Wednesday, January 12, 2005

'Does a rose by any other name....' Further considerations of the malodorous connotations of the term "Midlist"

As noted in a previous post, I've been thinking about the notion of "midlist," and recently sent out a bunch of queries to a bunch of editors and agents; and received a number of responses, which you'll find here in due course. Here's the core of my letter, followed by the first of many replies.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the term “midlist”—partly because I think it’s a term that has an unfairly pejorative connotation, which, in turn, perhaps fuels misconceptions about the realities (even today) of the vast majority of the titles that are published today.

If, for instance, we were to define midlist as books for which the (actual) first printing is less than 15,000--and in my opinion a considerable majority of first printings fall into that category--then mightn’t it be argued that midlist publishing still, in some way, constitutes something like the back-bone of publishing? Or is it, in fact, our equivalent of the Mendoza Line?

I’m thinking the term is in need of a public relations campaign… I would love to hear any thoughts you have, including, even, what you see as the category’s first-print parameters.

The very first response came from Daniel Menaker, longtime New Yorker editor and currently Executive Editor-in-Chief of the Random House Publishing Group.

DANIEL MENAKER: I’ll expose my ignorance and say that the only thing I know about the Mendoza Line is that it sounds like cocaine jargon. If midlist publishing refers to books that go out at 15 k or less, then the situation resembles what it was at Starbuck’s until recently, in which the smallest coffee you could get was a “tall.” Is there a term for lower-than-midlist books? What would it be? Hypolist? Lowlist? Teeny-tiny books?

Publishing seems to me at a point where it wants to be (and to some extent, for the time being, anyway, is managing to be) increasingly “hit-driven.” The trouble is that as with movies, there is no way to guarantee that the key to the ignition of the hit you’re trying to drive will actually turn and the engine will start. So I’m not sure about ["midlist as"] backbone—to rather violently switch metaphors in mid-paragraph—but I do think that books that go out at less than 15k do and will continue to function as stem cells that can and occasionally do develop into those fully formed organisms called bestsellers. And even when they don’t but receive wide critical acclaim or add in some significant way to our culture of letters, they add luster and pride to the house that publishes them and may help to attract new hitdrivers to that house.

We all have to continue to publish such books, it seems to me, and do so with pride and with as much imagination--which is not the worst substitute for a big marketing budget--as we can, in the hope that, unless what appears to be a recent change in reading and book-buying habits becomes permanent, eventually more readers will rediscover the joy of discovery. If you and your readers will visit the website of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a Random House writer and author of “Fooled by Randomness,” you will find a number of brilliant analyses of the phenomenon of outlier events, one of which is, for instance, the emergence of this or that movie star, and another of which is the surprise bestseller.

Yes, I think a useful first-print-run definition of midlist books is 15k or less.

37 comments:

Larry Guo said...

When you say the term "midlist" needs a PR campaign, to whom should the campaign target? Publishers or readers? I'd say the majority of readers don't know or care what the term "midlist" means. They just want to read a book they can understand like "Da Vinci Code" or "Harry Potter", none of which I know are hardly midlist.

You're right, though, that many who hear the word "midlist" might conjure up the image of an artsy, abstract, pretentious book written by a starving, angry, obscenely literate author who gags when he/she is cornered by a Dan Brown/J K Rowlings illiterate fanatic at a writer's networking party.

And you're also correct that midlist authors are the backbone of the publishing world. But do we need to promote that image? Don't you think it would come off as a little too self important?

I would personally love to be a midlist author myself. To get published is a dream. But I don't think it's a title that I'd promote on C-Span Books.

Mad Max Perkins said...

Larry,

My initial reaction is: neither consumers nor publishers, but rather agents and authors. Mostly everybody in those camps is disappointed if a book doesn't ship 25/35/45,000 copies, as though the ball's been dropped--when, in fact, those numbers exceed all but a very small fraction of books published.

Ship 12,000, net 8500? Those aren't horrible numbers, providing the advance is to some reasonable degree in line with them. They're not going to buy anybody a yacht; but they will serve as a respectable showing, both when that author's NEXT book is on submission, and when the sales rep goes in to sell that next book to his accounts.

