Book Publishing’s "Iron Triangle": Recognizing How the Media Downplays Books from Small Publishers

May 2000
by Bruce L. Bortz

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In the brief time he managed to stay on message, Arizona senator
John McCain connected with America by elucidating the dangers of
Washington’s “Iron Triangle”—that is, how the
political contributions of business interests, funneled to
candidates by lobbyists, grossly distort the nation’s
law-making process and undermine the public interest.

In the world of trade book publishing, a similarly dangerous and
no less obvious “Iron Triangle” exists, and yet no one
dares elucidate it. The dozen largest book publishing corporations,
assisted by the big national media, have a hidden, insidious,
iron-clad hold on the ideas and stories that reach the American
public. Their books—and theirs virtually alone—get the
lion’s share of media interest and resulting sales.

This power dynamic must be delineated, discussed, and dealt with
for many reasons. Primary among them is that trade book publishing
is one of the chief generators of ideas and information in America.
In addition, the business itself heavily favors the large, moneyed
interests. Furthermore, publishing, while an easy business to get
into, is an inherently hard business at which to make any money. Its
standard operating rule—that bookstores can send back boo…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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