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Drabble feels pressure to dumb down

Last month, Quillblog featured a blog posting from New York magazine about the end of publishing (question mark). One concern for authors and publishers alike was that the focus had shifted from backing solid literary fiction to creating a mini-Hollywood of publishing — marketing big, blockbuster works that appeal to the widest audience, thereby creating semi-reliable franchises.

In today’s The Independent, British novelist Margaret Drabble addresses similar concerns, saying she believes her publishers are “dumbing down” her work to appeal to a wider audience.

At a meeting of alumni in her old Cambridge University college, Newnham, Dame Margaret suggested that she felt pressure from Penguin, to “rebrand” her fiction, The Independent has been told. At the discussion, alongside the novelist Sarah Dunant, she said: “I have had a weird feeling that I’m being dumbed down by my publishers and it’s interesting there’s an agenda of how it should be in the marketplace.”

Dunant also commented on the idea of remarketing an author as a “semi-celebrity”:

“There is also… anxiety over the whole role of prizes in this. We have more prizes than ever before. Who are they really for? Are they to celebrate the writer and the work or is this another arm of marketing in the books trade? Looking at publishing … it has been saturated with the notion of the creation of celebrity as a marketing opportunity … There has to be a box, a place they can put you. I just find it annoying but it doesn’t stop me from writing exactly what I wish to write. This conversation between Margaret Drabble and myself was part of the larger observation that everything needs to be packaged, that writers cannot be who they are,” she said.