It’s going to be a while before we hear the final verdict–and probable appeals–in the tale of Penguin Random House’s desire to “merge” with Simon & Schuster. What we’re getting in the meantime is a ringside seat to the lengths those folks at Randy Penguin and their hand-picked editors and agents (yes, agents) will go to make traditional publishing even smaller. Frankly, there’s not enough popcorn to get through the trial and I know my IQ drops every time I read some of the so-called justifications for the merger.
One of Randy Penguin’s so-called justifications for the merger centers on Amazon and on self-publishing. Now, the Amazon part shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us. After all, Amazon is the big evil in the minds of so many in traditional publishing, even though much of publishing’s problems can and should be laid directly at the feet of the publishing houses. As for self-publishing, Randy Penguin doesn’t like the fact authors like Brandon Sanderson–who still traditionally publishes–can go to Kickstarter and finance the publication of books that for whatever reason didn’t go to the publisher.
What this really shows is Randy Penguin wants to put every author like myself out of business because we dare look at their so-called gatekeepers and say “Nope, you aren’t getting your hands on my books. I’ll let the readers be the gatekeepers instead.”
I rarely agree with anything coming from management from Macmillan, but I do agree with this statement:
“Less competition is going to change the dynamic. Two of the major players becoming one—the prices, the advances, the type of competition at the auctions—I think it’ll have impact across the board,” Macmillan CEO Don Weisberg testified in federal court on August 8. “If I’m an agent and there’s one player that’s bigger than everyone else, I think that will have an impact. You’ll have to change your behavior to deal with that.”
When it came time for certain agents and authors to take the stand, one of the bits that stood out for me came from John Glusman (publisher at Norton):
[H]e didn’t believe the merger would hurt advances, quipped that the Big Five “regularly overpay for books” and that Norton is impacted directly “because we end up losing authors. We don’t overpay for books. We pay on the basis of what we project for sales.” In his opinion, midlist authors will be harmed by the proposed merger.
Left unsaid is they overpay for books that are from the right celebrity or political figure or that they think will be the next best thing in fiction and that often, if not rarely, earn out. But it isn’t those authors who wind up being hurt by the overpaying of advances but the mid-listers. But let’s go ahead and let the Randy Penguin take over another major house so they can overpay even more advances and hurt even more authors who don’t have the “name” or the “cause”.
One of the most laughable comments came from author Charles Duhigg, who is published by Randy Penguin.
“If this merger goes through,” he said, “I believe PRH wants to make the world a better place for writers. The thing I know about Andy Ward and PRH is that they love authors and want to give us the freedom to write what we want to write.”
As long as you aren’t writing conservative non-fiction or fiction that doesn’t tick off all the social checklists set by the publisher.
But, if you listen to Randy Penguin, you’ll hear how it wants to help the authors. So does Simon & Schuster. Before buying into that, consider this from an author who published with the Randy one until recently:
[S]he told me that the marketing and publicizing of midlist authors has already diminished significantly during her career. “Five years ago, when I was debuting, I had an advance that was smallish but standard for a new author at my imprint, and I got marketing and publicity to match,” she shared. “By 2020, the publisher support had almost entirely evaporated for me and so many other midlist authors that I know, both at my imprint and elsewhere.”
This author believes that PRH’s marketing and publicity departments were explicitly told to deprioritize her imprint’s books, and worries what that could mean for the authors at S&S whose imprints might soon be acquired.
Here, however, is the quote we should all remember and take note of the next time we decide to submit to a publisher and they offer an advance. According to Jon Karp, CEO for Simon & Schuster, $100k is really nothing more than a “rather small advance”. That sound you just heard was the sound of thousands of authors’ jaws hitting the floor and then running off to check their last advance before shouting “Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
Read this entire thread. It shows the lie to what Karp said and one has to wonder if, as Saintcrow mused, he actually has no clue what his own house pays authors or if he committed perjury. Either way, heaven help S&S.
Stay turned. Keep the popcorn handy. If the DOJ wins, you know the publishers will appeal. If the publishers win, it is possible the DOJ will appeal. No matter what happens, we haven’t heard the end of it.