Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Mid-List

Writers don't like to talk about the Mid-list. Mostly it is only know to writers agents publishers. But it is a graveyard of writers who exist in the shadowy world of great reviews, awards, accolades up the wazoo, but poor sales. The last one is the kicker that puts you into the Mid list. You can have the awards and reviews and all the gravy that goes with it but if you sell then you opt out of Mid-list land. Think of it as genteel poverty. You have a great family history dating back to Jefferson and Washington but grandad invested in a flying machine, the wrong flying machine it turns out and bankrupted the family. Welcome to the Mid-list, high on pedigree low on buckos.

Used to be the Mid-list was a respectable altitude to fly in. You could set your course and publishers would nudge you along as you navigated the vagaries of laudatory reviews, blurbs by respected authors, awards upon awards and the sales that started out small but were expected to grow with every book. Think of Charlie Browns Christmas tree that you want to grow into a big strapping Frazier Fir. No pun intended. So everyone was willing to wait for this very respectable career arc. Then published imploded.

Suddenly all those Mid-list planes began to sputter and spiral to earth. There just isn't enough oxygen anymore for all those authors buzzing around with good books but lousy sales. So they began to crash and burn and there were no more planes to follow. Like the Middle-Class the Mid-list is becoming extinct.  Like the Middle-Class publishing is becoming incredibly sectored between mega sellers and small literary authors who shoulder saying something that matters and starving. The Mid-list authors are becoming extinct.

Economics washes out most things sooner or later and the buying public might just not read reviews anymore. Think of the competition. No don't think of it you are doing it right now. You are reading this on your computer your phone your IPAD. You are not looking for that next great book reviewed by the New York Times. You are buying that book that popped up in one of your twitters, YouTube, Facebook, eBay or maybe you just wanted to read the book after seeing the movie. This is not economics as much as technology.

So the Mid-list authors that were fairly obscure before are now invisible. Publishing is adjusting as fast as it can to this new paradyme and I suspect authors will adjust or get used to the new altitude. Of course I believe that a great story will still upset this very smug applecart I just created. Mid-list Bottom-list, Top-list...if you write it they will come.
Rocket Man should blast off soon

Books by William Hazelgrove