Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The End of Publishing as We Know It?

by Raelene Gorlinsky


New York Magazine's article "The End" is a fascinating collage of tidbits about the NY publishing industry -- both its past and the current unsettling turmoil and change. It's lengthy, and I don't agree with all the doom and gloom, but I recommend reading it to understand part of where the industry stands at the moment. Be aware it ignores small presses and e-publishers. This is about the old guard NY publishing giants - HarperCollins, FSG, RandomHouse, Simon & Schuster, Hatchette Grand Central, et al.

Part of the article discusses the focus on blockbusters, how that's what the publishers are risking all their money on and how that is squeezing out midlist authors. Questionable business sense like paying $1 million dollar advances to unknown first-time twenty-something authors in hopes that the book will be the next Oprah pick or runaway fad. There's a list at the end of the article about spectacular flops of this type and what they failed to earn for the publisher. Harvard economist Anita Elberse is quoted for a tidbit of a study of Hatchette's 2006 list: Average profits for 61 titles were almost $100,000 each, BUT -- the top seller had $5 million profits, and if you take that one book out of the calculation, the average profits for the other 60 drop to a mere $18,000 per book.

The juiciest part of the article, of course, is the gossip about people in the industry. Do read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Honestly, in light of these economic times, I think we're going back to the individual artisan -- the small publisher, the digital publisher, the organic farmer, the small experimental theatre, the fiber artist who spins and dyes her own yarn.

Corporate culture tends to forget that individual PEOPLE are involved, both in the creation and consumption. I think, in this age of disconnect, people crave the connection they get from individual artists.

And there are plenty of smaller publishers and digital publishers who understand that individual artisanship and treating people with respect is not counterproductive to strong sales.