Cover Story: Susan Isaacs: The Insider Interview
How has the process of working with a publisher changed over the course of 13 books?
● Everyone is running around shrieking "ebooks, ebooks, ebooks!" I say it's long before ebooks that it started changing.
My first editor, ultimately not long after she moved out from Times Books, within a few years she was out of publishing. She said, 'It's not the industry it was.' The boys with elbow patches were still in command, but the publishing houses were being taken over by conglomerates. The conglomerates first of all expected bigger returns on their money than a good novel will get them, plus they had a lack of romanticism that would allow them to say, 'I know we said only $200,000 but…' A bottom line was a bottom line. [Isaacs is referring to publishers who'd set ceilings for what they'd pay at auctions, and then exceed them because of passion for a particular book.]
That whole charming, cultivated, literary way of doing business started to disappear, and at the same time, other media developed. You had not only the computer—which started out as a tool and then a kids' thing and then somewhere where people can obsessively follow the lives of their tenth-grade boyfriends—but it became a social community. That took time.
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How have readers changed since you started?
● You had VHS and DVDs and so film became much more accessible. There was no streaming or anything like that, but you could watch a movie on your TV, on your computer. And as all this is happening, cable happens, so you have 24-hour-a-day news and analysis which makes your need to read books about politics not as strong.