Archive for the ‘Publishing Business’ Category

Random House/Penguin Deal Expected To Close Next Year

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Following up on last week’s acknowledgement by Pearson that the company is in talks with Bertelsmann to merge their two consumer book publishing divisions, Penguin and Random House, the companies issued a statement today that the deal is “expected to complete in the second half of 2013,” assuming it clears regulatory approvals.

Random House will own a controlling 53% share of the company that will be known as Penguin Random House. The CEO of the new group will be Markus Dohle, currently CEO of Random House. John Makinson, Chairman and CEO of the Penguin Group will be the chairman of Penguin Random House. The new venture is expected to be based in New York, where Dohle now resides and Makinson is expected to spend more time.

This makes for a very nervous time for the staffs of both companies as they worry about which jobs will become redundant. Makinson told The Guardian that “the strategy behind the deal was not to take an axe to the editorial side of the business, but that there could be savings to be had in the back office.”

Over the weekend, news broke that NewsCorp, owner of HarperCollins, had made a counterbid for Penguin. Some reports indicated that this could undermine the proposed merger. Responding in The Guardian, Mackinson dismissed that idea, saying, “There isn’t any sort of break clause [with Bertelsmann]. It is a signed transaction.”

A Penguin Wanders Into a Random House

Friday, October 26th, 2012


The above two titles may eventually have more in common than their genre and cover designs.

In a tersely-worded “Statement on media coverage regarding Penguin” yesterday, Pearson set off a round of speculation and gossip in the publishing world:

Pearson notes recent media coverage regarding Penguin, its consumer publishing division, and Random House (part of Bertelsmann). Pearson confirms that it is discussing with Bertelsmann a possible combination of Penguin and Random House. The two companies have not reached agreement and there is no certainty that the discussions will lead to a transaction. A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.

Reports in European news sources, beginning with a story in Germany’s Manager Magazin on Monday, forced Pearson’s response.  When Bertelsmann, which owns Random House, was asked to comment, they simply pointed to the Penguin statement.

Speculation is now rife as to the reasons for proposed merger, with some saying it’s necessary because ebooks have changed the business and others that publishers need to gain enough clout to stand up to Amazon. Those are side issues, however; the major reason is that Pearson is focusing on their education business, and Bertelsmann’s new CEO Thomas Rabe has promised major acquisitions and strategic partnerships.

The New York Times story quotes literary agents saying that the deal will not be good for authors. Says agent David Kuhn, “a shrinking book industry could be compared to the situation in Hollywood, where studios under financial pressure now focus on churning out a handful of blockbusters a year, rather than taking risks on smaller films.”

If the merger were in effect today, seven of the fifteen NYT Fiction best sellers would be published by the new company.

Whatever the speculation, this is far from a done deal. There are still hurdles to jump, like gaining approval from U.S. and U.K. regulatory agencies (although, as many news stories point out, those agencies have allowed the music business to shrink to three major companies). The most meaningful part of Pearson’s statement may be the “if” in the final line.

Publishers May Expand eBook Programs to Libraries

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

It’s estimated that 75% of the public libraries in the US lend ebooks, a fact many people are surprised to hear.

NPR’s Diane Rehm Show gave exposure to the practice yesterday with a full program devoted to the subject. Responding to a question about why some publishers don’t make ebooks available to libraries, Jeremy Greenfield, editorial director of Digital Book World, said they are worried that lending will result in reduced sales. Carrie Russell, from ALA’s Office of Information Technology, countered that libraries are “confused by that argument since the evidence shows that library borrowers are the same people who buy,” referring to Library Journal‘s “Patron Profiles” and a Pew study.

Later in the show Greenfield said, based on his meetings with publishers, there is good news for libraries; publishers who make their ebooks available to libraries believe it helps, rather than hurts, their business and are planning to continue as well as expand their programs. In the coming year or two, he expects to see other publishers make their ebooks available to libraries.

However, he said, some publishers look at the studies skeptically, believing that library borrowers buy ebooks only when they are unavailable through the library and that a change in policy would result in fewer sales.

Also featured on the show were Vailey Oehlke, Director Multnomah County Library and Allan Adler of the AAP.

Penguin Making EBooks Available to Some Libraries

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Cautiously returning

Penguin announced yesterday that they are working with 3M on a pilot program to again make their e-books available to the New York and  Brooklyn Public Library systems.

The catch? Titles will not be released until six months after they go on sale through retailers and they will expire after a year, with an option to renew. The prices will be “in the same range as prices that retail consumers pay.” (the Wall Street Journal).

Chris Platt of NYPL tells the Wall Street Journal that he hopes Penguin will eventually “agree to make some titles available immediately, while retaining the six-month delay for hot-selling titles. Exposure of first-time authors in libraries, for example, could boost sales.”

The deal was announced just three months after Tony Marx, NYPL President and CEO told publishers that he would be willing to  consider introducing more “friction” into the lending of ebooks to address their fears that library lending would affect the nascent consumer market for ebooks.

It’s a sign of the times that the story of this cautious change was broken by the Wall Sreet Journal (Libraries Cut E-Book Deal With Penguin). The NYT also ran a story in their Media Decoder blog.

