Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

07/17/2011

Columbia Publishing Course Slow to Respond to Current Realities


I didn't know digital was the coming new wave

Who said the Ivy League colleges are the first with innovation and other learning prowess? A very debatable point, indeed (always has been since their birth, truth be known).

A case in point is illustrated in this article from the New York Times by Julie Bosman

E-Book Revolution Upends a Publishing Course

FOR decades, even after it was renamed and relocated from its original home at Radcliffe, the Columbia Publishing Course seemed unchanging, a genteel summer tradition in the book business, a white-glove six-week course in which ambitious college graduates were educated in the time-honored basics of book editing, sales, cover design and publicity. Not this summer.

With the e-book revolution upending the publishing business, Madeline McIntosh, the president of sales, operations and digital for Random House, stood at the lectern on the opening day in June, projecting a slide depicting the industry as a roller coaster, its occupants frozen in motion at the top of a steep loop.

“You might be wondering if this is the moment where we’re at,” Ms. McIntosh, a tall figure in a slim navy dress, said with a smile, as dozens of students with plastic name tags hanging around their necks watched raptly.

So the summer session began with a focus on “The Digital Future.” Students were schooled in “Reinventing the Reading Experience: From Print to Digital” by Nicholas Callaway, the chairman of a company that produces book apps for children. Managers from Penguin Group USA explained how to master “e-marketing,” and a panel of digital experts talked about short-form electronic publishing — not quite a magazine article, not quite a book — which is so new, the genre doesn’t really have a name.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” Carolyn Pittis, the senior vice president of global author services at HarperCollins, told a packed room of students several days into the course. “So it’s very exciting for those of us who spent many years when a lot of things didn’t happen.”

As the students scribbled in notebooks and clicked on laptops, Ms. Pittis recounted some of the biggest developments in the industry so far in 2011. The proliferation of e-readers and the growing digital market share of Barnes & Noble. Amanda Hocking, a formerly self-published author, making a book deal with a traditional publisher. J. K. Rowling’s selling her own “Harry Potter” e-books online. Even the surprise success of “Go the — to Sleep,” a hilariously vulgar children’s book parody that rose to the top of best-seller lists after being widely pirated via e-mail for months.

In the past year, e-books have skyrocketed in popularity, especially in genre fiction like romance and thrillers. For some new releases, the first week has brought more sales of electronic copies than of print copies.

Read and learn more

12/26/2009

Is Publishing Becoming a Minimum Wage Trade?


It’s no secret today…many publishers are hurting to the point of hemorrhaging due to the (probably long over-due) upheaval in their industry caused by new technological advances affecting all logistics, suppliers, readers desires and, in the process, birthing new attitudes and procedures.

And NOT lost in all of this is the major publishing houses abandoning real artistry and content for superficial glitz vomiting forth from celebrities writing their own stories, mostly ghost-written anyway, for the sure buck. And expounding on and pushing the concept that a writer must have a “platform” before s/he can get published; in other words…forcing you into doing their job of marketing you into a position for a chance at successful sales!

This new-tech leveling of the playing field, if you will, has empowered new writers and authors in numerous ways…one of which is the fallout of self-publishing becoming much more professional and accepted…and fast; allowing the writer to cut out the middle man and pocket all, if not most, of the profits.

Anyway, now the entire publishing industry is being downgraded somewhat both in remuneration and prestige…

Phew! Let me get off my soapbox. Here is an editorial by Matt Kinsman, Executive Editor of FOLIO magazine:

Is Publishing Becoming a Minimum Wage Trade?

The memo received by BNP Media staffers this week alerting them to 25 percent salary cuts for the foreseeable future includes a line that jumps off the page almost as much as that “25 percent” figure: “Minimum wage will be the floor for this reduction.”

It’s a line that assures employees the company won’t be cutting below minimum wage (which of course, would be illegal), and only applies to those support positions that may be hovering around minimum wage after the 25 percent cuts.

But still, are things so bad that we have to be assured now that salaries won’t be cut to minimum wage? Salary cuts usually start at the top and the Henderson family (who owns BNP) have taken theirs as well. However, an associate editor making $40,000who is hit with a 25 percent salary cut is suddenly making $30,000. Forget trying to live on that in publishing capitals like New York City-that’s a tough hit anywhere (BNP) is based near Detroit.

As publishers continue to make cuts to keep their businesses alive, they need to be mindful of labor rules and regulations in their state, particularly with employees below a certain salary level. As Southern Breeze editor Mark Newman noted in FOLIO:’s March issue, many high level employees (particularly editors) need to “stop being figureheads and do some work.” But for those entry and associate level employees, for whom the historic trade-off has always been “low pay but great experience,” the returns are getting harder to justify.

The company leaders who impose these cuts will need to balance their contribution margins against the eventual pushback: The unwillingness of their teams to tolerate major pay cuts even as they’re being asked to do significantly more work. It’s a dangerously narrow line to walk.

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