We ALL want to hit the ball out of the park, of course we do, it's human nature. Statistically, though, there are a lot more singles than four-baggers, and the wish (here) is that we recognize that swinging for the fence can, and does, have serious negative consequences... More on that later...

Chaibat said...

The Mammal approach: small litters, heavy investment. As the publisher who responded to your letter wrote: "from a business point of view you're much better off publishing one 100,000-copy seller than ten 10,000-copy sellers." So the problem with midlist is that exists. Instead of buying those ten 10,000-copy sellers, only buy one--the best one, of course!--and promote that one like an ambitious mother.

The Fish approach: ten thousand eggs, cannibalism permitted. Release as many books as possible, hoping a few will flourish. This has the added benefit that some freak mutation (read, Rowling) will emerge unplanned and take over the world. So the problem with midlist is that the advances are too high. Instead of buying ten books, buy a hundred--in no-advance, royalty-only deals.

Anonymous said...

"The Fish approach: Instead of buying ten books, buy a hundred--in no-advance, royalty-only deals..." pretty much describes independent publishing. Additional advantage in independent publishing: we're nimble enough to be able to start feeding the fish extra food when it shows signs of growing up fast.

Anonymous said...

"The Fish approach: Instead of buying ten books, buy a hundred--in no-advance, royalty-only deals..." pretty much describes independent publishing. Additional advantage in independent publishing: we're nimble enough to be able to start feeding the fish extra food when it shows signs of growing up fast.

Richard Nash

Anonymous said...

It would help everyone if we stopped calling it midlist and just went back to calling it literary fiction.
LA

Anonymous said...

Hot Sexual dating personals
Sexy Chat/Web-Cam

1. Hot Match - Maker
2. Fulfill your Passion
3. Sex and Swingers

OFF Topic... Please Delete if not OK!

alena said...

Nice Blog!!! It looks like you've spent a fair amount of time setting it up and keeping the content fresh. I'll be sure to come back.

I have a online dating blog. It pretty much covers asian dating site related stuff.

Thanks again and keep up the good work.

jon said...

Searching naked web cam sites I was surprised at some of the naked web cam content...Its amazing some of these naked web cam sites show weird things.

I stumbled onto your blog while just messing around tonight after dinner...

Jon

Julian Silvain said...

I skim a lot of blogs, and so far yours is in the Top 3 of my list of favorites. I'm going to dive in and try my hand at it, so wish me luck.

It'll be in a totally different area than yours (mine is about mens male enhancement reviews) I know, it sounds strange, but it's like anything, once you learn more about it, it's pretty cool. It's mostly about mens male enhancement reviews related articles and subjects.

Anonymous said...

Great blog, hard to come bye these days,

If you have a chance, can you visit my Sexy Letters site.

Thanks,
Mike

jon said...

We are trying to find good download free movie trailer to take the kids this weekend. Good download free movie trailer reviews are hard to find

I just stumbled onto your blog while looking. Seems to happen to me a lot since I am a knowledge mooch LOL

Thanks

kalisekj said...

This is a excellent blog. Keep it going.

This may be of interest to you I have a free online dating service. It pretty much covers dating stuff.

I'll be sure to come back.

Clickbank Mall said...

Just was out looking for real estate and your blog came up.
I haven't found anything about real estate so I'll add my own link.
houses for sale in

Anonymous said...

To do your marketing for your business you can marketing tool with the ebook at marketing tool Go and check it out.

St Louis Cardinals BUFF said...

Just was out looking for real estate and your blog came up.
I haven't found anything about real estate so I'll add my own link.
buy a house

Admin said...

Great blog, keep up the good work. Glad to see sites like this.

Here is another good site I said I would pass along.
Domain Sale
Thanks

jobs123 said...

Hey I just love your blog. I also have a free dating web site
blog/site. I mostly deals with free dating web site
Please come and check it out if you get the time!

Clickbank Mall said...

Just was out looking for real estate and your blog came up.
I haven't found anything about real estate so I'll add my own link.
buy a house

bill naka said...

