just to continue the assault on high-end pubs: so, the way they operate depends on a star system, very similarly to the ways pop music in the 80s, say, or hollywood in the 40s operated. but in this case (as actually at moments in the others), this coincided with 'modernism' in the 'fine' arts. one of the features of that is the dogma of the genius: touched by god or madness, more than human, demanding worship. so, i'm not saying that knopf hasn't published many good books (man they published many a subversive screed by my man mencken, e.g.), or that i'm not glad that faulkner or fitzgerald got their books published or something. but on the other hand i think they tried to give this status, which no human almost by definition finally deserves, to many people whose work appears absurdly inadequate now when judged by the standard they tried to impose. but the god-touched transcendent genius is in this case a commercial strategy. and even with all the errors in this regard, you only get a few of them in any period. whomever they're trying to promote like that gets all the attention: they're on all the npr shows, reviewed everywhere, are up for the awards, and so on. and the publishers themselves, though they like now to portray themselves as champions of the mid-list, dropped you like a sack of shit if you didn't gain this status or show the hoped-for sales.
i have known a lot of people who write books of different kinds. and i say that they are made miserable by this. you start when you're 20 or whatever, aspiring to nothing so much as to climb this mountain. you spend much of your psychic energy yearning for it and envying the people who get it, and maybe feeling bad about what you're doing because it doesn't take you to these heights. this is true even of most people who get the fantasy contract, because it usually all goes to hell and remainder. in a way, all but 17 novelists working now are failures in this system. i might be somewhat happier if i were convinced that getting that contract or turning into the booker-prize-kissed super-genius correlated with quality. i do not believe that. knopf or hachette portray themselves as champions for authors. nonononono.