Showing all posts tagged: publishing

Penguin Random House calls off Simon & Schuster merger

23 November 2022

Penguin Random House, one of the world’s largest book publishers, has called off a proposed merger with Simon & Schuster. Last month, a United States court blocked the proposal, on the grounds competition, and remuneration to authors, stood to be adversely effected. Initially Penguin had indicated they would appeal the ruling, in the hope the deal could still go ahead. The merger, had it proceeded, would have reduced the world’s major publishers from five to four.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping the deal in November 2021. In hearings held in August, the government argued that the largest five publishers control 90% of the market, and a combined Penguin and Simon & Schuster would control nearly half of the market for publishing rights to blockbuster books, while its nearest competitors would be less than half its size.

Hopefully this is a good outcome for authors and book readers. However, Paramount Global, who own Simon & Schuster, have expressed a desire to divest itself of the book publisher, as the film production company sees ownership of a publisher as a non-core asset. This probably means we’ll see Simon & Schuster being brought to the market again, at some point in the future.


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Blurb Your Enthusiasm by Louise Willder book blurbs uncovered

21 November 2022

Blurb Your Enthusiasm by Louise Willder, book cover

You’ve probably read more of the work of London based copywriter Louise Willder than you realise. Although her writings can be found in bookshops across the world, Willder has only ever written one book, which was published in October 2022.

Certainly Willder may not be in the same league as Elena Ferrante, Sally Rooney, or Kazuo Ishiguro, but her work may well have adorned one of their novels. Willder is a book blurb writer, and in a twenty-five year career at Penguin Books, estimates she has penned some five-thousand of these attention grabbing pitches, intended to entice someone to buy the book in their hands, having read the blurb printed on the dust jacket.

And in Blurb Your Enthusiasm (published by Simon & Schuster), Willder shares all she has learned about the craft of blurb writing:

We love the words in books — but what about the words on them? How do they work their magic? Here is a book about the ways books entice us to read them: their titles, quotes, covers and, above all, blurbs — via authors from Jane Austen to Zadie Smith, writing tricks, classic literature, bonkbusters, plot spoilers and publishing secrets. It’s nothing less than the inside story of the outside of books.

For my part, blurbs are something I take or leave. If a novel has a good enough recommendation — for instance it has been shortlisted for a literary prize — I’ll probably only settle for reading a mere outline of the story. And if I notice an endorsing blurb written by another (high profile) author, I’ll just about always ignore it. While I can’t be sure, I often get the feeling such “endorsements” have been given over sight unseen so to speak.


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HarperCollins workers strike for an improved pay deal

12 November 2022

Workers at American publisher HarperCollins have been on strike since 10 November, as they attempt to negotiate their pay rates. While salaries at the company average US$55,000 — close to the average in America — many workers would be earning far less.

Publishing has for decades has been known for its low pay and overwhelmingly white staff. But workers at HarperCollins, the only member of the “big four” publishing houses to have a union, have had enough and authorized an indefinite strike. Work stopped at the downtown Manhattan offices on the sunny morning of 10 November.

Here’s hoping the workers and company can reach a fair deal.



Small publishers thrive on Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlist

9 November 2022

The shortlist for the 2022 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards was unveiled this week. Thirty titles, across six categories — including fiction, poetry, Australian history, and young adult — were selected from over five-hundred and forty entries.

Notably, sixteen of the books shortlisted were published by members of the Small Press Network, a representative body for small and independent Australian publishers.

With consolidations taking place in the publishing industry worldwide, potentially reducing the number of publishing houses, and leaving only a handful of large players, this is a welcome indication that smaller publishers are thriving.


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Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster merger blocked

3 November 2022

The proposed merger of book publishers Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster has been blocked — at least for now — by the U.S. District Court. The idea, first mooted in late 2020, has drawn the ire of many in the publishing industry, who fear the combined entity, and the influence it could wield, would be detrimental to authors and readers alike.

But it was still a dramatic departure from recent history in the book world and beyond. The publishing industry has been consolidating for years with little interference from the government, even when Random House and Penguin merged in 2013 and formed what was then the biggest publishing house in memory. The joining of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster would have created a company far exceeding any rival and those opposing the merger included one of Simon & Schuster’s signature writers, Stephen King, who testified last summer on behalf of the government.


