22 December 2011

The Herd Instinct

Grant Richards, Author Hunting  (New York: Coward-McCann, 1934), p. 286:
Personally, I see danger in the herd instinct as applied to literary supply and demand. Lined up by book societies, martialled by literary journalists, brought to obedience by excessive advertisement, the members of the reading public have now all to read the same books in the same seasons or they will be out of the fashion, they will miss their conversational cues.

There are more books than there ever were; the skill with which they are written is greatly superior to that shown in the books of a generation or so ago; the number of readers has immeasurably increased. And yet fewer authors are being kept pleasantly alive by the labour of their pens. In fact the tendency is for the herd instinct to make a few writers greatly popular and to leave the greater number to neglect. Let me hope that this is but a phase...