Overproduction: Fueled by conglomerate investment, publishers released more than 60,000 new titles in 1995, at least 10,000 more than in 1985. This growing number of titles leaves publishing houses with less time and attention to edit and market books. Some houses--big and small--have trimmed their lists, consulting closely with the chains to determine what is commercial, and have seen their profits and sales rise.
Midlist Crisis: Some charge that the conglomerates are starting to ignore the "midlist" book, serious nonfiction and literary fiction that sells fewer than 30,000 copies, preferring to gamble on potentially lucrative blockbusters. Imprints that concentrate on midlist books--like The Free Press, Basic Books, and Pantheon--have been downsized, sold, or repositioned by their conglomerate fathers in recent years.
Some publishers say that the proliferation of midlist books, not blockbusters, have injured the bottom line. Incoming Random House editor Ann Godoff argues against this notion: She plans to publish more literature and fewer celebrity memoirs, because the big-market books ultimately earn lower returns.
Franklin Foer is editor at large of the New Republic. He is the author of How Soccer Explains the World.