Friday, April 04, 2008

Another Comment Turned Into a Post

Every so often, I get carried away and write long comments somewhere else, and then feel like I should have something tangible for all that typing. So I copy-and-paste them here.

Today, it's a comment on this Booksquare post, about Bob Miller's new imprint at HarperCollins (for which he left his job as president of Hyperion very abruptly, which nosy Andrew Wheeler wonders might be a more interesting story). The Booksquare blogger, Kassia Krozser, is much more thrilled by "new concepts," "new media," and other buzzwords beginning with "new" than I am...or maybe I'm just an old cynic. She thinks this is something unique and special and wonderful, and I...well, this is what I said:

Let's take those "key points" in order...

#1 -- Not new at all; Miller is re-using the concept of the Perseus imprint Vanguard Books (ably run by a very savvy publisher, Roger Cooper). It's a plausible concept, but let's not pretend it sprung full-formed from the head of Bob Miller.

As you note, the devil will be in the details; Hollywood has spent the last century poisoning the well in this area. It remains to be seen how many writers to be willing to wait for "profits."

#2 -- There have been plenty of "no returns" schemes over the years; some work and some don't. The ones that don't work founder on the shoals of "we need to get lots of copies of this really great book into stores," at which point the stores rightly point out that they won't shoulder all of the risk.

#3 -- From inside the business, this looks an awful lot like "we're only going to publish small, marginal books." Miller will have to fight to change that perception, particularly by spending money on other kinds of promotions.

Paying for placement is ubiquitous in retailing; it's not something special to bookselling. The supermarket world is much more rapacious, as well -- it's fairly common for every planogram slot to be bought and paid for.

Also, this may have been the biggest publishing news of the day, but it's still well below Borders for the year so far...and the year is still early. Comparing it to Gutenberg is silly -- this isn't even in the same class as the Kindle.

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