The Friday Project’s collapse and the subsequent acquisition of some of its assets by HarperCollins has generated a lot of heat, much noise and precious little decent analysis over the last few weeks. I’m not sure I have much to add one way or the other.
It is a complicated subject because a good number of people are angry, and justly, because their work will go unpaid. Some authors have lost their publishing contracts and one creditor is owed the massive sum of £150,000.
I know some of those involved, not on the inside but on the outside, and I feel sorry for them. I also feel sorry for the folks that have been stung by the business failure too, it would be very hard not to be.
Some are concerned at the reported expenditure and at the suggestion that they might have saved some of their creditors pain by wrapping the business up earlier. You only need to read the discussions on Clare Christian’s now defunct blog to understand this argument. (The blog is now deleted)
Frankly, the truth of that suggestion is not clear cut. Who is to say what is the best way to act when faced with business troubles. It is possible sometimes to trade out of a rocky patch, get new funding and move to healthy sales, pay back creditors and generally rescue a business, sometimes it is not.
I’m glad I didn’t have to make that call in this occasion. I don’t begrudge TFP’s efforts to find new funding and to try and trade through difficulties, though the suggested expenditure is alarming.
What The Friday Project represented to me was a willingness to take risk, in this case, perhaps too many and too expensively taken. They were one of the few companies that was happy to say that online content was good enough to make it mainstream and in doing so they uncovered some great writing and some quality authors.
They failed to be different enough though, not having a Unique Selling Point, something that marked them out as clearly better or different from major publishers or indeed other independents, not that that is ever a barrier to success in most industries, including our own.
You can diss the effort, decry the fact that people will go unpaid and call the principles any name in the book, but at least they tried to shake up the medium, gave their efforts to the goal.
The wrap up
I say well done and hard luck to them and to their creditors. I wish, for all of them, that it could have ended better than the way it did and I hope never to have to face the extreme difficulties that a trade partners failure can impose, but I look forward to seeing where the TFP people go from here and how their efforts progress in their new surroundings which will, no doubt, present their own challenges.
Increasingly risk averse (at least this week)