Penguin Random House–AKA Randy Penguin–is whining about the DOJ. Now, I whine about the DOJ a lot, especially these days as it works with the White House to expand the government’s reach into our every day life. But Randy Penguin is busy wringing its hands (flippers?) in anguish as the Feds try to block its takeover of Simon & Schuster. You see, according to the randy one, the Feds don’t understand how publishing works and there’s absolutely no change that will happen if the takeover goes through. In fact, it will do more harm to stop the takeover than to let it go forth.
Believe it or not, but Randy Penguin says it will be a “boon” for the industry if the merger goes through. Forget about the fact it means the Big 5 will become the Fantastic Four. Things won’t change. Oh, and don’t forget, Simon & Schuster really doesn’t have that much power in the industry so no biggie. Really. Trust us.
Here’s how their lead attorney puts it:
“Penguin Random House’s acquisition of Simon & Schuster is procompetitive in every respect. It will benefit authors, booksellers, and readers for generations to come,” said Dan Petrocelli of ‘Melveny & Myers and lead attorney for PRH and Bertelsmann. “DOJ wants to block the merger on the misguided theory it will diminish compensation to the highest paid authors. This is not only legally, factually, and economically wrong, but it also ignores the vast majority of authors who indisputably will benefit from the transaction. We are fully confident that this merger will only enhance competition across the entire spectrum of the publishing industry.”
Now, don’t laugh too hard as you read the above. Remember, they want you to forget how previous mergers and takeovers have shuttered imprints and left authors stranded without a place for their books in the new “house”. Not, as you read the linked articles that the emphasis printed books with little to no mention of e-books. Note also they refer to their highest paid authors, not mid-listers who are always shoved out the door when things get tough even though they are the ones publishers can rely upon for a set number of sales–in other words, guaranteed income.
I think what made me laugh the most as I read the two articles is this:
“The publishing industry does not divide the market for book rights into distinct categories based on the author’s compensation for the book,” PRH’s lawyers said.” “The royalty advance for a proposed book is driven mainly by the reader demand a particular editor anticipates for that particular book.”
Technically, this is an accurate statement. But it leaves so much out. It omits the fact that those high advances to a Clinton or an Obama or other publishing darling means another author (or authors) won’t be offered a deal or will get substantially lower amount. Nor does it cover the fact that publishers are often more interested in pushing an idea than they are in actually selling books. What else explains signing Hillary Clinton to a deal with Louise Penny to “write” a novel that is little more than a thinly veiled description of how HRC sees herself and her role as SecState?
There are any number of problems with the proposed takeover of S&S by Randy Penguin. At the heart of them all are the dangers to readers and writers. No matter what Randy Penguin says, there will be changes and those changes will impact the number of books published. Hell, if I repped S&S, I’d be pissed with the way PRH is characterizing the house. Talk about insulting.
But here’s the thing–and I really wish DOJ would look at this while looking at the takeover. This is an argument of no harm to writers being put forth by a company that willingly, happily subscribes to the hand-wavium that is publishing accounting. They don’t use a solid Point of Sales accounting method. Instead, they subscribe to BookScan which extrapolates sales based on POS numbers from certain stores. I guess it is too difficult for publishers to ask their printers and distributors to tell them solid numbers and follow them up.
Naw, the reality is they don’t want the actual numbers. If they had them, they would owe more to authors in royalty payments. But we’re supposed to believe them when they say shrinking the number of major publishers will only strengthen the business and will be good for authors.
Pull the other one, why don’t you?
Now for some publishing news from my front. I’m probably proving I need some serious help of the mental kind, but I put my next four books up for pre-order. They are currently available on Amazon for pre-order and will show up on the other major online outlets shortly. That gives me five books up for pre-order. Here they are:
Release Date: January 4, 2022
Some say monsters aren’t real. Others say the only monsters are those people who aren’t fully human: the witches and shapeshifters, elves and dwarves, and all the others who one day stepped out of the realm of fairy tales and into “real life”. Morgan Walsh knows the truth. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, and some of the worst are human.
She didn’t start out life as Morgan Walsh. Once upon a time, her name was Adriana Grace Hensen. Everything, including her name, changed the day she turned thirteen. That day she learned several lessons she’d never forget. The first was that monsters were real. The second was that her parents were two of the worst “monsters” alive. The third was that those you trust the most can and will turn on you.
Morgan’s parents betrayed her because she wasn’t “human”. Now she’s back with one goal in mind: vengeance.
Never, ever conspire against a Fire Elemental, especially one with other “talents” as well. When you do, you’d best be prepared to get burned.
Foil of the Gods (Sword of the Gods #3)
Release Date: March 16, 2022
Evil has taken root in the Adrean Imperium. Soon it will rise up, destroying everything in its wake. If Balaar wins, the world will fall to a darkness the like of which it has never before seen.
Aimsir, to the west of the Imperium, is the birthplace of the Order of Arelion, enemy of Balaar. Cait Falconer—Knight-Cleric and heir to Queen Maeve Porgisl, ruler of Aimsir—knows danger draws near. Aimsir’s borders have been safeguarded but at a great cost. Now Cait and the Order work with the Queen and her military to make sure Aimsir never falls to the coming evil.
