Saturday, 18 July 2009

Borders buy-out, Penguin culling and MJ’s death causes breach of human rights

Just another week in the crazy world of publishing but it’s clear that many of the big houses are facing a tough financial outlook. The desperation is at times a little shameless such as the reaction of Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins and Headline show as they all adopt different tactics to be the first to shove any old tripe about MJ’s life and death into the bookstores. With some publishers even resorting to locking writers in rooms for 48 hours with nothing more than a case of coke (I believe it was the caramelised drink and not the famous Columbian marching powder) and orders not to see daylight until the manuscript is finished. Another publisher has turned the screws on two Chinese authors to deliver within the same timeframe. Obviously a quality read and a search for the truth are key elements here and not a single minded blood rush in the name of avarice.

Meanwhile over at Borders the US conglomerate has been keen to sell off its ugly sister, the UK arm of its business. The good news for UK readers is that the buy-out is being led by Channel 4 chairman, Luke Johnson, a man who turned around the failing Pizza empire Pizza Express in a similar deal. There is no denying that Borders may be an uphill battle but it is good news for the staff and 70 branches of the chain store.

Not such good news though for 100 people at Penguin who lost their jobs in a savage culling, which also saw the retirement of Helen Fraser, the managing director of Penguin UK. With many publishing houses refusing to change a business model that is based on waste while paying no attention to the environmental impact I dare say Penguin won’t be the to feel the pressures of the current economic recession.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Pride or Prejudice...The dilemma facing the world of publishing

By Darren E Laws
While many POD publishers are seeking the acceptance of the industry and wondering when the platforms for eBooks and other digital forms of publishing are going to truly catch on, it is apparent there are many battles ahead to win within linked sectors of the industry. Literary agents for one would rather their artists go unpublished than use a publisher who does not want to go down the traditional route.
At Caffeine Nights Publishing we occasionally get the odd leftfield submission, one that makes us stop and think. Recently one such incident occurred when a leading London agent submitted two novels to us. One novel was from a well known actor/comedian/writer and the other from a lesser know author. Both titles were excellent and the sort of titles we would normally be thrilled to publish but it was clear from the outset that the literary agent representing these two artists has not done their homework. Whether the manuscripts came to us via an intern or someone new in their position it is not clear, but the nature of the introduction letter and any lack of following submission protocol showed either arrogance, contempt or naivety, three qualities certainly not lacking in the world of publishing.
Of course the moment we informed the literary agent of our approach to publishing and our policies of not giving advances or printing thousands of copies of a title before establishing if there is a demand for the title, the agent got cold feet and withdrew the submissions with a reply that hinted that they would search the bottom of their unsellable pile to forward us something more suitable. Of course I wasn’t meant to feel insulted at such a slight. The inference being that POD and digital publishing is not ‘real publishing’. The agent in question did not even have the grace to return answers to a couple of questions I posed. I sometimes wonder where the real professionals are in this industry. Simple courtesies can go a long way to making amends for prejudice.
I am quite sure that both authors will find a home and I will follow both titles with interest to see whether they make the light of day. It would be an interesting scenario if one did not. I truly hope this is not the case. They say pride comes before a fall and one can’t help thinking the world of literature and publishing is certainly not without its fair share of hubris.