Furthermore, as observers like Chris Anderson (in “The Long Tail”) and social scientists like Sheena Iyengar (in her new book “The Art of Choosing”) have pointed out, when confronted with an overwhelming array of choices, most people do not graze more widely. Instead, if they aren’t utterly paralyzed by the prospect, their decisions become even more conservative, zeroing in on what everyone else is buying and grabbing for recognizable brands because making a fully informed decision is just too difficult and time-consuming. As a result, introducing massive amounts of consumer choice leads to situations in which the 10 most popular items command the vast majority of the market share, while thousands of lesser alternatives must divide the leftovers into many tiny portions.
Thing is, I think it’s important here to create a a separation between trust in the people and trust in the system. I trust the people. I trust my agent. If I get an editor, I trust that editor. And I hope to even trust the publishing companies themselves, but the entire system is one that could maybe use a little oil for its joints. This system produces bestselling novels of dubious quality. This system produces minimal support for good authors. This is an ecology with an uncertain life cycle—books get returned, books get lost on shelves, authors find themselves frozen out, robust advances can be a curse instead of a gift, and so on.