The legendary Jonathan Galassi, president and publisher of FSG, is interviewed in Poets & Writers.
But what if you have some ambition, as all writers do, and really want a readership and think that you deserve one?
If they deserve one, they'll get one. I believe that. I believe that eventually they will get their readership. Now, I also think there are way more people writing books than are going to get a readership. But I think that the books that really make a difference are going to have a readership. It may not be immediate. There are many examples of writers who have labored in relative obscurity for a long time until their ship came in. Look at Bolaño. His great success is posthumous and not even in his own country.
Writing is its own reward. It has to be. I really believe that. This is a part of publishing that's really hard to come to grips with. But publishers can't make culture happen the way they want it to happen. They can stand up for what they believe in, and they can work to have an impact, but in the end it's like the brilliant thing that Helen Vendler said about poets. She was asked, "What's the canon?" and she said something like, "The poets are going to decide what the canon is. The poets who poets read are the canon." I think that, in the end, that's true about all literature. The books that people read over time, and keep reading, are the books that matter. We can huff and puff and pay money and advertise and everything else, but in the end, if the readers don't come, we can't do anything about it.