Inside A Book Auction

Monday, February 13th, 2012

The NYT takes a look at the auction for a book by Amanda Knox, who spent four years in an Italian jail for a sexually violent murder. The conviction was overturned on appeal and she was released in October.

Is it worth spending a potential seven figures for the book? It all depends on factors that nobody can safely predict at this point; whether she is appealing to the American public and what she is willing to reveal in the book.

The Times notes that several books have already been published about the case and all have “sold only modestly.”  None of those books, however, are by an author that news shows like 60 Minutes is “drooling over.” UPDATE: HarperCollins won the auction, for a reported $4 million. They plan to release it in early in 2013.

NBC Launches EBook Division

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

NBC News announced yesterday that it has created a new publishing division, NBC Publishing, to produce ebooks based on information from NBC’s news shows (including The Today Show and Nightline), archives and other divisions (NBC  Sports, Universal Pictures and Telemundo).

The head of the new division, NBC v-p Michael Fabiano, told Publishers Weekly that their first original e-book is coming next month, followed by about 30 titles over the  year. He also noted that NBC has the capability of distributing titles on their own.

He did not address whether titles will be available to libraries via OverDrive, but indications are hopeful. NBC has hired two people from publishing houses, both of which sell titles via OverDrive to libraries; Peter Costanzo from Perseus Book Group has been named as creative director and Brian Perrin, most recently with Rodale, is director of digital development. Also, an earlier enhanced ebook that NBC published with Running Press, From Yesterday to Today: Six Decades of America’s Favorite Morning Show (Dec., 2011), is available to libraries on OverDrive.

Reporting the story, the online movie news site, Deadline points out that ebooks are likely to evolve into a format separate from print books, with this quote from Cheryl Gould, NBC News SVP who is heading up the New York-based part of the new division,

As the tablet and e-reader markets continue to expand exponentially, and as the definition of “what is a ‘book?’” evolves, we see opportunities to bring readers a unique and immersive content experience. This business enables NBC to use video, audio, and current programming in creative new ways.

Amy Einhorn Profiled

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Penguin editor Amy Einhorn’s “unique ability to pinpoint the kinds of books that thousands of people want to read” is celebrated in a New York Observer profile.

Proof that her ability is unique — she was the only editor to spot the potential of Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, after it had already been rejected by 60 others. She’s had a few near-misses; she initially rejected The Postmistress, but later decided that it could work with some serious editing.

Einhorn’s big spring title is the debut, A Good American by Alex George (2/7/11; also Penguin Audio and Thorndike large print), which has been a hit among GalleyChat regulars.

If you are going to ALA Midwinter, there are several opportunities to meet the author and nab a copy of an ARC (click here for more information). UPDATE: It’s also available as an eARC on Edelweiss.

Here Comes the Opposition

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Slate‘s technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo, tries to pour cold water all over Richard Russo’s NYT opinion piece, “Amazon’s Jungle Logic,” which argues that shopping at Amazon endangers local businesses.

Manjoo’s column, “Don’t Support Your Local Bookseller” asserts that killing off indie bookstores might not be such a bad thing because they are, “some of the least efficient, least user-friendly, and most mistakenly mythologized local establishments you can find,” calling them “cultish, moldering institutions.”

What does “efficiency” mean to Majoo? Lower prices. Indies are not “efficient” because “Rent, utilities, and a brigade of book-reading workers aren’t cheap, so the only way for bookstores to stay afloat is to sell items at a huge markup.”

Paging George Orwell.

“Scorched Earth Capitalism”

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Amazon’s price-check app promotion is the subject of an opinion piece by author Richard Russo in today’s New York Times. Outraged by the program, he checked in with several fellow writers on how they feel about it. Even though all of them make a considerable amount of money through Amazon sales, they were all against Amazon’s tactics. Dennis Lehane calls it “scorched-earth capitalism.”

Russo makes an eloquent argument for supporting local bookstores and not shopping at Amazon. Unfortunately, many of the comments support cheaper prices over buying locally.

Boycott Amazon?

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Above: Button and coaster from Diesel Bookstore in Oakland, CA

The Huffington Post poses the question of whether consumers should boycott Amazon.

The company’s Price Check App, which offers a 5% discount to customers in exchange for scanning prices in bricks-and-mortar store, was introduced late last week. The American Booksellers Association immediately issued a strongly-worded statement against the promotion (even though the program does not apply to books).

As The Huffington Post notes, the new policy further angers retailers, publishers and politicians who are already upset about the company’s sales tax policies and over the Amazon Kindle lending library.

Of course, many libraries buy from Amazon, either when specific titles are not available elsewhere, or when prices are significantly cheaper.

We’d like to hear from you about whether you have stopped buying from Amazon and why. Please let us know in the comments section.

[More on “Occupy Amazon” swag here]

Random House Still Selling eBooks to Libraries

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Now that Random House is the only publisher of the Big Six that sells ebooks to libraries without restrictions (HarperCollins limits the number of circulations to 26), we thought it was a good idea to check in with them, to see if they are standing firm.

