It’s been quite a day for publishing, hasn’t it? If you haven’t seen the news about all the restructurings, layoffs, publishers walking off the job, and just general malaise, I figured I’d put together a Bad News Bears list for you.
What can we all do to make a difference? Well, I’ve heard many people say to buy books for your Christmas presents. That’s definitely one way. But I think that publishing is also in a time of transition, and everyone is having a rough patch right now due to the economy (I’m no different–I am hanging on, but it’s getting tough out there!). And it also means that a lot of competent people are looking for work.
ETA: Scalzi has a much more direct approach than mine: "Buy some damn books."
Honestly, it makes me want to move back home and live off the land again (I grew up on a farm). Wait it out and see what happens, you know?
But this is what I do, this is what I am passionate for, and I think that’s true for the hundreds of people who lost their jobs today or in the last few months. Publishing is definitely in a time of transition, but I think we’ll get through it and adjust and be better for it. People will leave the industry, as they have for generations, because they find they can feed their families more efficiently in another industry, but most of them always tend to keep a foot in the waters of publishing, and rightly so, because we were never in it for the money in the first place. We love books, and we’ll figure out a way to keep sharing that love with new generations of readers.
Here’s the list for you. Don’t read it if you don’t want to get depressed, though–it’s rather doomsdayish.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt pretty much looks like it’s imploding. (This one has some very strong language, but its analysis of the situation is very telling.) More on it here and here and here. This one is a complicated situation that I’m not sure I have a handle on yet.
Manga publisher Broccoli Books folds.
My own alma mater (so to speak) Wizards of the Coast lays off 25, second layoff this year. Thankfully the books department was okay this time around, but it affected the art department and other related business units, which affects books.
Publishing Bigshots Told to Open Canned Tuna, Eat at Desk (I must say that the assumption that editors "wine and dine" is only partially true, and few editors I know spent lunches with agents at "fancy" restaurants, but I’ve heard a lot of editor friends say that even the most casual of expensed meals are being cut back on, and the article rightly points out that there’s a very real function to those agent-editor get-togethers over a meal:
Marjorie Braman, the new editor in chief of Holt, said lunch is an opportunity for her to get to know agents on a more personal basis than is possible over the phone or on e-mail.
"What happens at lunch for agents that’s important is sometimes they find out things about an editor that they wouldn’t otherwise know,” said Ms. Braman, “and then when a particular project comes along, they say, oh, it’s perfect for so and so—she’s adopted, this is a memoir about being adopted, or, you know, this is a medical book about a condition that it turns out the agent found out at lunch the editor’s mother had.”
They also note a very important thing about editorial lunches: most editors I know, myself included, generally tend to eat lunch while working at their desks. Lunches with agents usually aren’t either the cafeteria or the really fancy restaurant, but somewhere in between. But even those modest lunches with a business purpose are being cut back on.
On the other hand, Hachette has been having a historically good year because Twilight and its sequels have been doing so well. Very split personality industry, says the NYT.
And then of course there’s the doom and gloom from the retail end of things: Borders in troubleindies in trouble, trouble all around. But on the bright side, Black Friday seems to have done what it’s supposed to for at least some indies.
… Whew. That’s enough bad vibes from me. Now on to a post about fun stuff!