Professor Dorie Clark recently critiqued the book publishing industry in her Harvard Business Review article. Like many other, she points out that "digging up" old manuscripts, as in the case of Harper Lee and Dr. Seuss in recent weeks, is not a sustainable business model for publishers. In fact, Clark argues that this approach may actually undermine the sustainability of the sector as a whole.
Instead, she suggests that publishing leaders work to groom lesser-known authors into brand names. Instead of continuing to cut renumeration, she argues that the publishing industry must emphasize transparency and quality in order to survive amidst widespread adoption of alternative technologies.
The hottest trend right now in publishing is…things that were written more than a half-century ago. This month, publishers have enjoyed an unexpected bonanza from the vault, starting with the release of Harper Lee’s late 1950s creation Go Set a Watchman, which sold more than 1.1 million copies in North America during its first week on sale and now has a whopping 3.3 million copies in print. On July 28th, Random House will issue Dr. Seuss’ What Pet Should I Get?, another Mad Men-era manuscript expected to be a blockbuster, with a million copies already printed. Of course, the “forgotten treasure” boom can’t last forever; there are only so many relics you can pull out of the archives.