Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

11/20/2012

HarperCollins Publishers + Simon & Schuster = Publishing Intrigue Squared


Publishing Mergers = Publishing Intrigue

News Corp, owned by good old baddy Rupert Murdoch — AND just coming off a scandal in Jolly Old England (remember his News of the World tabloid having to go out of business due to its illegal spying and wiretapping?) just happens to be the parent to HarperCollins, the suiter for Simon & Schuster — Hell, this might be publishing intrigue cubed !

What all this means is a great deal of intrigue is present and accounted for in the traditional publishing world’s positioning itself as best it can to defuse Amazon’s growing digital publishing threat.

This by CHRISTOPHER S. STEWART and JOHN JANNARONE in The Wall Street Journal (also owned by baddy Rupert):

News Corp. Eyes Book Publisher

News Corp NWSA +0.17%., owner of HarperCollins Publishers, has expressed interest to CBS Corp. CBS +0.84%about acquiring its Simon & Schuster book business, according to people familiar with the talks.

The people described the discussions as preliminary and cautioned that a deal isn’t imminent. News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., which publishes The Wall Street Journal.

The conversations come about a month after the owners of two publishing rivals, Random House and Penguin Group, agreed to merge their books businesses into a publishing powerhouse.

News Corp. made a last-minute expression of interest in buying Pearson PSON.LN +0.42%PLC’s Penguin but never made a formal offer. Instead, Penguin agreed to combine with Bertelsmann SE & Co.’s Random House.

For book publishing, an industry dominated by a half-dozen big companies, consolidation is viewed in part as a way to weather the transition to digital media. Combining forces can allow publishers to gain more heft in negotiating terms with retailers, including Amazon.com Inc., industry executives say.

Simon & Schuster, which was founded in 1924 and publishes about 2,000 titles annually, had $1.6 billion in revenue and $90 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in 2011, according to CBS regulatory filings.

News Corp. is in the process of splitting into two listed companies, one containing its entertainment assets, such as the 20th Century Fox film studio and Fox News cable channel, and the other housing publishing assets, including Dow Jones and HarperCollins.

While HarperCollins is relatively small to News Corp. in the media giant’s current form, it could account for more than a fifth of the new publishing company’s roughly $500 million of operating income for the fiscal year ending in June 2013, according to Michael Nathanson of Nomura Securities.

The new publishing company is expected to have a significant amount of cash on its balance sheet, potentially to be used for acquisitions. One motivation for the split is the flexibility to pursue the purchase of old-media companies that may have turned off current News Corp. investors, according to a person familiar with the company’s strategy.

News Corp. recently has shown an appetite in other sectors as it prepares for the split, which is expected to be completed by next June. On Tuesday the company said it had agreed to buy a 49% stake in New York regional sports network YES.

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01/26/2012

Association of American Publishers: Book publishing is an Inefficient Industry if Ever There Was One


Larry Kirshbaum, Vice-President and Publisher, Amazon Publishing

intrigue and backroom talk RE the publishing industry. Interesting insight from   in Bloomberg Businessweek:

Amazon’s Hit Man

In November 1997, on a night of pounding rain in midtown Manhattan, Rupert Murdoch threw a party for Jane Friedman, the new chief executive officer of News Corp.’s (NWS) HarperCollins book division. The luminaries of the publishing business, such as Random House’s then-CEO Alberto Vitale and literary agent Lynn Nesbit, crowded into the Monkey Bar on 54th Street, with its red-leather booths and hand-painted murals of gamboling chimps. Trudging six blocks through the downpour from the Time & Life Building, Laurence J. Kirshbaum, then the powerful head of Time Warner Book Group, brought a guest: a young online bookseller named Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose ambitions would eventually end up affecting the lives of everybody at the party. “It was one of those moments in your life where you remember everything,” Kirshbaum says. “In fact, I think Bezos still owes me an umbrella.”

How times have changed. Physical book sales have been flat for a decade and are starting to get eclipsed by e-books. Friedman left News Corp. in 2008. And Jeff Bezos, who once courted the publishing aristocracy of New York, now competes against them. Last May, Amazon (AMZN) hired Kirshbaum, 67, to run Amazon Publishing, a fledgling New York-based imprint whose lofty goal is to publish bestselling books by big-name authors—the bread and butter of New York’s book industry. In the high-rise offices of the big publishers, with their crowded bookshelves and resplendent views, the reaction to Amazon’s move is analogous to the screech of a small woodland creature being pursued by a jungle predator.