In response to our inquiry, spokesperson Stuart Applebaum replied, “Random House, Inc. is maintaining our current position regarding digital sales of our books to libraries while actively reviewing our position.”

Now is a good time to show library support for RH titles. Early reactions about galleys can be a critical element in developing buzz. Publishers regularly hear from booksellers (particularly via the IndieNext program), but less so from librarians.

Here’s what you can do:

Get to know which titles RH is working to build buzz for. Read Random Revelations, the RH Library Marketing catalog and the Random Revelations blog. Pay particular attention to the debuts, such a Chris Pavone’s The Expats (Crown, March) or Thomas Mallon’s Watergate (Delacorte, Feb; more about it here; Digital review copies available from Edelweiss), and titles positioned as breakouts, like Defending Jacob, by William Landay (Delacorte, Jan; more about it here; Digital ARC on Edelweiss).

Let RH know what you think of specific titles, via comments on the blog, or by writing directly to the RH Library Marketing staff ( Tell them if reading a galley made you decide to order more copies, what audience you envision for particular titles, which ones you plan to use with reading groups. Give them quotes they can use in promo copy. This information is particularly helpful in the critical time before a book is published, the earlier, the better.

Random House, Inc. is a big company with many imprints and divisions. Get to know the players by studying the list on the RH site, which provides descriptions of each division and imprint, with links to their home pages.

Taking these steps will reinforce the point that libraries are key to building readership for books.

Paperbacks Arriving Earlier

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Good news for books groups. Publishers are speeding up the release of paperback reprints, which traditionally arrive a year after the hardcover, reports the New York Times. The wait for Room by Emma Donoghue took only eight months. Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! (Vintage Contemporaries) arrives in trade paperback this week, with new cover art, a mere five months after its hardcover publication in February.

When a book is doing well in hardcover, however, publishers still hold off. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest has been out for a year and is not yet in paperback. It was more than two years before The Help arrived in softcover.

Borders Going Out of Business

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Borders, the bookseller that invented the chain superstore concept, has not found a buyer and will ask for approval to liquidate its remaining 399 stores (at its height, Borders operated 1,300 stores), reports the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. The company plans to be out of business by the end of September. Nearly 11,000 people will be laid off.

CEO, Mike Edwards, did not blame a history of swiftly changing management and direction, but “the rapidly changing book industry, [electronic reader] revolution and turbulent economy.” (Shelf Awareness published a more insightful analysis of Borders problems in February).

Reuters reports, however, that Books-A-Million may buy some of the stores (fewer than 50).

Amanda Hocking, from Self-Publishing to Major Book Deal

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

The poster girl for self-publishing, Amanda Hocking (her ten YA urban fantasy and paranormal romances have grossed around $2 million since she began publishing them through Amazon’s CreateSpace last year), was profiled in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine.

But she recently abandoned her self-pubbed status for a major deal with St. Martin’s. Why? She tells the NYT Magazine that she wants “…to reach as many people as possible among the 85 percent or so of the population who don’t have e-readers yet. For me to be a billion-dollar author…I need to have people buying my books at Wal-Mart.” Also, there is a concern that major retailers will not want to stock books published by their competitor, Amazon.

St. Martin’s will publish Hocking’s Trylle trilogy (already in paperback by CreateSpace and on Kindle) in August, 2012. The original Watersong series begins Fall 2012.

Trylle trilogy

Switched 9781250006318; January 8, 2012 (currently available from CreateSpace, pbk, July 5, 2010; 9781453688939)

Torn 978125000632; February , 2012 (currently available from CreateSpace, pbk, Nov. 15, 2010, 2010; 9781456355791)

Ascend 9781250006332; April 2012 (currently available from CreateSpace, pbk, Jan. 11 2011, 2010; 9781456541286)

Watersong (exact pub dates not set for later titles in the series)

Wake 9781250008121; August 2012

Lullaby 9781250008107; (Fall 2012)

Tidal 9781250005663 (Winter 2013)

Elegy 9781250005670 (Spring/Summer 2013)

Yesterday, Amazon announced that another self-published author, John Locke, has joined their “Kindle Million Club,” for authors who have sold over 1 million paid copies in the Kindle Store. The author of mysteries and westerns, Locke publishes his paperbacks through self-publisher Telemachus Press and uses Kindle Direct Publishing for his ebooks.

If Amazon authors choose to do so, they can make their eBooks available to libraries through OverDrive; but neither Hocking nor Locke are listed on OverDrive’s database.

Shelf Awareness for Consumers

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Our friends and former colleagues at Shelf Awareness have launched a new publication aimed at consumers, Shelf Awareness for Readers. The twice-weekly email newsletter focuses on books, with a dozen reviews of both adult and childrens books as well as features, and some stories from the six-year-old trade publication, now called Shelf Awareness Pro. UPDATE: The reviews will be licensed; Ingram has already signed up.

One feature that readers advisors are sure to love is “Further Reading.” In this issue, it recommends books to extend the experience after reading Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder.

This new version of The Shelf is launching with an extensive marketing campaign, so you are likely to hear about it from your customers.