Friday, April 04, 2008

Harper Embarks on a Publishing Experiment

Industry veteran (and fellow Hoboken resident) Bob Miller who has headed Hyperion since 1991 is to join Harpercollins as head of a new imprint that hopes to change the traditional publishing model. The key change will be to share profits with authors in a model more akin to self-publishing than the traditional publishing model. He is expected to start his new role at the London BookFair in two weeks. The "publishing studio" division will combine traditional trade book publishing techniques with Internet-based strategies to market and publicize about 25 moderately priced books per year. (What was I saying...)

This news has been widely reported but I thought the news noted on Eoin Purcell's blog today anticipated in significant ways the immediate need for new thinking in Publishing.

Eoin noted a story in The Bookseller that claims Weidenfeld are returning author advances because they (supposedly) don't have the staff to edit the titles. This seems idiotic to me.

My comment:
There is probably more to this but it is hard to believe that if these titles were good on the fundamentals; profitable, message driven, good for the imprint(important titles), that they don't still stand up. Sadly, it probably speaks to the continued lack of focus on business principles that continues to be prevalent in publishing. Rather than cast these books off - assuming they had merit in the first place - seek another model. Take them to POD or a vanity press type model where the publisher and the author share some risk. The announcement that Harpercollins in the US is thinking differently anticipates this announcement from Weidenfeld.

I anticipate we will hear more about Bob's new venture. Good luck to him.

1 comment:

Eugene G. Schwartz said...

I think you're definitely on to something important.

There is one other significant feature of Miller's "studio" -- simultaneous publication in all formats - an application of Peter Osnos's Caravan project concept.

Relating back to your posting about "What's Next" following the Amazon flap, I think Miller's initiative will be considered a benchmark event for launching the era of direct on-line linking of reader to author/publisher, by-passing the retailing model. The latter won't disappear, of course -people will still want to browse aggregate selections on line or in bricks and mortar - but as the whole concept of search and key words and links becomes embedded in the system, customers will find it easy to link from the aggregators to the direct selling sites and their additional features - or just go there first.

Gene Schwartz