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Surging inflation is changing the way books are published

6 October 2022

Not even books are immune to the ravages of surging inflation, and increasing prices in the shops is only one problem afflicting the publishing industry. As production costs rise, printers are being forced to look for ways to reduce overheads. These include using cheaper paper stock, and smaller fonts along with less page margins, so books can be produced using less resources.

Blow on its pages and they might lift and fall differently: cheaper, lighter paper is being used in some books. Peer closely at its print and you might notice that the letters jostle more closely together: some cost-conscious publishers are starting to shrink the white space between characters. The text might run closer to the edges of pages, too: the margins of publishing are shrinking, in every sense.


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Australian publishing industry diversity and inclusion survey 2022

7 September 2022

Recently released results of a diversity and inclusion survey (PDF) conducted by the Australian Publishers Association and the University of Melbourne, offer a revealing snapshot of the Australian publishing industry. Although more than eight in ten publishing professionals are women, few are in senior roles, while under one percent of workers identify as Indigenous or First Nations people:

  • Fewer than 1% of Australian publishing industry professionals identify as First Nations
  • 84.4% of survey respondents identify as women, 13.8% identify as men, and 2% identify as non-binary or prefer to use another term
  • The proportion of men increases for senior roles
  • 35.4% of respondents were experiencing mental health conditions at the time of responding to the survey
  • 24.8% of respondents were located in places other than Sydney or Melbourne



Publishing contract morality clauses may be unfair to authors

26 August 2022

Finding a traditional publisher for a novel is becoming ever more difficult. For one thing, aspiring — being unpublished — authors, are up against who knows how many other hopeful novelists. They also have to contend with a shrinking pool of publishing houses, as the industry appears to be going through a consolidation, which is seeing many smaller and independent publishers absorbed by larger players.

Even authors with several published works to their name, are reporting waits of up to a year to hear back about a pitch. But adding to the woes of many authors, emerging and established, are so-called morality clauses some publishers are including in their agreements.

In short, if a writer fails to meet a certain standard of behaviour, they may lose any advances or royalties they’ve received. The problem author advocates — such as the Authors Guild — have with morality clauses are the sometimes vague definitions of inappropriate or wrong conduct.

These contract provisions allow publishers to terminate a book contract, and in many cases even require the author to repay portions of the advance already received, if the author is accused of immoral, illegal, or publicly condemned behavior. Publishers insist they need the clauses to protect themselves in the event an author’s reputation becomes so tarnished after the book contract is signed that it will hurt sales. But most of these clauses are too broad and allow a publisher to terminate based on individual accusations or the vague notion of “public condemnation” — which can occur all too easily in these days of viral social media.

People should be held accountable for wrong-doing, but everyone is entitled to proper due-process. The concern is morality clauses, particularly where the definition of inappropriate or wrong behaviour is poorly defined, could be used unfairly against some authors.


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Publishing your book online, Ted Gioia lists the reasons why

25 August 2022

American author Ted Gioia intends to publish his next book on Substack, an online publishing platform. This really is worth a read for anyone considering self-publishing a novel.

The Internet may be a curse in many regards, but it has given me direct contact with my readers. I cherish that. Things that once took a year now happen instantaneously. Instead of getting feedback from one editor, I learn from thousands of people, many of them very smart with useful things to say. The whole process is energized, streamlined, and turbocharged.


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Rejected authors finding publishers, film deals, on TikTok

19 August 2022

TikTok is proving to be a fertile ground for new music acts looking for a lucky break, with the video hosting app kick-starting the careers of numerous musicians so far.

And authors are also cashing in. Many writers who struggled to find publishers previously, are sometimes finding themselves at the centre of bidding wars between rival publishing houses, after taking a novel idea to TikTok to gauge interest in the premise.

American writer Alex Aster is an example, and in 2021 signed a lucrative publishing deal, and later film rights, for her YA novel Lightlark.

Aster didn’t expect much, especially when she checked in a few hours later to see that her post had only clocked up about 1,000 views. Maybe the books world was right, she thought. Maybe there wasn’t a market for Lightlark, a young adult story she had been writing and rewriting for years, to no interest from publishers. The next day, however, she woke up to see her video had been viewed more than a million times. A week later, Lightlark had gone to auction and she had a six-figure deal with Amulet Books. Last month, Universal preemptively bought the film rights for, in her words, “more zeros than I’ve seen in my life”.

Aster conceded an element of luck was involved though, describing the TikTok algorithm that eventually propelled her to success as “finicky”. Here’s hoping the algorithm will favour other writers.


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