Sometimes our industry is a little crazy

Especially when you read articles like this in The Bookseller. It’s not so much the headline: Weidenfeld returns author advances that’s bad enough, it’s the explanation that kills me:

One agent who has had clients affected said: “My conservative estimate is that they are writing off contracts in the multiples of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Partly, I suspect it is because books were bought and now they do not have the editors inhouse to champion them.

It’s when you read that and you consider what might be going down the tubes that you realise there is a big problem in our industry.

Made sad by books not making it out the publishers door.
Eoin

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6 comments

  1. As a former ‘insider’ the problem was that many books were signed up with big advances and then put on the back burner. Sometimes due to a lack of editor or maybe the author(s) are working much slower than expected on the book.

    But ulimatley it is the fact that the books were signed 5 or more years ago when you could publish books with low print runs that barely made a profit or even a loss but the publisher gained kudos due to the author or content. Now it is run by number crunchers and every book has to make a decent profit, hence books that won’t set the tills ringing will be cut off the publishers’ lists. It is most probably easier for a publisher to pay back advances than publish at a loss and then have to pulp/remainder.

  2. There is probably more to this but it is hard to believe that if these titles were good on the fundamentals; profitable, message driven, good for the imprint(important titles), that they don’t still stand up. Sadly, it probably speaks to the continued lack of focus on business principles that continues to be prevalent in publishing. Rather than cast these books off – assuming they had merit in the first place – seek another model. Take them to POD or a vanity press type model where the publisher and the author share some risk. The annoucement that Harpercollins in the US is thinking differently anticipates this announcement from Weidenfeld.

  3. Yes I heard about this and it sent shivers down my spine. But publishing gets entranced with itself as a risky business and makes very bad calls because of that, I think. If it only understood itself as an industry like any other, with the same amount of risk as any other, it might calm down. Or maybe not.

  4. Joseph,

    I think it is sad. I love quality non-fiction, I’ll buy it in hardback and the thought that some massive tome that me and ten other people would have appreciated wont be published is depressing!

    Rock n Roll,

    Your right, I know the reason, I just don’t have to be happy about it!

    Michael,

    I’m so with you on the new models. This I think is the key take away from it, there has to be a better way!

    Litlove,

    Thanks for the comment, i owe you an e-mail! (its in draft form!) I agree in one sense and disagree in another. Yes publishing needs to see itself as a pretty mundane industry and yet, I cannot help but feel that it retains a certain something, like all hit driven industries, that sets it apart. call it the Harry Potter factor. As a Nassim Nicholas Taleb might call it, The Black Swan.

    Eoin

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