chapter  2
23 Pages

Writers and the Victorian Publishing System

This interpretation of publishing as a business is explicit in the writings of Pierre Bourdieu (1984). He explains that the publishing industry is stratified by "culture-type." That is, some firms specialize in avant-garde books directed to a limited immediate audience of educated, upper-middle-class readers who possess a fair amount of cultural capital (familiarity with the great literature of the past). These firms expect to make a profit in the future, when the books on their backlists become classics. Other firms search for the immediate profit of best-sellers, appealing to the middle class. These books may flood the bookstores for three to six months and then disappear from the shelves. Still other firms, notably the American and Canadian companies issuing the romances sold in North American drugstores, airports, and dime stores, have taken the search for immediate profit to an extreme. They market their wares as if they were detergent or toothpaste. Emphasizing their "name brand," they issue new titles monthly, rapidly retiring the older ones (Radway 1984).