Bad Moon Rising (not a happy post)

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Here at MagicalWords.Net we try to bring you the truth, even if isn’t a happpy truth.

Yesterday was another difficult day in the publishing business. Harper Collins *rearranged* their business. A lot of people lost jobs. A lot more job cuts will follow. A lot of editors, publicity people, art people, etc…and writers have and/or will lose their livelihood. (Note – so far as I know, no one asked congress for a bailout.) This change affects us all, and if you haven’t read about the business side of the business, now is the time to start. Take a deep breath. It isn’t fun, but it is important.

Below is the letter released by Harper to its employees and *part* of the info sent out by Publisher’s Marketplace. I do not have their permission to post it here, but it has been posted everywhere, including the wire services, so I don’t think they’ll sue me.

________________________________________

Harper CEO Brian Murray writes to employees: “Over the last several
months, the unstable economy has had a significant impact on
businesses and consumer spending. Our industry is not immune to these
market forces, and there is increasing pressure on us, along with our
retail and wholesale partners, to adjust….

“However, given the continued uncertainty in the market and soft
revenues for the company, we need to take further action to align our
cost basis with expected revenues. I have asked each division to
evaluate their business and begin the process to meet this goal.
Unfortunately, in some HarperCollins divisions, implementing these
plans will result in a reduction in workforce. These are difficult
decisions that were not made lightly.

“Although we are facing new challenges today, we know that our
company will again see a strong market. HarperCollins has a nearly
200 year history of managing through business cycles much more
difficult than today’s. I am confident that our authors, our
ambitious publishing plan and our creativity will carry us forward.”

________________________________________

Okay, obviously a lawyer type wrote this and not a fiction writer. Which is sad. A fiction writer could have lied about the future so much better. (tongue in cheek)

Following is part of the company redistribution breakdown:

________________________________________

Following rapid expansion under Steve Ross, HarperCollins is “closing
the Collins Division and realigning the imprint” and president and
publisher of the division Ross is now leaving the company. In other
realignments (see below), William Morrow publisher Lisa Gallagher is
leaving the company as well. The Harper imprint, under Jonathan
Burnham, will absorb the Collins general non-fiction list (which will
be published as Harper titles), along with Collins Reference, which
retains its name as an imprint, and Collins Business, which will
publish as Harper Business going forward.
(snip)
Collins trade paperbacks, with the exception of Collins Reference and
Collins Design, will be folded into Harper Perennial and Harper
paperbacks under SVP, publisher Carrie Kania.
The world is very different now. Yeah, I know, life is different every day. But this is different-different. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression, but they were tied to the land, not the city, industry, and business which is what always suffers in a severe downtown. And in a modern world, city life is what there is. How does this affect us today, right now? (Other than people out of jobs?)

Collins Design publisher Marta Schooler and her team will report to
Harper paperback svp Carrie Kania, who will now oversee the Avon
trade paperback line. 

Liate Stehlik takes over as publisher of William Morrow/Eos/Avon, and
will continue to oversee Avon and Harper mass market titles. Collins
Living titles will be published as William Morrow books going
forward. Mary Ellen O’Neill joins that group as executive editor, and
will now run William Morrow cookbooks too.
________________________________________

 

Well, I hope it doesn’t hurt any writer here. I hope our careers are safe and prospering. Fingers crossed and cry to heaven. For certain, it means that once again, fewer books will be published by NYC. And once again, that leaves more new places for young, small, independent, and aggressive presses to snap up the fallen and surge forward. The face of publishing has changed. Forever. Should I be afraid? Probably. But I’m not and I’m not sure why, except that I’m married to a man who has never been afraid of anything, ever, and over the years some of that has rubbed off on me. I’m leaning on him today.

 

Publishing is burning away. I can’t wait to see what will rise from the ashes.

Faith Hunter
FaithHunter.Net
GwenHunter.Com
MagicalWords.Net

 

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13 comments to Bad Moon Rising (not a happy post)

  • Thanks, Faith. It may not be the kind of news we want to hear, but it’s important for writers to keep up with the changes in the industry, especially when they’re big like this.

  • I want to thank you as well for posting this info. As you say, it’s important to get the news out there so that people who are looking to start careers in writing have their eyes open going in. That said, I’m not convinced that “Publishing is burning away” any more than car manufacturing or banking or home construction is burning away. Things are very, very bad right now, and the economy will get worse before it gets better. But it will get better. This is not armageddon. The printed word is not on the verge of extinction, the New York publishing industry is not on the verge of utter collapse, and we have not stepped forever more into the age of the Kindle. To be honest, I think that as a result of this, at least in the short term a GREATER percentage of books will be published in NYC. I’m not suggesting this is a good thing, or a bad thing for that matter. It just is. Bigger firms have more financial cushion and thus a better chance of riding out this storm. I fear far more for the small publishers right now than I do for the big ones. The small ones operate on the margins; they’re just one bad sell away from collapse, and in this market a lot of them are going to fold. When we finally do emerge from this, I think the publishing business will look a lot more like 2003 than 2008, if you follow. That’s not to say that the decentralizaiton won’t begin again, and quickly, but this, I believe, will be a setback for that process. My two cents.

