Over on the New York Times Books section the pillory of publishing houses continues as ritzy lunches and lavish corporate outings are scrutinized. This is no outsiders barrage though. Unlike the one we’ve seen in automobiles and finance groups, this is primarily the internal struggle of an industry trying to grapple with its own unsustainable excesses.
As the article points out:
Just two weeks before announcing staff cuts and a substantial corporate restructuring in December, the publishing giant Macmillan gathered its sales and marketing staff at the historic Hotel del Coronado in San Diego —where Billy Wilder filmed Tony Curtis wooing , HarMarilyn Monroe in “Some Like It Hot” — to talk about titles on the spring lists. Between marathon meetings to discuss plans for new books, the sales reps were invited to take part in wine tastings and spa treatments.This year the meetings will be held via Webcam. In a memo to staff members announcing the layoffs on Dec. 15, John Sargent, chief executive of Macmillan, said the company would hold only one of its three annual sales conferences in person, and the other two would be conducted on the Web and by telephone.
It goes on:
Venerable houses including HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Penguin Group, Random House and Simon & Schuster have all announced salary freezes or layoffs, or both.
Nielsen has identified a 7 percent drop in sales compared with the same period the previous year, and signs that it’s only going to get worse. But for all of the major or subtle changes in the industry, it appears some things will never change, such as the arrogance of agents: “It’s not like you have books that can be Manolo Blahniks and books that can be Cole Haan. Books are books. A book by James Patterson costs the same as a book by some poet.”
Ah, to own the wonderful works of “some poet.” Isn’t it delightful that the same personalities who once were some of the strongest personalities and names in the industry are now, en masse, clumped together with a mass-market paperback sales maven? But hey, sales dictate attitudes, so put down that company card, crack open that secondhand newspaper and read on to see what changes come next. My guess is that curtailing cash advances for Mr. Patterson will do more to cut costs than cognizance of the effect of supply and demand on a now identified product niche market, but I’m not the one getting paid to lounge at a resort and talk shop.