Last month, CNBC’s On the Money featured me and PW Editor-in-Chief Sara Nelson to talk about all things Harry Potter. Vagaries of the Internet being what they are, I didn’t get a hold of the clip until a kind soul uploaded it for me. And so, voila – my debut television appearance.
Posts Tagged ‘Sara Nelson’
Last week’s post about Daniel Menaker‘s exit and the larger implications for Random House served as unwitting inspiration for Sara Nelson‘s column in this week’s issue of Publishers Weekly. After recapping what she terms (and I concur is) a “stunning” number of job switcheroos at Random House, Nelson wonders if all the gossip and chatter misses the overall point: that none of the departing RH executives, going back to Don Weisberg, the COO of RH North America who left in February, were replaced with external hires:
That…suggests that Random is indeed shifting focus, but not necessarily in fiction. At worst, the piling on of new jobs to longtime staffers with already full plates is a form of downsizing; at best, it might be that Random, like most publishers, will soon move its emphasis from the acquiring/editing side of the business to the less sexy but increasingly important distribution and marketing side. Editors and authors will always matter-somebody, after all, has to create all that “content” that will be disseminated in forms perhaps not yet inventedâ€”but the focus these days is more on selling direct, on digital “product” and on POD.
Nelson’s larger point is a good one, but I suspect that emphasis already began quite a number of years ago, and not just at Random House. Most of those at the executive level – and by that I mean Publisher, CEO or something in between – tend to come up from the marketing, distribution and publicity sides, and yet if a new imprint is formed, it’s usually named after its founding editor (most recent examples: Spiegel & Grau at Doubleday/Broadway; Amy Einhorn Books at Putnam. At least Twelve, Jonathan Karp‘s imprint at Grand Central Publishing, was never going to be named after him.) Eponymous editorial imprints seem to follow a common trajectory: a big announcement spurring a flurry of news, commentary and speculation; an 18 month or so gestation marked by sprees of acquiring not out of place at 5th Avenue department stores; and after a few years – best personified by the fate of Rob Weisbach‘s imprint at William Morrow in the late 1990s – a near-permanent place in the loss-leading category for the publisher. Never mind the irony that the most successful eponymous imprint, ReganBooks, is no more, shuttered in favor of the more anonymous (and temporary) “HC” logo.
So if, as Nelson concludes, publishing houses’ energies are moving even more strongly towards the “less sexy” side of publishing, perhaps it may make sense to question the wisdom of imprints named after editors – especially when in the end – with the exception of one Ms. Judith Regan – they are just as anonymous to readers as are the marketing & distribution people. In other words (and keeping the elemental theme going) maybe it’s not a question of air or water but earth and fire.
The New York Times’ Joanne Kaufman wonders if first serial rights – once so coveted by magazines that they were willing to pay six figures for the privilege of publishing exclusive excerpts from a highly anticipated book – have lost their luster. After all, when many such excerpts give away the juiciest bits of the book, why bother spending $25 for the rest, which may or may not live up to expectations?
Kaufman explains that magazine editors who five years ago would have reflexively bid for first serial rights to certain high-profile books are now exploring their options, choosing instead to run a feature about the book or an interview with the author. Some magazines – Time and Harper’s in particular – have turned to asking authors to write an article or essay that touches on issues raised in their book. “I think the whole model needs to be rethought,” said Richard Stengel, the managing editor of Time. “I’m less interested in buying headlines than a great reader experience.” PW’s Sara Nelson finds the disinterest extends to publishers. “I see more and more of them interested in the TV interview for their author rather than the book excerpt because TV has a greater reach than magazines.”
But even if excerpts may contribute to book sale decreases and magazines themselves aren’t what they used to be, not all share the doom and gloom. Alison Rich, the director of publicity at Doubleday, said she had no such concerns with regards to Tina Brown‘s just-published THE DIANA CHRONICLES – excerpted first in Vanity Fair. “Tina’s writing is extraordinary,” Rich said. “The book is an incredibly rich textured portrait of Diana and all the royals, and it’s our belief that readers will be anxious for more.”
- Motoko Rich concentrates on the digital aspects of BEA.
At the New York Times, Celia McGee highlights the growing number of publishers who have set up separate speakers’ bureaus for select authors. In the last two years, several major publishing houses have set up speakers bureaus. HarperCollins was the first, in May 2005, followed by Random House (which outsourced its program to the American Program Bureau rather than build its own.) Knopf and Penguin established in-house speakers bureaus in 2006, and two other publishers, Holtzbrinck and the Hachette Book Group, may do the same.
A speakers bureau “goes beyond the traditional marketing opportunities,” said Jamie Brickhouse, who heads the HarperCollins enterprise. “It’s a way for authors to continue to raise their profiles and reach new audiences. It’s great for the frontlist and for the backlist, and has brought new life to authors who don’t have an ongoing book push.” The fees charged by such bureaus for authors (like James Swanson, left) can be steep – from $5000 to $35,000 an appearance depending on the author’s status. But some, like PW editor-in-chief Sara Nelson, expressed concern with the trend, worried that it put too much pressure on authors to hone their presentation skills, potentially at the expense of their literary development. “If whether you’re able to sell yourself as a speaker is part of finding a publisher or not concerns me,” she said.
My initial reaction to PW’s brand-spankin’-new website was something on the order of a kvetch of “but why can’t I find anything?” Then I remembered that I tend to lose my keys every other minute and scatter things around the house, so my judgment on this part may be somewhat impaired. It’s more that things aren’t where they used to be, and the redesign does focus content more towards the center.
And of course, there are blogs. Lots of them. It’s great to see Bethanne Patrick‘s revived reader-centric Book Maven Blog, and Karen Holt‘s “The Morning After” is ideally suited to the blog format (even if pictures are scarce, odd for a party and lunch-focused blog). The jury’s still out on the other blogs, though Alison Morris‘s “ShelfTalker” can no doubt feed into the growing children’s lit blog presence and market. PW even promises podcasts, too, though the only one up right now is an old editorial from Sara Nelson.
Buried at the end of Julie Bosman‘s New York Times piece about Perseus‘s offer to acquire the distribution contracts of Publishers Group West clients is that the federal bankruptcy court in Delaware rejected a bid by Simon & Schuster to reclaim books in Advanced Marketing Services‘ inventory that could be valued at $5 million. “We made an aggressive move to reclaim the books that were in their possession during the 45-day period before they filed Chapter 11,” said Simon & Schuster VP of marketing Adam Rothberg.
And the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that a Jan. 31 hearing has been scheduled on AMS proposal to establish procedures to sell all or part of the company or to find an investor willing to put up new capital or refinance its debt.