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"Enlivened by pseudonymous interviewees who are remarkably and
"[Thompson] draws on valuable interviews and the mass of
statistics that the field itself devours in search of success. He
offers a calm, relatively sanguine account of contemporary
publishing, a world dominated by the $6 million advance, the
blockbuster and the buzz."
Times Literary Supplement
"Thompson bring forensic keeneness, acuity, breadth, depth and
wit to this page-turning study of the book trade, its denizens,
demons and deities. [Merchants of Culture] ought to be prescribed
reading for publishers, booksellers, writers, authors, reporters,
reviewers and critics."
Mail & Guardian, South Africa
"John B. Thompson's research has produced an excellent history
and analysis; it's a wonderful book, highly recommended."
Australian Book Review
"The single most impressive fact to drive home about this
remarkable book is that Thompson displays a rare gift, that of
presenting a world of the most heart-stopping complexity in short,
simple, inter-related steps ... This is a book to buy and use and
keep on your shelf."
"A superb history and analysis of publishing and bookselling,
from the 1960s to the present, against the background of the
rapidly expanding digital media. A salutary, scary read."
John Conwell for The New Statesman
"A thorough and thoughtful analysis of publishing as a
relatively self-contained world - a 'field' obeying rules that are
ultimately economic, but in ways refracted through maneuvers and
conflicts that defy simple cost-benefit analysis. Anyone interested
in publishing will want to read it."
Inside Higher Ed
"For some time to come, this is bound to be the definitive thing
to read for anyone trying to understand the infrastructure of book
culture - especially as it has taken shape over the past two or
"This impressively comprehensive and revealing analysis of the
structures and processes of modern publishing is timely as the
industry faces its digital future."
Katharine Reeve, Times Higher Education Book of the Week
"Thompson's study is one of the most valuable studies on
publishing in recent decades, and promises to be the new reference
point for sociological research on the publishing industry."
"A very valuable book that is likely to become the standard
reference on the Anglo-American publishing industry for many years
"For the uninitiated, Merchants of Culture provides a
very perceptive, thorough and in-depth view of how trade publishing
really works in the English-speaking world today. For those of us
in the business or for writers who are mystified by their
publisher's behavior, it offers a penetrating account of our
business by a very shrewd, analytical observer. This book is the
only thing I've ever read about our industry that has really got
William Shinker, President and Publisher of Gotham Books and Avery Books, Penguin Group USA
"Thompson's analysis of UK and US trade publishing is
extraordinarily acute and insightful. It should be required reading
for new entrants to the industry - but it will also illuminate many
things for old publishing hands."
Helen Fraser, Former Managing Director, Penguin Group UK
"This uncommonly perceptive and thorough study tells you all you
need to know about the publishing industry at a time of momentous
Drake McFeely, Chairman and President, W.W. Norton & Company
"One of the most intelligent and accessible accounts of the
curious business of trade book publishing I have read. Anyone
interested in knowing more about how our industry works - and where
it might be headed - will find this book invaluable."
Morgan Entrekin, CEO and Publisher, Grove Atlantic
"An eye-opening tour of both American and British trade
publishing. Even veterans in the publishing world will learn a lot,
and novices will feel welcome, in this behind-the-scenes
examination of how book publishing works in an age of mass
marketing and digitization. Thompson knows more about contemporary
publishing than any other scholar. He asks just the right questions
of his sources, and their responses offer unique and illuminating
testimony from an array of publishing insiders. Theoretically
sophisticated but not burdened by academic apparatus, this is a
Michael Schudson, Columbia University
"Thompson's ground-breaking research into the world of consumer
book publishing provides a fascinating insight into the high-risk
culture on both sides of the Atlantic. Revealed is the world of
agents and scouts, of auctions and deals, often with large sums of
money paid out to authors, as publishers gamble in the hope of
signing the next Harry Potter or Dan Brown. His work is of the
highest quality and should be read by all those concerned about our
literary culture and its future."
Angus Phillips, Director, Oxford International Centre for Publishing Studies
"From now on whenever anyone asks me how they can get published
or get a job in publishing I'm going to tell them to buy this book
because it is simply perfect at summing up how the whole messy
business works and explaining why it very frequently doesn't work.
It teaches a careful reader as much as any three year degree course
on the subject."
Andrew Crofts, author of The Freelance Writer's Handbook
Preface to the Second Edition vi
Preface to the First Edition viii
1 The Growth of the Retail Chains 26
2 The Rise of Literary Agents 59
3 The Emergence of Publishing Corporations 101
4 The Polarization of the Field 147
5 Big Books 188
6 Extreme Publishing 223
7 Shrinking Windows 238
8 The Wild West 292
9 The Digital Revolution 313
10 Trouble in the Trade 377
Conclusion: Facing an Uncertain Future 403
Appendix 1 Selected Imprints of the Main Publishing Corporations 410
Appendix 2 Note on Research Methods 415