Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Merry Christmas for Book Publishing

Random House: Irwyn Applebaum and Steve Rubin are out. (I wonder if Applebaum's brother, Random spokesman Stuart Applebaum, had to put together the announcement?) There are reports of a companywide meeting going on today, where many expect word of larger cuts.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: VP/Publisher Becky Saletan resigns after the "freeze" foofaraw.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt II: Electric Boogaloo: Beloved editor Ann Patty and "a lot" of other HMH folks are fired.

Nelson: CEO Michael Hyatt lets the world know he's just laid off 54 people via Twitter.

Simon & Schuster: S&S Childrens' President Rick Richter is "leaving the company."

Have I missed anything? Harper and Penguin haven't started the bloodletting yet, have they? How about Macmillan?

Update:

S&S II: The Embiggening: 35 job cuts (on top of Richter).

Note that the RH restructuring, HMH cuts, and the S&S cuts all happened today. Anybody else have an all-hands meeting called suddenly?

Update II (4 December, AM):
A New York Times story datelined yesterday adds the following bits of news:

Penguin: there's a salary freeze in place. (More details in a story from The Bookseller -- not that Penguin wasn't famous for low pay to begin with.)

HarperCollins: delay on raises

Random House: no layoffs yet, though they're clearly coming

Macmillan: mentions John Sargent's remarks last month in a company wide meeting that layoffs may be coming

Random House again: a minor point, but it's been reported a couple of places (such as this Observer article) that Carol Schneider has been the public face of the Random restructuring because corporate spokesman Stuart Applebaum "is excising himself [from being the media contact on this issue] because the dissolution of the Bantam Dell division involves the departure of his brother and longtime colleague Irwyn."

Wizards of the Coast: an unspecified number of layoffs, including at least one VP

Devil's Due (a smaller comics publisher) has also laid off two people.

And PW's "The Beat" reports that Tokyopop has laid off seven employees in LA, including one editor.

On the bright side, remember that Hachette (buoyed by Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson, and distribution of The Shack) is giving all of its employees an extra bonus this year and that Wiley is taking over Meredith's drooping (but still filled with well-known, powerful brands) book publishing program.

Any wonder, though, that the business is already calling yesterday "Black Wednesday?"

Update III (noon on Dec. 4):
With additional links, mostly from today's Publishers Lunch.

HarperCollins: all raises deferred until after July 1, 2009, and they're leaving open the question of layoffs.

(Though note that story, from Bloomberg, says that Random is going from five divisions to three -- which is true only if you ignore Random House Books for Young Readers. I believe the smaller "groups" -- like Audio Publishing and Information -- actually report in to one or another of the new "big three," but don't place money on it.)

Publishers Lunch also reported that Bowker has eliminated thirteen jobs in the US, mostly because those jobs have moved to the Netherlands.

I'm only keeping track of book publishing here; there are also big newspaper cuts and at least some magazine jobs being lost as well.

Update IV:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: large layoffs in the Orlando office -- rumor is on the order of 200. Possibly other layoffs in other HMH locations, too. PW reports that eight people were laid off from the trade division in NYC; the larger layoffs are part of a bloodbath restructuring of the heavily indebted company's large K-12 operation.

Update V:
Just learned, via this post from Keith R.A. DeCandido, that one of the folks laid off from S&S was editor Marco Palmieri. All best wishes for a short, successful job search to him and the rest of the people suddenly office-less this week.

18 comments:

Matt Jarpe said...

Sounds like Eric Wolff is back in town, and heads are rolling.

Kerry said...

eek.

Alma Alexander said...

Harper already had theirs, or at least phase one of it. I lost my own (very senior) YA editor in that one. Right now... I couldn't tell you what precisely is going on there...

stacy said...