Then the unthinkable happens. Allies fall. Others become enemies. The followers of Balaar march inexplicably toward Aimsir. If it falls, all will be lost.
Jaguar Bound (Nocturnal Awakenings #2)
Release Date: May 17, 2022
Twenty years ago, the world first learned of the existence of shapeshifters and other paranormals. It hasn’t always been easy but now Normals and Paras live in relative peace. Mackenzie Santos played a large role in making that happen. Mac has spent most of her adult life enforcing the law. Once she started turning furry, that law included Shifter law. Because of her and those like her, the world is a safer place.
Or is it?
A new threat appears on the horizon, one that puts both Paras and Normals in danger. Will Mac be able to meet and defeat this new challenge or will it turn into her greatest fear: war between Paras and Normals?
Destiny from Ashes (Honor & Duty #8)
Release Date: July 14, 2022
Colonel Ashlyn Shaw is on a collision course with an enemy determined to destroy her and all she holds dear. Honor demands she not turn away from the upcoming battle. Duty requires her to do whatever is necessary to protect her command and her home system. The Corps and her family stand with her, ready and willing to do whatever it takes to finally bring this war to an end.
But when the enemy turns out to be closer than she thinks, how will Ashlyn react? Will this finally be what breaks her or will it see the might of the Fuerconese Marine Corps raining death and destruction down on all who would stand against Fuercon and her enemies?
Honor and duty. Corps and family. These are the hills upon which Ash and every Marine in her command will live and possibly die as they fight to protect Fuercon and her allies.
Designation: Frejya (Augment Wars #1)
Release Date: September 20, 2022
I was five when they came for my brother. I was thirteen when they came for me. At twenty, they sent me to war, an AI embedded in my brain make sure I didn’t remember my past or question my orders. Not that they told me that part.
And that was their mistake. They might have enhanced me, trained me, but they didn’t break me and, with Menhit in my head, I am about to become their worst nightmare. . .if they don’t kill me first.
The Ter’anzils have invaded and enslaved innumerable star systems over the centuries. Have they finally met their match in one of their own creations?
And, to prove I’ve lost my mind, I’m also planning the final book in the Eerie Side of the Tracks series before the end of 2022. The only reason it isn’t listed yet is I haven’t figured out the title or drafted a cover mock-up. But that, too, shall come. In case you haven’t figured it out, my name is Amanda and I’m a writer.
Ah, Randy Penguin, the gift that keeps on giving . . . in the German sense of the word gift. Translated from lawyer: “Shove authors out into the cold and keep their title, series, and character rights? My good sir, or madame, or however you choose to identify today, I am wounded to the quick by the very thought of being so accused.”
I was just thinking of the disasterous year for midlisters when S&S and B&N had that spat and B&N refused to end-cap, promote, or in some cases stock new titles by S&S authors. Some of the big names tried to help (Nora Roberts was one as I recall) by promoting the others on their personal media platforms, but . . . It was ugly.
Note to self: never sign over world or character rights.
I know other authors can work with existing characters and worlds (heck, I’m doing it myself), but it’s never quite the same character.
Just seems kind of destructive to be keeping the characters under lock and key while jettisoning the writer.
The thing is, it’s not just the big publishers doing it. I’ve seen anthology editors doing rights grabs that would prevent an author from using any character, setting, world or time period in which the antho is set. For example, one writer I know was asked to sign a contract that would prevent him from ever writing another story in Victorian England, included even a mention of Jack the Ripper, etc. So you have to watch every contract you’re offered, no matter where it comes from.
That’s kind of nuts. Not surprising, but I do wonder what they think they’ll even be able to do with all that legal paper.
I don’t know. I guess I just remember how the Wright Brothers, despite inventing flight, managed to sink their business by spending all their time and energy fighting patent battles instead of making better planes.
They eventually ended up merging with one of their bitter rivals, and now the only thing left is a shop that makes custom circuit boards. Not much of a legacy, that.
There was one I declined to submit to due to the phrase “Rights Transfer”.
They probably get enough submissions to endure the loss of those who know their rights.
It probably more likely they’ve just got a set of lawyers who think the one who dies with the most rights wins. Seriously, they make Magpies looks 5c thrift shops.
Yep, but we aren’t supposed to remember stuff like that. Trust them, they say. They’ll take care of us, they promise. They simply don’t explain what “taking care of” means.
In the Guido sense.
The creatures of Animal Farm sing,croak,neigh: ♪ Slaves of Ran-dom, slaves of Pen-guin, list-en to the big boys whine, of their plot to cor-ner auth-ors, and the mar-ket for all time! ♪
That is an impressive list of upcoming titles. You’re going to be busy!
As far as the subject of the post goes, I’ll admit to reading it with some amusement. I’ve more or less completely given up on trad pub, so I’m pretty much indifferent to whether this merger goes through or not; it’s less likely to affect me than whether or not the two major sellers of frozen Brussel sprouts merge. However, watching the Randy Penguin lawyers spin like their dancing a Viennese waltz is kind of hilarious.
