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'Outside the bubble of hype'

13 March 2017

‘Publishers still routinely take large risks on different kinds of books. Yet these books are mainly in some sense fashionable books. Taking big risks and bucking fashions are very different things. Publishers will drop large money on a risky new debut, but chances are that debut will be from a "zeitgeisty" author in a "zeitgeisty" genre. The pressure for chances to sell the book exacerbates this. It means that an editor will face a huge struggle to acquire books that sales and marketing don't believe will work. While this has always been true, it only becomes more intense. The number of key accounts is not going up. The competition is constantly growing. The internet provides an important new channel, but traditional media are a losing battle.

In contrast, the ebook market is relatively freer to try new and more, well, unfashionable things. Because even if the book trade as a whole gets caught up in the latest trend, one important group is often and surprisingly impervious-readers.

Outside the bubble of hype are authors in various genres quietly working away with large and valuable readerships. They are producing books and working in areas that might raise eyebrows or even a hint of derision at many acquisitions meetings. Yet readers still love it, they will keep coming back for more. In this respect then I think the ebook market can buck mainstream fashion; and the entire book market is all the better for it.

So-called "midlist" writers and niche genres were once the bread and butter of commercial publishing, but too often they've been left languishing at the expense of the modish. This is perfectly understandable, indeed common sense, given the difficulties in getting a book to market. But it highlights a valuable and "undersung" role for the ebook market: in ensuring that these still-vibrant and still-popular areas can and do flourish. It may not be the world of hot auctions, smart proofs and splashes in the Sunday papers. But for millions and millions of readers this is what reading is all about: escapist, addictive and too often overlooked by the latest in-thing.'

Michael Bhaskar, Co-Founder of Canelo and author of Curation: The Power of Selection in a World of Excess in PW's London Show Daily 15 March, sadly not available online.