I refer readers to https://bit.ly/2BYHXoh, “Centrello Details Crown Reorg,” the latest in traditional publisher mergers, this one a merger of Random House and Crown Publishing. According to the article, “the structure, editorial direction, and imprint teams of the Random House publishing programs are unchanged,” but I wonder for how long.
This is the business of publishing, and, fortunately, new models are springing up. Self-publishing has been around for a while now, but it’s a tough slog for an author. The cost is the author’s and the marketing is exhausting, time-consuming and, often, not particularly successful. Hybrid publishing generally “shares” expenses and, sometimes, marketing between author and publisher.
While at the Kauai Writers Conference recently, I wondered about why traditional publishers continue with impractical practices. Blockbuster authors earn out their advances, but agents only want blockbuster authors (or books) because their cut of the “advance” enables them to make a living. For an author, a big advance might be the thrill of a lifetime, but if that author doesn’t earn it out, publishers are unlikely to consider the author’s next book. New models of publishing offer some sort of solution to this, if the author can afford to go that way.
As a former librarian, I have some sense of the struggles publishers face. Production costs have risen, marketing costs are impossible (major houses do less or no marketing for non-blockbusters), and profits are marginal if the book isn’t a blockbuster. There’s a risk in taking on a new author. As for sales, I definitely know that publishers don’t sell as many books to libraries, because library budgets have shrunk for decades. As for general sales, I read periodically that more people read books than ever, but the latest Publisher’s Weekly article says that adult book sales were flat in October and sales of children’s books were down 6.8% (https://bit.ly/2BYt9G3). And with the new publishing models, more books than ever are available. I’m sure everyone is hoping for bumper sales for the end-of-year holiday season.
It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but I suspect we’re in for a bumpy ride.