Is the Australian publishing industry is based on a hunch?

13 April 2023

Katherine Day writing for The Conversation:

“The entire industry is based on hunches,” says literary agent Martin Shaw, who was head book buyer at Readings for 20 years before he became an agent. “More than half the books you publish either lose money or don’t make money. And that’s true — week in, week out, year in year out — whether you’re a small, medium or big publisher,” claims Henry Rosenbloom, founder of Scribe Publications, which has been acquiring books since 1976. This can be a heartbreaking reality for the in-house staff. “I’ve personally spent months editing books, and you publish the book and no one’s interested,” Henry adds.

I wonder how the publishing industry could not be based on hunches. Unless you’re publishing a big-name, well established (and even then nothing’s ever guaranteed) author, how does anyone know how a new book might be received?