respectable midlist books—in otherrnwords, those not destined for best-seller status, so the thinkingrngoes—are in trouble, and the reason usually given by the industryrnwizards is that the markets for them are too difficult tornpinpoint.rnAh, those crack editorial and marketing decisions! The logicrnthat suggests a new literary novel will “find its own audience,”rnlike an expert tracking dog snuffling through the underbrush, isrnenough to make a person cringe until one reflects that the majorityrnof books published today get little or no promotional supportrnwhatever. A browse through publishers’ catalogues willrnturn up numerous references to “National Promotion” butrnmore often than not that means radio interviews in Tacomarnand Indianapolis and a “Meet the Author” appearance thatrndraws 16 yawning locals to a high-school auditorium in Lima,rnOhio. Publishers have a very bad tendency to copy each others’rnsuccesses, failures, and techniques, so for a decade now thernmarketable fichon of choice has been legal thrillers and novelsrnabout serial killers, all marketed in the same hackneyed fashion,rnwhile anything different is regarded with extreme suspicion.rnTlie thinking, ideas, and organizafion that people in thernadvertising business call a “campaign” are usually absent altogether,rnalthough publishers do exhibit considerable talent in inventing,rndefining, and then smothering entire markets throughrnthe simple proclamation that no readers exist in those areas.rnThus men don’t read, conservatives don’t read, and Christiansrndon’t want anyone else to read. Books on foreign policy, music,rnhistory, and domestic policy don’t sell; first novels and, now,rnsecond novels don’t sell; poetry, translated works, horror novels,rnshort stories don’t sell. Publishers have convinced themselvesrnthat this kind of thinking is what passes for market research, andrnhave thus reduced the list of safe, blame-free publishing venturesrnto novels by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy,rnand Danielle Steel, books on the Kennedy family, and books byrncelebrities.rnIt is a relief, though, that all this research has shown thatrnthere do exist ample audiences to justify payment of $2 millionrnto foot-fetishist Dick Morris, $5 million for a book on the obesernMarlon Brando, $6 million to erratic foul-mouth WhoopiernGoldberg, and reportedly $3 million for the ruminations ofrnGoldie Hawn, if she has any. Industry luminar)’ Harry Evansrnrecently made the peculiar comment that publishers were “toorninterested in money,” but it might be more accurate to say thatrnthey are not interested enough. It is an editor’s job to acquirernbook projects, but today’s attitude seems to be, “Sure, I boughtrnthat bridge, but it was the company’s money. Cooll”rnIt would be a gross understatement to describe some of thernpeople in the business today as star-struck; rather the vast majorityrnof them seem absolutely desperate to glad-hand any strayrncelebrity they can find, hand over enormous sums of money,rnand then tell all who listen that they must rush to the airport, offrnto “edit” the new manuscript by one of the greats of politics orrnculture, gently to break the news to Loni Anderson, Joan Baez,rnand Pamela Anderson (or whatever name she is using thisrnmonth) that Chapter 15 of their memoirs needs a little work. Itrnis certain that, even now, there are editors in hot pursuit of BillrnClinton’s memoirs, determined to golf with the First Bubbarnand ensure that the American public will enjoy its “right tornknow” about the great man’s programs, although perhaps notrnabout how he has worked vigorously to exaggerate and heightenrnracial tensions, subvert our military and national defense,rnand antagonize our allies. More to the point, perhaps at his sidernthey will get to attend those Renaissance Weekends at long last.rnn~ihe sales of trade books may have T gone through the roof in recentrnyears, but it would be difficult to makerna rational case that the industry itself isrnnot a wreck, floundering desperately inrnsearch of stability.rnOne of today’s peculiarities is that book publishing seemsrncomposed in roughly equal parts of unregenerate ignoramuses,rndecent well-meaning professionals, and others of little convictionrnwho go along merely to get along. One joke has it that therndummies acquire the books, hand them to the pros to edit, andrndemand that all the others keep their mouths shut during editorialrnand sales meetings. Not content with this arrangement,rnthough, the business slogs doggedly ahead, serene in its morernmodern, politically correct, and technologically hip identity,rnand now seems bent on re-inventing itself even more fully byrnwelcoming into its bosom a motley collection of retreads fromrnother areas of media, from newspapers, television, and rockrnmagazines. The idea, as actually stated publicly by various exuberantrnindustry spokesmen, is to smooth the way to that elusivernsynergy whereby a book morphs easily into a movie, an audiorntape, a CD-ROM, perhaps even a Beanie Baby. Shouldrnthese new recruits be successful, it may become dangerous forrnlegitimate book-folks, for soon other strangers will appear inrnpublishing: bassoonists, stewardesses, organic-food gurus, allrnwith titles like “Editorial Director” or “Associate Publisher,” everyrnone of them bubbling over with enthusiasm for literature,rndevotion to free speech, and commitment to the grand principlernthat “we must all learn to love one another or die.”rnWhether these and other newcomers will be able to erase thernrecent stains of a $160 million royalty accounting fiasco at onernmajor house, or the cancellation of more than 100 book contractsrnby another, is dubious. The latter ruckus is truly a damagingrnblow to literature, since such intriguing projects as a bookrnof Jell-0 recipes and a collection of stories about celebrities andrntheir pets may never see the light of day. We should not forgetrnthat Jell-O has always been something of a sacred icon in Amer-rnMAY 1998/15rnrnrn