Your blog is excellent - keep it up! Don't miss visiting this site about buy book online

blogger1272 said...

What a great site you have here, I bookmarked it!

I have a penis enlargement reviews related info site. It covers penis enlargement reviews related information.

Check it out when you can. ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was just blog surfing and found you! If you are interested, go see my camping food related site. It pretty much covers camping food stuff. I guess you may find something of interest.

girl1872 said...

Nice blog you have here! If you get a chance you may want to visit this does penis enlargment work site, it's a very nice site.

Natwho said...

turn key business

For 23 years we have been the number one business opportunity for individuals wanting to gain financial freedom and realize the American dream of owning their own business.

NWC, Inc can get you started in a name brand electronics business of your own, without the usual large upfront investment associated with starting a business. We supply everything you need including full color catalogs that can be customized with your name and address, a fully stocked Ecommerce powered web site, 61,000 name brand products that can be drop shipped right to your customers door, large unsecured credit lines to help finance your customers, and much more.

Check out all the exciting details at www.profitbig.com today.

News Electronics Lover said...

Hello,

There are always new products on electronics. That's why i come to visit blogs, i always hope to find something new, not yet spoken in other sites.
And i love getting customers reviews .. i don't trust the ones on the sellers sites !!!

Bye
Paula

electronics online

real estate expert said...

The Housing Bubble has popped in Florida. What does it mean for windwood? Either prices plummet and buyers rush in, or sellers take their homes off the market, or it's going to take a lot longer to sell a home. Read more ....

Medved said...



Thanks! Nice PR! =)

Frans said...

Visit our website [ url=http://www.penis-enlargement-page.com ] if you need some information about male enhancement.
Brought to you by: www.penis-enlargement-page.com

penis enlargement said...

"Natural Herbalz Health care Products Reviews in Men's and Women's health, General and Sexual Health, Weight loss and Diet health, Skin care and Hair Care by www.naturalherbalz.com
"

Provillus said...

Provillus Review - Best hair loss, hair fall and hair regrowth products for men's and women's hair for stop losing hair and grow fast longer and shinning new hair by www.managehairloss.com

Revitol said...

Revitol products review, solutions and treatments on Revitol anti aging, Revitol acne treatments, Revitol cellulite problems, Revitol skin exfoliator, Revitol skin cleansing, Revitol anti wrinkles, Revitol stretch marks by www.revitolskincarez.com

SEO Pakistan said...

SEO PAKISTAN - SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION AND SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING SERVICES COMPANY IN PAKISTAN FOR LINK BUILDING AND SEARCH ENGINE RANKING. www.seoptimizerz.com

Generic Acomplia said...

Acomplia (Rimonabant) is an appetite suppressant diet pill. Acomplia is used complementary to diet and exercise to treat obese or overweight patients who suffer from Type 2 diabetes and abnormal levels of fat in the blood. It can also prevent the risk of cardiovascular disease.  www.genericacomplia.co.uk

sexy said...

情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,按摩棒,跳蛋,充氣娃娃,情境坊歡愉用品,情趣用品,情人節禮物,情惑用品性易購,A片,視訊聊天室,色情聊天室,聊天室

免費A片,AV女優,美女視訊,情色交友,免費AV,色情網站,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人影片,成人網站,A片,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,情色網,日本A片,免費A片下載,性愛

A片,色情,成人,做愛,情色文學,A片下載,色情遊戲,色情影片,色情聊天室,情色電影,免費視訊,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊聊天室,一葉情貼圖片區,情色,情色視訊,免費成人影片,視訊交友,視訊聊天,視訊聊天室,言情小說,愛情小說,AIO,AV片,A漫,avdvd,聊天室,自拍,情色論壇,視訊美女,AV成人網,色情A片,SEX,成人論壇

情趣用品,A片,免費A片,AV女優,美女視訊,情色交友,色情網站,免費AV,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人網站,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,成人影片,情色網