  • Hey! This sounds like one of our more spirited panels! I get to come as the voice of doom (I look good in black) and David can be the voice of reason (not nearly so fashionable. Tweed, maybe?) Misty, you can dance while I beat my doomsday drum! Catie, do you play harp or mandolin? (grins)

    I hope your version of events to come is right David. Though I’m not claiming doomsday (although I do *write* end of the world stuff) I don’t think the state of NYC publishing publishing is cheery, saafe, or stable at all.

    My thought is that NYC will head to e-publishing, and when they do go for traditional publishing it will be fewer books and much smaller books with a lot less editing. Ick. We writers *need* editing. Or maybe I just do. (grins)

    NYC has traditionally run on a 4% profit margin, which has been slashed in the downturn, and the big companies are struggling with that, whereas smaller POD-trade-format publishers are better situated to ride it out. I don’t think the result will be anything we’ve ever seen before.

    But I am hoping I am dead wrong!
    Faith

  • >>I don’t think the state of NYC publishing publishing is cheery, safe, or stable at all.<<

    Oh, God no! It’s not. Never said it was. I just don’t think it’s any worse than any other business field, and in some ways it’s better off. Even in difficult times people will still buy books. And for those e-books to work, people need devices to read them. Amazon just introduced its new Kindle, which comes with a fairly hefty price tag. I don’t think it’s going to sell right now at all, because those are the kinds of purchases people are cutting out. I’m not usually the polyanna type, but I’m not as pessimistic as Faith is right now. Maybe (probably) I should be, but I’m not.

  • Actually, the funny thing is that right now, for the first time ever in my career, I’m writing a book that isn’t contracted yet. I’m swinging on a trapeze without a net. And there is part of me that wonders if I’ll ever get another contract. And then I turn around and write these comments about how all is well aboard the Titanic. Can you say bipolar?

  • I cringe at the term e-book. My PCs a little too bulky to take to bed with me and I haven’t had the money to buy one o’ them new fangled thangums that you can hold in your hand and read, let alone a laptop. Don’t like reading off a screen for long periods anyhoo.

    To be honest, this post was one of the reasons I’d posted the question about self-publishing earlier. May see a rise in it as a result if the mainstream companies become unreliable.

    By the sound of it what could happen is that more books may be picked up, but at lower pay so that the companies can use the money they get from sales to try to keep afloat. Course, the lower pay may make the smaller companies just as desirable as the big ones and give the smaller companies some decent titles as a result. Though I’m no expert by any stretch, just a poor shlub trying to finally finish a novel.

    However, books have gone up in price for quite a while. Not sure what book sales are like in fiction nowadays, but I know my own book purchasing has gone down drastically in previous years. Back in 90 most paperbacks were $6 or so. Now they’re $8 or more for the same sized books. Even Faith’s are $14, though it is slightly larger than the typical paperback. I’m just wondering if we’ll see in increase in book cost in the near future or a decrease.

    Egh, just pondering.

  • David, my post may not have stated that clearly, but that is how I feel too. I feel (believe, hope, wish, pray) that something good will come out of the ashes of an industry that is suffering right now.

    As to the swinging without a net, there is something freeing and joyous about that. I am writing my last book under contract. For the last few years, I never had less than three and sometimes as many as five books under contract, and as yet unwritten. I don’t know what will happen to the industry or to me, but being without that net has left me feeling curiously light and happy.

  • Faith said, “Misty, you can dance while I beat my doomsday drum! ”

    OOh, I can do that – can I wear six layers of black eye liner?

    😉

  • Daniel, There is the possibility that books could go down in price. Not likely, mind you, but possibly. The reason books are so expensive is not the cost of production, but the cost of returns.

    For those of you who don’t know this: During the Great Depression, book stores changed from buying small numbers of books and paying for them within 30 or 60 or 90 days regardless of sales. The new deal (snicker) was that book stores could get books in and hold them on the shelves for a while then strip the covers and send them back unsold (in the case of paperbacks) or send them back (in the case of hardbacks).

    Now, several publishers are negoting with book store chains to go back to the old method, selling them books for a lot less money, giving the stores more profit on books that sell fast and giving the stores the option of dropping the price after a month or so on books that don’t sell fast. Which would give us (readers) price breaks and mean solvency for publishers. A lot fewer books would hit the actual shelves, but the ones that did would never come back.

  • Wendy

    I’m following all sorts of talk on many reading/writing blogs about the “future of publishing,” and I find it all fascinating. I’m really interested to see what changes come of this time period of iffy business.

    …and somehow, it’s not keeping me from dreaming about holding my own book in my hands.
    I wish everyone who makes a living writing the best of luck and a good mindset to keep going through all the black-eyelinered doom dancing. :)

  • Thanks for the information. Knowledge is power. Aspiring writer here. I plan on using this slump in the publishing market to create and write.

    Hopefully, when the market opens back up, I’ll be ready:)

    Melissa

  • “Publishing is burning away. I can’t wait to see what will rise from the ashes.”

    That line gave me chills. I’m an as-of-yet unpublished writer of urban fantasies, and all the news of the recession affecting the publishing industry is rather depressing. The imagry of publishing as a phoenix is lovely, though. Hopeful even as it’s scary.

    To keep my spirits up, I’ve also started a blog on which I interview authors who have made their first sale. It is called numberonenovels.blogspot.com. Feel free to visit if you need a reminder that lots of good books are still being published.