Friday, May 08, 2009

The Fairytale Ends

Richard and Judy tried to move from primetime TV on a major channel, to an obscure new digital channel. It was soon apparent their audiences hadn’t moved with them and unless something exceptional were to happen, the curtains were coming down on their illustrious show. The question the book business had to ask itself was whether their successful Book Club could continue?

Some may say that it was little more than a brand and once the visibility waned the brand would obviously wane with it. Some may say that the backing by the industry made the Book Club and that Richard and Judy were merely the dressing. It is often easier to make a success by backing it , getting mass exposure and spending money. It is difficult to expect it with the average effort and money that is spent on most titles.

A good friend US publishing consultant and thinker James Lichtenberg once related that publishing was similar to two frogs mating. They produce thousands of spawn, which turns into hundreds of tadpoles, who eventually become tens of baby frogs swimming around avoiding their many predators. Finally, a mere handful made it to the bank and came ashore. One is kissed by Oprah and book is turned into a ‘Prince’ and a bestseller. The moral being that you needed the thousands to get to the one best seller and predicting that is often very difficult. Sometimes to get that best seller we may still need an Oprah, but Richard and Judy will no longer be Prince-makers.

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