情趣用品,A片,免費A片,日本A片,A片下載,線上A片,成人電影,嘟嘟成人網,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,微風成人區,成人文章,成人影城,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,臺灣情色網,色情,情色電影,色情遊戲,嘟嘟情人色網,麗的色遊戲,情色論壇,色情網站,一葉情貼圖片區,做愛,性愛,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,視訊聊天室,視訊交友網,免費視訊聊天,美女交友,做愛影片

av,情趣用品,a片,成人電影,微風成人,嘟嘟成人網,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,成人文章,成人影城,愛情公寓,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,情色電影,aio,av女優,AV,免費A片,日本a片,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,聊天室,美女交友,成人光碟

情趣用品.A片,情色,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,情色視訊,情色文學,色情小說,情色小說,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,情色電影,色情遊戲,色情網站,聊天室,ut聊天室,豆豆聊天室,美女視訊,辣妹視訊,視訊聊天室,視訊交友網,免費視訊聊天,免費A片,日本a片,a片下載,線上a片,av女優,av,成人電影,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,成人文章,成人影城,成人網站,自拍,尋夢園聊天室

sm said...

威而柔,自慰套,自慰套,SM,充氣娃娃,充氣娃娃,潤滑液,飛機杯,按摩棒,跳蛋,性感睡衣,威而柔,自慰套,自慰套,SM,充氣娃娃,充氣娃娃,潤滑液,飛機杯,按摩棒,跳蛋,性感睡衣
情惑用品性易購



免費視訊聊天,辣妹視訊,視訊交友網,美女視訊,視訊交友,視訊交友90739,成人聊天室,視訊聊天室,視訊聊天,視訊聊天室,情色視訊,情人視訊網,視訊美女
一葉情貼圖片區,免費視訊聊天室,免費視訊,ut聊天室,聊天室,豆豆聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,聊天室尋夢園,影音視訊聊天室


辣妹視訊,美女視訊,視訊交友網,視訊聊天室,視訊交友,視訊美女,免費視訊,免費視訊聊天,視訊交友90739,免費視訊聊天室,成人聊天室,視訊聊天,視訊交友aooyy
哈啦聊天室,辣妺視訊,A片,色情A片,視訊,080視訊聊天室,視訊美女34c,視訊情人高雄網,視訊交友高雄網,0204貼圖區,sex520免費影片,情色貼圖,視訊ukiss
網頁設計,徵信社,情侶歡愉用品

色情遊戲,寄情築園小遊戲,情色文學,一葉情貼圖片區,情惑用品性易購,情人視訊網,辣妹視訊,情色交友,成人論壇,情色論壇,愛情公寓,情色,舊情人,情色貼圖,色情聊天室,色情小說,做愛,做愛影片,性愛


情惑用品性易購,aio交友愛情館,一葉情貼圖片區,情趣用品

情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣

網頁設計,徵信社,RICH178投資理財論壇

A片,色情A片,免費A片,成人影片,色情影片,a片免費看,情色貼圖,情色文學,情色小說,色情小說

بلياردو said...

- طيور الجنه
- كلمات بحث
- العاب
- مدونه
- يوتيوب
- صور كرتون
- صور مصارعين
- المترجم الفوري
- تحميل القران الكريم كاملا
- شات كتابي
- توم وجيري
- quran mp3
- القران mp3
- العاب تصويب ونيشان
- العاب بازل ومتاهات
- العاب ماريو والعاب سونيك
- العاب كارتون
- العاب فنانات
- العاب دراجات
- العاب سيارات
- العاب بلياردو
- العاب هانا مونتانا
- العاب اولاد
- العاب
- العاب باربى
- العاب طبخ
- العاب مكياج
- العاب تلبيس
- العاب بنات
- دليل مواقع
- قروب
- يوتيوب فيديو
- برامج عربيه
- قصص
- بلياردو
- البلياردو

Anonymous said...

Male EnhancementWe review products specially designed to help men's sexual health and also provide free information on various men's sexual topics like Male enhancement, penis enlargement erection etc

A VOCATION OF UNHAPPINESS [Courtesy Georges Simenon (1903-1985)]

"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."


PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]

"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."


PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]

"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."