In interviews, Amazon executives cast their new effort as an experiment in the booming world of e-books, not a plan to displace the Big Six—Random House, Simon & Schuster (CBS), HarperCollins, Penguin (PSO), Hachette (MMB:FP), and Macmillan. “What we’re building is more like an in-house laboratory where authors and editors and marketers can test new ideas,” says Jeff Belle, vice-president of Amazon Publishing and Kirshbaum’s boss. “Success to us means working with authors who want to find new ways to connect with more readers.”

Talk like that hasn’t mollified publishers, and it’s easy to see why. They’re trying to protect a century-old business model—and their role as nurturers of literary culture—from encroachment by a company that consistently reimagines how industries can be run more efficiently. Book publishing, an inefficient industry if there ever was one, seems ripe for reimagining. According to a recent report by the Association of American Publishers, sales of adult paperbacks and hardcovers fell 18 percent between 2010 and 2011. Store chains such as Borders have been cartwheeling into bankruptcy, and independent shops are struggling to compete with the advantages enjoyed by online retailers, such as their freedom from collecting sales tax in many states. The lone bright spot is the rising sales of electronic books, but even that landscape is blighted: Fierce warfare for control of the new market, between Amazon.com, Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), and Barnes & Noble (BKS), threatens to turn minor combatants into accidental casualties.

And now this. Amazon could be an unstoppable competitor to big publishing houses. If history is any guide, Bezos, who declined to comment for this story, doesn’t care whether he loses money on books for the larger cause of stocking the Kindle with exclusive content unavailable in Barnes & Noble’s Nook or Apple’s iBookstores. He’s also got almost infinitely deep pockets for spending on advances to top authors. Even more awkwardly for publishers, Amazon is their largest retailer, so they are now in the position of having to compete against an important business partner. On the West Coast people cheerfully call this kind of arrangement coopetition. On the East Coast it’s usually referred to as getting stabbed in the back.

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09/10/2011

Publishers’ Why’s and Wherefore’s When Migrating to Digital (are all the damn apostrophes correct?)


Karina Mikhil - Publishing Executive

Indeed, when the current publishing upheaval began (it seems  just a little while ago in the scheme of things) and the conqueror ‘Digital’ came swaggering into the publishing world, publishers were at first completely devastated; then were bombarded by all kinds of options and questions for their very survival!

You can just imagine publishers’ mental angst deciding “Should I get out of this rapidly changing fireball of an industry or should I admit that the old ways are going down the drain and commit to learning a whole new process … dealing, perhaps, with an entirely new and separate tech industry?”

Karina Mikhil , a publishing executive with a Master’s in Publishing from New York University, has some excellent questions and analyses that will help these publishing execs and their firms reach a viable decision.

From Karina Mikhil in Publishing Perspectives:

Migrating to Digital Publishing? The Six Key Questions to Ask

Here are the six “Ws” you need to ask yourself before transitioning from the old to the new: why, who, what, when, which, and where.
 

The publishing industry is not generally known for being agile or quick to change, yet it is facing one of its biggest times of change probably since the invention of the printing press. At the heart of this is the migration to digital.

Prior to this migration, a time-tested process and structure existed for getting books printed: from acquisition, copyediting and typesetting, to author reviews and proofreading, to print. Although hiccups occurred and no two companies had the exact same workflow, the foundations were the same and ensured quality products got released in expected time frames.

Whether publishers are dealing with online content or e-books, digital only or both print and digital, publishers are now faced with more questions than answers as to how to incorporate the new with the old. Below I provide a framework for those questions, using the traditional 6 Ws: why, who, what, when, which, and where.

Why?

Of the six questions, this is the easiest to answer. No publisher can afford to ignore the digital any longer: the tipping point has come and gone; more and more e-books and e-readers are being sold weekly; and authors will begin demanding this, if they haven’t already. And traditional publishers need to offer all things digital to compete with the emerging “digital publishers.”

Who?

Even prior to the migration to digital, publishers would do one of two things to keep costs down: outsource as much as possible, keeping headcount down, or the reverse, which is hire talent to keep all services and costs internal. With digital, publishers have to make this decision anew. Should they invest in new talent from other industries (e.g., technology) or in educating existing talent, those who are eager to learn and have a background in publishing? Or should they turn to one of the many conversion and content solutions providers that exist in the market?

What?

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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.

