“What makes a small publisher’s books interesting is usually the first thing that disappears when being acquired by a larger company.”
Why is that? Instead of expounding the acquired publishers’ unique successes, the acquiring firm often wants to immediately make it over in its own image…an image which is often suffering and in need of the spark that attracted the acquiring firm in the first place!
Why Do So Many Publishers Say “I Love You, Now Change”?
“I love you, now change,” is something we’ve all heard before in relationships. It’s likely that instead of actually being in love with the person as they are, you’re in love with the person as you imagine them to be. The desire to shape them into the perfect creature is not unreasonable. Illusion is, frankly, a part of love.
The same goes with publishers. In the micro sense, they often covet a writer (and poach them) or, in the macro sense, they covet a publishing house and merge them. Publishers are by nature in love with the possibility of something, instead of something as it is. Sometimes they can genuinely improve on a writer’s work and career, but just as many times they can radically alter an author’s career path for worse. The same goes when publishing houses merge and absorb a smaller firm. Often, what makes that smaller firm’s books interesting in-and-of themselves — perhaps it’s branding, perhaps it’s an eclectic list — is the first thing that disappears into the larger entity. Does it have to be this way? Of course not. But as with today’s feature story about the rumors swirling around the merger between Aufbau Verlag and Eichborn Verlag in Germany, things can get sour fast.