Mass production, genre, gender, and advertising…


In The Institutional Matrix of Romance, Janice Radway wrote:

“Together with the rotary presses…, perfect binding and synthetic glues made possible the production of huge quantities of books at a very low cost per unit and contributed to the acceleration and regularization of the acquisition and editorial processes [which developed away from authors paying the printing costs]. The consequent emphasis on speed caused the paperback publishers to look with favour on [-p444] category books that could be written to a fairly rigid formula. By directing their potential writers to create in this way, mass-market houses saved the time and expense of edicting unique books that had as yet not demonstrated their ability to attract large numbers of readers.” (443-444)

“…category publishing makes book advertising manageable.” (445)

Sales of gothic romances were assisted by placing them in local drugstores and supermarkets. “Even the growing number of women who went to work in the 1960s continued to be held responsible for childcare and basic family maintenance, as were their counterparts who remained wholly within the home. Consequently, the publishers could be sure of regularly reaching a large segment of the adult female population simply by placing the gothics in drug and food stores. At the same time, they could limit advertising expenditures because the potential or theoretical audience they hoped to attract already had been gathered for them. The early success of the gothic genre is a function of the de facto but nonetheless effective concentration of women brought about by social constraints on their placement within society.” (p.447)

To avoid the difficulties of training inexperienced writers and the expense of [-p452]¬†introducing their works on an individual basis to new audiences, paperback publishers have consequently tended to seek out originals that fit closely within category patterns. They believe it is easier to introduce a new author by fitting his or her work into a previously formalized chain of communication than to establish its uniqueness by locating a special audience for it. …while the recent history of paperback publishing has been dominated by the rise to prominence of the blockbuster bestseller…” (451-452)


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