Also, I’m mentally translating their remarks. When they say, “This won’t hurt authors or readers,” I hear, “Because we couldn’t possibly value our authors or readers less than we do now.”
Very busy, but it beats the alternative.
As for the rest of it, you’re right. I only wish authors and readers would learn, before more careers are ruined.
Thing is, I think the publisher really does think that a bunch of people will actually buy the Clinton/Penny “collaboration” (in which I guarantee that Penny will be doing the lion’s share of the work), because for some reason there is a sizable contingent of people who are ride or die for the woman (said contingent including a lot of the employees of New York publishing houses) and they’re counting on those people buying her book as a show of solidarity even if they don’t read it.
The one problem with this theory is that they know their own sales numbers. They won’t tell anyone, but they know.
We can infer sales by the skids of Political Best Sellers!!! ending up at the Remainder Ranch liquidation outlet. (We loose a dime on every sale but we make it up in volume!) If it shows up at the liquidators 6 months after debut, sales were not awesome.
No one thinks the Clinton/Penny book will sell. Not even Penny. They know that all the Hitlery fans will just say they bought it. Virtue signalling is a -signal-, right? There’s no actual virtue present, just telling the correct lie at the correct time.
Do not underestimate these peoples’ capacity for self-delusion. TBTH, I’m not even sure if they have access to the actual numbers, though that’s likely willful ignorance.
In truth I don’t know any of them, so it could be as you say.
But do you remember Rush Limbaugh’s books? Those things really were best sellers. Conservatives and Rush fans went out and bought those things. Even the kid’s book a couple years ago was a huge deal, multiple print runs etc.
Even if the people working on the book are a bunch of starry-eyed NPCs, they know not to order a big print run like they did for Rush. And they probably -hate- that.
The Political Best Sellers are thinly veiled bribes. The rest of the books are the veil.
Well, while “bribes” works, I was thinking Campaign donations. 😈
Having read the book–and having read more of Penny’s work–I’m not sure she did the lion’s share. It is bad. Really, really bad. Bad as in if someone without the Clinton name had written it (or other “favored” liberal name), it never would have been picked up by a publishing house. And no, I haven’t lost my mind. I did it for a review over at Victory Girls Blog. But you are right about the show of solidarity, imo.
Thanks for taking the hit, Amanda.
I saw copies on the endcap at Fred Meyer’s (Kroger grocery/department store), right next to the Bill Clinton/John Grisham one. I wish I had bought some garlic before I saw those. Either that or some popcorn.
While I’d never purchase a book with Saint Hillary as the author (or as co-author), I’m glad to see WHY I SHOULDN’T PURCHASE THIS ONE!
Daaaaaaannnnngggg, that’s bad. I can see why your liver shrieked and ran. I don’t think even VodkaPundit would survive the first chapter.
So basically it’s about how the youngest, prettiest, smartest Lieutenant Commander in Starfleet history got assigned to the Enterprise and soon had Kirk, Spock, and McCoy all falling in love with her…
Oh, wait, that’s the wrong Mary Sue. And it sounds like that story was probably better written than Hillary’s fanfic.
My cynical self speculated that the MegaCorp bros at Random Penguin failed to find the correct palms to grease at the DOJ. If they knew the right guy, I’m sure the Puppet In Chief would be announcing the Random Penguin/S&S deal on prime time television as a triumph of policy goodness and part of the great reset.
Makes me even more determined to have nothing to do with them. The notion of megacorps eating each other to become the One Last Publisher in the world, at a time when the Internet makes publishers 100% superfluous, it makes me roll my eyes. They’ll -never- publish my books anyway, no matter how good or how bad they might be, because I’m not hooked up with the In Crowd.
In Canada of course the situation is much worse. If you want a Canadian publisher to print your book, you have to come to them via a known political pipeline with a Canada Council for the Arts grant already in your hand. They say it is because of the very small Canadian market, but there used to be Canadian publishers selling Canadian authors before the Great Socialist Experiment took hold, so I think they’re probably lying.
That’s what Random Penguin wants for the USA and Europe as a whole. No more inconvenient free speech giving the peasants the wrong ideas. The Great De-platforming.
My cynical self agrees with your cynical self. 😉
What Phantom said – a publishing mega-corp will never, ever deign to glance in the direction of my books … so I’ll continue on my way, independently, and derive a certain amount of schadenfreude from watching them squirm.
You think the Big Five are bad, just wait until it’s the Big One.
Doesn’t S&S mostly make money from textbooks?
That seems….er…somewhat important.
Don’t see any signs of that on wikipedia.
I know that when I was a kid, most of the school’s books had the grain-throwing S&S icon in them– looks like they may focus on Important And Educational Books instead. (Which explains why I remembered it as text books. The history book was usually better written and more relevant.)
*checks their imprints*
Looks like not actually textbooks, mostly, but aimed at “stuff schools buy,” yes.
I had the same feeling about S&S.