The economic freak-out in the publishing industry is starting to pick up steam. Last Wednesday, heads started rolling (via NYT):
In a day of especially grim news for the book business, Random House, the world’s largest publisher of consumer books, announced a sweeping reorganization aimed at trimming costs, while Simon & Schuster laid off 35 people.
The moves signaled just how bad sales have become in bookstores and followed the news this week that the publisher of the adult division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the house that represents authors including Philip Roth and José Saramago, had resigned, presumably in protest of a temporary freeze on the acquisition of new books.
Industry insiders were already calling it “Black Wednesday” as news trickled out about further layoffs at Houghton Mifflin, a cut of 10 percent of the staff at Thomas Nelson, the world’s largest publisher of English-language Bibles.
Bloomberg is reporting that other publishers are trying to squeeze the bottom line:
News Corp.’s HarperCollins Publishers plans to delay pay increases until after July 1, 2009, as the book industry copes with shrinking sales.
The pay freeze is a response to the U.S. recession, Erin Crum, a spokeswoman for the New York-based company, said yesterday in an e-mail. HarperCollins hasn’t decided whether to eliminate jobs, she said.
What might this mean for authors (other than possibly smaller advances or skittishness from editors to take a chance on a new writer)? Via GalleyCat:
Maud Newton quotes “a trusted friend” on where things might go from here: “Even though they say the imprints will maintain editorial independence and their own individual identities, soon enough some will disappear and others will blend into one another. More consolidation also means less competition among publishers for authors and agents. Consolidation on this scale also means big time job cuts coming in all departments—editorial, publicity, rights, etc.”
As publishers feel pressure to maximize profits, one of the areas they are looking at is the e-publishing arena (ht Dear Author):
Wildcard by Lora Leigh is a mass market release with a retail price of $7.99 but an ebook retail price of $14.00. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s One Silent Night is also a mass market release with a retail price of $7.99 but an ebook retail price of $14.00. Almost all of Kenyon’s books that are released in ebook format are priced at $14.00 or higher.
The reason for this is apparently an industry pricing standard according to a spokesperson for St. Martin’s Press. For some reason, Macmillan, who is the parent organization for Tor and St. Martin’s Press, believes that ebooks should be priced on the same level as hardcovers regardless of whether the book is in mass market print format or hardcover print format.
Changes are afoot in publishing, no doubt. The only thing that we can be sure of is that the industry will be forever changed by these challenges. Doom and gloom? Or an opportunity to refashion current practices?
Check back tomorrow when contributor Allison Winn Scotch shares her take on the industry meltdown.