Financial-Literary Comparisons?

Are the stock markets and the publishing markets subject to the same sorts of ups and downs…and crashes? In some ways, that sounds like an attempt to draw an impossible parallel, but since the fluctuations of both are created by the interplay of financial, logical, and emotional factors, I’m not so certain that there aren’t certain similarities.

Theoretically, each is based on financial principles. If a publisher doesn’t make money, sooner or later, the company goes under or gets reorganized. Authors whose books don’t sell sooner or later don’t sell any more books… and it’s often sooner, rather than later. Likewise, the price of stock in money-losing companies usually goes down, and if a dividend-paying company can’t pay its dividend, or cuts it, the stock price usually plummets.

In both the stock market and in publishing, there are scores of analysts who try to predict what will happen and what stock or book is hot… with more than a few reasons why you should or should not buy said book or stock. And in both areas, they’re often wrong.

And in both markets, the financial results are strongly influenced by hype and by perception. Some books that show marginal technical writing ability, but which tell a story that taps into a popular sensibility sell incredibly well, far beyond what most editors and publishers would have predicted, while others, even with the same general theme and better written, do not. Also, there are books that, like a popular “stock-de-jour,” enjoy a quick flash on the best-seller list and then sink, forgotten by all within a year. There are other books, like stodgy and conservative utility stocks, that sell well but not spectacularly year after year.

But what about crashes? Will the publishing market suffer the same sort of financial melt-down as the financial markets appear to be experiencing at present?

So far, at least, and for the past century, overall book sales don’t seem to be quite so precipitous in either their ascents or descents as the stock market. But… that’s not true of the sales of individual authors, some of whom have either seen smashing sales success, followed by years of decline into oblivion, and others who have been one-book hits, and still others who have toiled for years, barely staying in print, until some book, somehow, propelled them into success.

And as in the stock market, no matter what the “experts” claim, successes and failures don’t seem to follow just logic or expertise.