Thursday, April 03, 2008

Big Changes from HarperCollins



HarperCollins Publishers is forming a new entity that is set to make some big changes in the traditional relationship between publishers, authors and booksellers. According to the New York Times, it will work this way:
Author advances and bookseller returns are two issues that have long troubled the publishing industry. Best-selling authors can command advances that are so high that publishers often come away with slim profits, even for books that are major successes. Publishers also offer high advances to untested authors in the hopes of creating best sellers, but often those risks do not pan out.

Ms. Friedman said the new group, which will start by publishing 25 titles a year, will offer “low or no advances.” Mr. Miller said he hoped to offer a profit-sharing plan in which both publisher and author would split the net profits.

Under current standard practices, booksellers can return any books they do not sell, saddling publishers with the high costs of shipping and pulping copies. Mr. Miller said that by eliminating returns, the publishers could share any savings with authors.
It will be interesting to see how this works out for this new segment of HarperCollins. I gather from the article that the group will only publish a certain type of book for what is called the "low end of the market." The examples given do not particularly appeal to me as a reader but I'm intrigued by the possibility that e-book and audio copies of the books might be included at no extra charge with purchase of the hardcover version of the books.

The publishing industry is searching for a new business model, one that works for everyone involved in the process, including customers. I imagine that other companies will be watching this one closely.

8 comments:

  1. No returns? Then what do booksellers do with the piles of crap they can't sell?

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  2. I suppose they mark it down and sell it on remainders tables...maybe they will be given a bigger discount than the one they get from the publishers now. After all, if HarperCollins can save all of that postage and pulping cost, they should be able to pass some of the savings on to the bookstores willing to take on more of the risk of moving the books.

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  3. That's a good possibility for the hardbacks. Rarely see those small paperbacks discounted, though. I just see 50 of them stacked up in the back until we return them. ;)

    I hope the new tactic works well for everyone.

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  4. This sounds interesting. I do think sometimes big bookstore chains order huge numbers of a title to get a good discount (well, am only guessing here), because they know they can return the books that are unsold. Maybe this would make them be more particular about ordering huge amounts. Of course if they're only offering low end of the market books, maybe it won't matter as bookstores wouldn't likely order as many of them anyway.

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  5. It's going to be interesting to see if it starts a trend, Annie...but the numbers from this one imprint are going to be pretty small if HarperCollins is the only one to go this route.

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  6. It seems to be a pretty daring move, Danielle, but now I'm waiting for some comment from bookstore managers...they can't be overly thrilled by this; it has to make them nervous, I would think.

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  7. I don't know about all bookstores, but we don't order the massive quanitities of books we get; they send 'em to us whether we want them or not. I don't know at what level the ordering or agreeing on a number occurs.

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  8. Wow, Annie, that could result in a whole lot of busy work for the person responsible for packaging up all the returns...ouch.

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