Wizards of the Coast also had its second layoff of the year, but this time thankfully it didn't directly affect the books team (though it did affect departments that work with books, like the art department). I posted several links over at my own blog, which I'm afraid I'm too lazy to go find at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Macmillan had its meeting three weeks ago. A few non-replacements, more "early retirements", nothing system-wide. Warnings of belt-tightening next year, not at all unexpected. The company is still giving employees the week off between Christmas and New Year's Day.

RobB said...

Black Wednesday :(

Yesterday a co-worker and I were wondering what would happen at Penguin and Harper before we left for the day. Now we know.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Alma: Harper doesn't seem to have announced any layoffs -- at least, I haven't been able to Google anything up -- so that may have been just a few job cuts. (Or maybe they're just being secretive.)

Harper has also been going through turmoil longer than other houses, since the departure of Jane Friedman in June (and somewhat before that, since their numbers had been "bad" -- meaning not as high as News Corp. wanted -- for about a year), so they may not have a big round of layoffs this time.

But who can tell in this climate? It's scary out there.

clindsay said...

Yesterday was also a rough day for newspapers around the country, too: Arizona Republic laid off nearly a hundred people, Des Moine Register laid off 41 people, Reno Gazette Journal laid off 61 people...and there were more.

Ouch.

safewrite said...

And here I am with a book to shop. Crud.

Paul Riddell said...

I rode to work on Wednesday with my wife, and since she's a professional jeweler, she had to make an errand at a supplier before she could get to work herself. (The current jewelers situation is remarkably similar to the book industry's.) The trip requires going past the Houghton Mifflin Dallas textbook distribution center on Midway Road near LBJ Freeway, and I was surprised then to see that the distribution center was almost empty. Only three cars were in the parking lot, compared to the two dozen just a month before, and I hadn't heard anything about any previous shutdown as a part of the Houghton/Harcourt merger. The cutbacks at Houghton may be even tougher than previously suspected.

Paul Riddell said...

Safewrite, back in 1991, I finally managed to snag a position with my dream newspaper, the Dallas Times Herald. I'd been a Times Herald loyalist since I was delivering the paper in 1980, and I was being hired to work in the mail room. Back then, it was still possible to move from the mail room to a reporting position, and I saw this as a perfect opportunity to build up my cuttings morgue.

The day before my first day on the job, my then-girlfriend and I were celebrating when a friend came by and asked "So...you grabbing a copy of the Times Herald tomorrow?"

"No. Why? What's going on?"

"The paper's shutting down tomorrow. It's the Herald's last edition."

"Tomorrow's supposed to be my orientation day!"

"Well, I'd blow that off if I were you."

That's how I know how you feel.

--E said...

Harper has been quietly reducing headcount via attrition for some time.

I quit in March, followed shortly by three others in my department. Only one new hire was brought in. Two of my old staff were re-org'ed off to a different department entirely.

I'm going to hell for the schadenfreude glee I've been having all year.

Anonymous said...

Paul, HMH's distribution center has been closed for a while now. I have no idea if this is common knowledge or not, but HMH really thinks they can outsource everything cheaper so they closed the printing and distribution centers and gave it all to independent printers.

Then HMH hit a cash crunch and did not pay the printers for textbooks. Within their legal rights, the printers then did not release the books. California and Florida have not received any of the textbooks as of this writing, and lawsuits will come soon. Florida has said they will never do business with HMH ever again.

If HMH lasts a year from now, I will be surprised.

A.R.Yngve said...

Well, there will still be authors and books and readers in the future. (Publishing houses, I'm not so sure...)

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the Bowker 13. As horrible as these things are, I have to say Bowker handled it with fairness and grace. (No point in sucking up now - it's the truth.)

Raymond Fujimoto said...

For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home. ~W.J. Ronald Tucker

Yan Naing said...

'Tis blessed to bestow, and yet,
Could we bestow the gifts we get,
And keep the ones we give away,
How happy were our Christmas day!
~Carolyn Wells

Lester @ Adult Tricycle said...

It's always awful to know someone got fired. Just goes to prove that every industry has been affected during this downturn.

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