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Publishing’s ‘Winner-Takes-More Market’

Is the publishing industry addicted to bestselling books?

This week’s Beyond the Book podcast from Copyright Clearance Center featured University of Cambridge Sociology professor, John B. Thompson. During the long interview, Thompson described a “winner-takes-more market” where mega-hits by Dan Brown or Stieg Larsson dominate.

Thompson explained: “[I]t’s like a drug. You become addicted to it and your business becomes focused on it because most of the large publishing houses are very much frontlist-driven houses. That is, the frontlist accounts for perhaps 60 to 70 percent of their revenues and the backlist only 30 to 40 percent of their revenues, so they have to reinvent themselves – or 60 to 70 percent of themselves – every year, and that means they have to find more big books. So it becomes like a treadmill. They become very fixed on the search for and publication of these big books.”

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