Jobs lost, imprints closing, with more publisher consolidation possibly on the horizon. A lot of people are being hurt, but am I the only person who thinks there could be something good come of this? Big publishing houses have been making life harder for new and mid-list writers for several years now. Might a lessening of their stranglehold on publicity and shelf space be an opportunity for smaller, more flexible publishers to fill a niche? And would this be good for authors? Not the seven-figure advance crew, but in general?

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I got this from the Quill and Quire blog about Soft Skull Press sales going up:

Calling the book “the most robust and fine-tuned of the anolog technologies,” Nash claims that people are only now seeing the effect of changes in the way the medium is consumed. According to Nash, the shift in consumer spending patterns is not so much a bellwether of doom as an opportunity for innovation.

The article is called How to Publish in a Recession:

http://www.conversationalreading.com/2009/02/publishing-in-a.html
John,
Thanks for the link to the article. I found it interesting, especially Richard Nash's response to Anita Elberse's "successful" blockbuster corporate model of publishing: "She's really not done much research—she's only looked at the corporate model, and developed theories about what works on their system. Which is self-fulfilling, since their system is designed to work that model. It's really quite dense. Almost hare-brained. Corporate houses were already shifting to publishing fewer titles, and the recession will accelerate that process. They will continue to follow Elberse's model, which will cause them to become smaller and smaller companies, since chasing blockbusters has never worked in books except one or two years out of every four or five, when they're lucky. There will be layoffs in all the down years, which will be the majority, until they're really just backlists with a sporadic hit factory attached. And an entire universe of self-publishing and micro-publishing will arise, driven by poets, therapists, moguls, dieticians, anyone who feels either entrepreneurial or shut out or both. What they'll all have in common, is a sense of who the reader is for their book, and the knowledge that the hit factory is designed to produce books that aren't theirs." If Nash is correct, it certainly suggests that smaller, more flexible publishers may fill a niche, as Dana originally suggested.
"Backlists with a sporadic hit factory attatched." A great line. And the really worrisome thing, of course, is that very few of those "blockbusters" will ever do much on a backlist as most of them are more fad with little staying power.

I would have expected more talk about the success of Hard Case Crime, and frankly, more people to try and copy that success in other genres - even "literature," as a genre.
I wonder if we'll ever see a trend toward "Hard Case Crime" shows on television. I think we're in need of a good hard case crime show with an "anti-hero". I write police procedurals and enjoy them, but there's really an overkill of C.S.I.s and forensic and police procedural shows on TV now. I rarely watch any of them, but do enjoy "Dexter" on Showtime, perhaps because he's more in the "anti-hero" mold.
Well, there was this little cable show called The Sopranos....

But since then you're right, not much. Would be nice to see.
Great article, thanks for the referral, John.

I tend to use too many sports analogies, but I see one here that's not wholly inappropriate. Some teams spend big money on free agents, hoping to hit the right combination and go to the Super Bowl, World Series, whatever, once in a while. Those teams' performance is usually all over the place. (Except for the Yankees, who can spend so much money the model doesn't really apply to them.)

Then there are teams that find and nurture young players. They're cheaper to work with, and if one of them carps out, there are four more who are still usable. Teams that do this well are in contention year after year.

Seems the publishing model is similar. If you pay a million dollars to one writer and he tanks, the year is shot. If you pay twenty writers $50,000 each--and choose wisely--not only should this year be at least okay, but you're building a stable of writers for repeat business for years to come.
So you're waiting for the "Moneyball" of publishing?
Maybe I should write the MOneyball of publishing. It has to do at least as well as my fiction. ;)
Being a baseball fan and living in Minnesota with the Twins, I think it's a very appropriate sports analogy, Dana. Nurturing young players and losing them to free agency is a yearly occurrence here. But we've still won some championships and are usually in the pennant race. The Yankees have been outspending everyone for years and still have been struggling. They've really broken the bank this year with free agent signings, but as in publishing, there is no guarantee that the huge expenditures are going to pay off.
Pushing this analogy to the breaking point, even if the big pubs treated the smaller guys as farm teams, scooping up writers who had proven themselves at a lower sales level, everyone would probably benefit. I've spoken to some small press folks, who understand this is what happens, and they're good with it, as they understand they lack the resources to push hundreds of thousands of books. I just can't imagine a business plan that requires the business to depend on winning the lottery if it is to have a successful year.
Maybe we just like this analogy because it's only twenty days till pitchers and catchers report ;)

But it does work as an analogy. When I signed my first deal with a Canadian publisher (mid-sized for Canada, very small press for the USA) they wanted a three book deal because as they said, "The best thing for all of us is that you get picked up by a big publisher and we can keep selling the first three books." So they do see themselves as a bit of a farm team. Swap is the third book in that deal, so it seems to have worked.

I guess the question now is, will self-published work the same as a small publisher - as a farm team?

Because you're cerainly right, Dana, a business plan that relies on winning a lottery doesn't seem like something that can be sustained.
I don't see this happening. A. Agents seek the best deal up front. It's their income. B. authors with a small publisher still have to compete against the guys who are pushed on the public via massive promotions. and C. that means bookstores will stock the massively promoted authors and not the others. The public simply won't get to know you.

In fact, it works the same way against the midlist author with a large publisher.

(Or did you mean that the big publishers won't pay out huge advances and promotions any longer? I think they'll be even more inclined to go for the quick turn-around on their bucks).

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