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04/19/2011

Publishing Doomed? Nah, Just Growing…


Growing a New Publishing Tree

Throughout the history of publishing, every time something new (the printing press, paperbacks, chain bookstores, mergers, etc) had the audacity to trip upon the scene, the naysayers always blurted out ‘oh no, this will doom publishing!’

Turns out these things did not doom publishing…only transformed it…and mostly for the better!

Now, the new tech (eReaders, tablets, easy self-publishing software, social media advertising, free online e-book stores, etc) has turned the old crusty and rusty publishing business models on their heads.

Here is an interesting take on this subject by fantasy author Carrie Vaughn on GENREALITY:

Doomed! 

As long as I’ve been plugged into the publishing world and keeping track of the news — pretty much since 1995, when I started working in a bookstore — publishing has always been doomed.  I worked at the store when the massive round of consolidations happened — Penguin and Putnam merged, Avon and Harper Collins merged, and so on.  Everyone freaked out — imprints merged and vanished, lots of people lost jobs, and everyone worried that the diversity and range of books available, now controlled by very few companies, would suffer.  On the other hand, I’d argue that this gave a chance for small presses to really take off and fill in the gaps.

Talk to writers and publishing professionals who’ve been around even longer, and they’ll tell you about the huge crises that happened in the 80’s, the 60’s, and earlier.  The introduction of the mass market paperback, the collapse of certain genres, the price of paper. . .  Here, a former Random House editor talks about how the rise of the chain bookstores in the 80’s changed publishing forever by shifting the emphasis to bestsellers — death of the midlist, anyone?  There’s lots of doom to go around.

The last few months I’ve sensed a really huge amount of stress about publishing doom among many writers I know.  If you don’t get all your backlist into e-book form right now, you’re doomed!  If you don’t have a contract right this second, you’re doomed!  If you’re with a traditional publisher you’re doomed!  If you’re not, you’re doomed!  The noise out there has gotten intense.

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08/20/2009

The Demise or Rebirth of the Book Business?


There’s a lot of upheavel, turmoil and change in today’s book publishing industry. But, I feel it’s just a bump in the road to improvement; and I also feel the “printed” word will be around forever, it will just have brothers & sisters. I have discussed aspects of this changing environment in previous posts. Boris Kachka published a relevant & insightful piece in the New York Magazine last September:

‘The book business as we know it will not be living happily ever after. With sales stagnating, CEO heads rolling, big-name authors playing musical chairs, and Amazon looming as the new boogeyman, publishing might have to look for its future outside the corporate world.

HarperCollins occupies floors 1 through 22 of a giant steel-and-glass box on 53rd Street. But up on 26, the receptionist for a tiny offshoot of the company sits alone, gatekeeper to a few drab rows of empty cubicles. A glass container on a table holds a mysterious pile of bright-yellow lightbulbs.
“Welcome to our temporary home,” says 51-year-old publisher Bob Miller, ushering me into a colleague’s more inviting office. Inside, he and his staffers prepare to impart a cheery message: They’re going to fix publishing!
But first, a horror story. Debbie Stier, Miller’s No. 2 at HarperStudio (as this little imprint is called), has been collecting videos for their blog. “You want to see what happens to books after they go to book heaven?” she asks. On the screen of her MacBook, a giant steel shredder disgorges a ragged mess of paper and cardboard onto a conveyor belt. This is the fate of up to 25 percent of the product churned out by New York’s publishing machine…’ Read entire article at http://alturl.com/dm8q

06/07/2009

Thoughts on the Publishing Industry, My Novel and Other Stuff


This post is taken from my website at http://johnraustin.yolasite.com/ :

6/9/09: Although I’ve had the query letter and book proposal for my nonfiction novel written forever, I have not sent any out due to the upheaval in the publishing industry and the economic downturn.
I have been researching self-publishing as perhaps a maturing industry, coming into it’s own as a result of new technology, to get my novel published and keep more of the money in my own pocket. I have been reporting on this a little in previous posts. This throws us headlong into the necessity of then having to market our own books…but, hell, we had to do that as first-time authors with the traditional publishers anyway!

I will send out queries, however, it’s just a dream to be published by a traditional publishing house.

Good, reputable Literary agents used to be able to get you better deals, I’m not sure anymore. Some spend so much time on blogs that I don’t see how they have any time to properly agent your work…and some have just gotten a little too big for their britches…So, BEWARE of agents that have found new-found fame and followers on their own blogs!!! Could be they are positioning for new jobs in the present industry upheaval.

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