Five Myths and Truths About Publishing

Neil S. Nyren, Senior Vice President, Publisher and Editor in Chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, gave a wonderful keynote speech at the Backspace Conference where I had the pleasure of speaking a few weeks ago. With a smile on his face, he said, “publishing is a business model. Basically it sucks.” I must admit I love this quote, especially coming from a guy who works with Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Patricia Cornwell, Jack Higgins, W.E.B. Griffin, John Sandford, Daniel Silva, Dave Barry, and others. But what you’ll quickly come to learn about Nyren, if you ever have a chance to listen to or chat with him as I did, is that he’s passionate about books, publishing, and his role in the industry. It comes across in everything he says, and there’s no doubt he loves what he does.

Here’s five of Nyren’s comments about the publishing industry:

1. Today we have the closest thing possible to universal access to books. More books are brought to more people in more ways than in the history of our nation.

2. Reading is not about the product. We are hard-wired to focus on story.

3. Last year 400 million books were sold, and it’s estimated there are about 250 new books published every working day.

4. There are two things that sell books, assuming you have a good book:  word of mouth and co-op (what the publishers pay to put the books on in front of the readers’ faces through store displays, emails from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.).

5. If the fiction is fresh and fully-realized and says something that people want to read and listen to, that book will get published.

What are your thoughts on Nyren’s comments? Do you agree or disagree? Have any comments to add on the subject?


  1. I was interested in his take on near-universal access to books. He is correct, there are more ways to get a book than ever before. I wonder, though, has that translated into more readers, or is the same percentage of people doing the reading, just utilizing different media? I’d be interested in that stat.

    As an un-published author, I am encouraged by the “250 new books per working day” stat!

  2. Thanks for this, Janice. I like #5, it gives me hope. I very much want to believe it’s true.

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