MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS

The publishing industry has a PR problem. The New York houses — most of them small, barely profitable holdings of faceless, multinational corporations — are staffed almost exclusively with networked graduates of expensive colleges (anyone seen Girls?). The business of writing novels within the traditional publishing sphere has been ceded into the hands of MFA graduates and celebrity novelists like Pamela Anderson and Nicole Richie.

And this system doesn't react well to change. A decade ago, during the first wave of book blogs, editors freaked over the barbarians at the gates who would sink literary discourse into a splintered, chatty mess. Ironically, it was these bloggers who would pave the way for self-published authors to gain traction — for better or worse, most traditional review outlets wouldn't dream of covering a self-published book.

It would seem that if nobody had a marketing budget and there were no more traditional review outlets, the playing field might be leveled. If a shadowy cabal of Harvard graduates didn't dictate from on high who would be this season's bestselling novelist, maybe more people would get a fair shake. But in the old publishing system— whatever its many faults — best sellers paid for the equivalent of research and development: the nurturing of young writers with a first book of short stories as well as critically worthy mid-list authors.

"Writers aren't in competition with one another. It isn't a zero-sum game. If you have a good book, a good cover, a good product description, and a low price, you can sell well," J.A. Konrath told Media Bistro in a recent interview.

But whom does it benefit if J.A. Konrath sells a lot of books? J.A. Konrath, that's who. No young mystery writer will be the indirect beneficiary of his sales figures. Nobody will. In the new regime, unpaid bloggers write gushing reviews of books that authors have paid to publish. Occasionally, one of them gets rich, the rest get their hopes up, and the cycle continues. Who profits? Some lucky ducks and Amazon, the biggest corporation of all.

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