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THE FIRST WORD

02 Jul

Why Fuze Publishing?

–Because there are too many dedicated writers generating strong new work that is not reaching an audience.

A recent The New Yorker cartoon eavesdrops on a cocktail party conversation in an urban living room, someone asking, “Is there anyone here who isn’t self-publishing a book?” We don’t think that question implies a rise in vanity nationwide so much as a drop in the number of worthy writers being admitted through the gate into mainstream publishing.

–Because after decades of merger mania, book publishing has become a manufacturing industry, strait-jacketed by business models and marketing platforms rather than nourished by cultural and literary values.

In an article entitled “The Long Good-bye,” Elizabeth Sifton, grande dame of literary editors, recalls the 1990s when “the money men” invaded publishing, determined to raise profit margins from the traditional five to 15 percent. Sifton argues that “they had no confidence in books per se and knew nothing about writers or readers.” Increasingly they opted for what Sifton calls “book-like objects,” team-written, celebrity-driven commodities that stole shelf-space, ad budgets, and public attention from actual literature. (The Nation, June 8, 2009.)

In his Clairvoyant Culture, Inc. (Oxford University Press, 1989), Herbert Schiller includes the symbiosis between big publishing houses and national book-selling chains as furthering the commercialization of the book, discouraging subject matter that might be unpopular, unfamiliar, socially critical, or depressing, and thus lowering sales.

–Because the major publishing companies are in the process of demonstrating that you can be too big not to fail.

Did you know Random House, Knopf, Doubleday, Bantam, Dell, and half a dozen other imprints are all owned by the German-based company Bertelsmann? That’s big.

Even before the financial crisis of 2008, which left several imprints suspending acquisitions, mainstream publishing was freezing up, locked into bricks and mortar distribution through nation-wide chains, cold to experimentation, competing to overpay the same safe, popularly-vetted writers.

Dennis Stovall is director of Ooligan Press, the student-run centerpiece of Portland State University’s unique M. A. in Publishing. He thinks this is the perfect time to start up a small press, because everything is changing, “where the book is sold, what it’s read on.” The complete commodification of the book is failing. “I think we’re getting the book back,” he concludes. (www.writersdojo.org/Wells+Stovall+Ooligan)

So that’s why Fuze Publishing. One volume at a time, we want to get the book back too.

Molly Tinsley and Karetta Hubbard, FUZE co-founders

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Posted by on July 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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