A friend just sent me this tidbit about Penguin’s new strategy for coping with the pressures on publishers:
You’ll notice that Penguin, which is now the corporate imprint empire of Emperor Penguins, wants to market to every pigeonhole that people might use for an identity. This is partly a reflection of marketing machinery, which slots us into lists and databases.
But one assumption is that Penguin wants to find love by whispering what each customer wants to hear. The assumption is that reading is all about Me, and selling to Me. So why expect readers to be curious about others.
If you don’t have a product for a target audience, or if you oppose the idea of target audiences, you’re a writer in trouble on the Penguin’s ice flow.
Since gratification sells, editors are always trying to peep at, and name, what gratifies people. You’d think one risk is that such voyeuristic strategies would flatten out personality. After all, online marketing strategy is always spying on you in order to target you with “appropriate” ads “relevant to you.” Or relevant to the target you’re supposed to be.
Maybe this is why individuals are willing to be herded into pigeonholes (?) While social media brags about enhancing you, it may be a sign that you feel more threatened by anomie: more in need of a social media mic to amplify your voice. Maybe the theories don’t fit the lives they want to explain.
Think of the Parisian editors who had to read MSS submissions without computer printouts helping them decide who’s loitering in the book stalls wondering what to read.
I just read that Proust had to pay to have Swann’s Way published, and another payment (about $900 = cheap) for a glowing front-page review in (I think it was) Le Monde.
We hear all the time about box office records; they can more important than what’s in the box. Everybody knows this, yet there’s almost always a gap. To connect, you’d to ask about behavior. That’s not the slippery shadow the Penguin’s fishing for.