Editors

Author Services In The Light Of Penguin’s Purchase

I started this post back in April, I REALLY wish I’d published it then! Following Penguin’s acquisition of Author Solutions (DBW, The Bookseller) I’ve reworked it somewhat and added a few ideas around that move.

It all started at the London Book Fair this year, an event which brought to the fore for me questions over what will happen to publishers during this radical digital shift? A number of times, either as part of a conversation or in response to questions about the publisher role in the future, I spoke about Author Services or as I prefer to think of it, changing the editorial department from a cost centre to a profit and revenue centre.

But what does that really mean? Well it turns out that in the background several companies have been thinking about exactly that. Some companies have been busy creating product suites that cater to the diverse needs of authors.

A really good example of someone who is moving into the space in a measured and clever way is Bloomsbury through their  Writers & Artists Yearbook site. What was once  a staid old handbook of contacts has, over the last number of years, been recast as something entirely different, something very impressive.

The property was acquired as part of the A&C Black acquisition is also home to a number of other print products that have since transitioned fairly nicely to digital or represent an impressive list for future transition (the company has a fascinating history, worth reading, here).

What they offer ranges according to what you think you need from the very beginning of the process (you can get a book idea assessed for only £119.99) to the end of it (a meet the agent, beat the rejection pile meeting for £199). The one thing they don’t yet offer is actual help with self publishing, but that is a fairly simple step beyond what they currently offer.

The big opportunity is not so much to draw in new content from those who might otherwise self publish, but rather to create viable and real businesses from the editorial (and I suppose the production) departments that currently cost so much money.

Offerings like that at Writers & Artists Yearbook and their existing and future competitors will, I suggest, probably form the front end of the editorial departments of many publishers when the transition is complete. It is entirely possible that they will be independent entities or only loosely aligned with publishers, but it is equally possible that at some point, a vast transfer of staff will happen that sees the editorial department of a publisher shifting towards the newly created services units.

Imagine how it would be if Penguin was to reshape its business so that Author Solutions (or whatever it is renamed) provided the editorial resources (staffed no doubt by Penguin editors) to Penguin as one client among many (perhaps with privileges the others don’t have) it would change the way the company thinks of editorial services.

If all publishers decided to take that radical step (and I admit right now it IS radical), it would enable publishers to subsidize new titles by generating revenue on what have been traditionally expensive services to provide. Of course it would certainly change the way everyone thinks of that department and would probably lead to some resentment both within those departments and between the authors who were made to pay for them and the lucky authors who publishers felt were safe enough bets to invest in themselves.

I think we are only at the beginning of this re-shaping of publishers but the first big change we are seeing is in how we think about the editorial department (though some changes are hitting home hard in sales and marketing too).

Go Read This | Meanjin · The best of new writing in Australia · The Changing Face of Publishing Relationships

Just a fascinating piece, well written, considered and also in a sense really critical to understanding the developments in the industry over the last few years and in the next few decades:

If authors are closer to their agents, how does this affect the workings between editor, agent and author? Most editors I spoke with had good relationships with most agents, and they particularly appreciated having an agent around in times of dispute—as a mediator between themselves and the author. Rachel Kahan, senior editor at GP Putnam’s Sons, said, ‘Most agents are pretty good at coming to your aid when you have someone unreasonable.’ Julie Grau told of the time when she had developed such a close relationship with Irish writer Nuala O’Faolain that the author fired her agent. ‘What do I need an agent for?’ O’Faolain had said. Grau told me it was the worst thing that could have happened. ‘The agent was a buffer, she allowed the boundaries to be kept.’ None the less it’s worth nothing that the editor-author relationship continued between Grau and O’Faolain until the writer’s death last year.

via Meanjin · The best of new writing in Australia · The Changing Face of Publishing Relationships.

Go Read This | France pioneers ‘crowdfunded’ publishing | Books | guardian.co.uk

Fascinating idea. Reminds me of the Hol Art Books Team Publishing way of publishing, though Hol Art contributors take a much more active role:

The publishers are now looking for co-editors to help fund publication of the books. Each co-editor must invest €11 in their chosen title, and will then be able to discuss the book with its author on Éditions du Public’s forum, following each stage as it is written. Each title has six months to sign up 2,000 co-editors and some are already proving more popular than others: Tavignot’s thriller has 45 subscribers, while Hammer has just two.

via France pioneers ‘crowdfunded’ publishing | Books | guardian.co.uk.