Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Publishers' Motto: Take No Chances

I've been consumed with personal/health problems lately and haven't had much inclination to post anything, but I wanted to comment briefly on the already much discussed article about the end of publishing as we know it by Boris Kachka that New York magazine published recently.

One of the publishers Kachka writes about is Bob Miller, the progenitor of the new HarperCollins imprint, HarperStudio.

“Welcome to our temporary home,” says 51-year-old publisher Bob Miller, ushering me into a colleague’s more inviting office. Inside, he and his staffers prepare to impart a cheery message: They’re going to fix publishing!

Miller recently left Hyperion, which he founded seventeen years ago, to start his own imprint at the urging of HarperCollins’s then-CEO, Jane Friedman. She was replaced in June, but HarperStudio lives on. For all its ambitions, it’s a modest outfit: Miller and three women, two of them in their twenties, hope to publish two books a month starting next May, having convinced 25 authors to forgo big advances in return for half of their books’ eventual profit. The books they’ll be doing aren’t particularly outré—Emeril Lagasse on grilling, 50 Cent is collaborating with The 48 Laws of Power author Robert Greene—but they’re hoping that their process will be revolutionary.

Miller has worked out separate contracts, co-op and all, with booksellers and authors—capping advances at $100,000 and reducing returns. Their list now includes not just 50 Cent but Michael Eisner, his former boss at Hyperion; John Lithgow (a memoir); and Isabella Rossellini adapting her short-film series on bug sex.

With choices like these, is it any wonder so many readers have become apathetic, if not downright hostile to the products of conglomerate publishing? Is there anybody out there with their tongue hanging out for another ghosted celebrity autobiography or cookbook? Michael Eisner? Who gives a shit?

There should be a plaque over the entrance to Miller's office: "HarperStudio: We Take No Chances."

Levi Asher offers an insightful take on Kachka's article.


Anonymous Debbie Stier said...

Hi Peter. Hopefully your literary taste is not the same taste as everyone else's out there. Our mission has nothing to do with choosing books YOU might like. It has to do with changing the publishing model (returns, marketing, advances, bundling, etc.).....and making a success out of it. My fingers are crossed that you're not right about our choice of books. According to Quantcast, Emeril gets 142K visitors a month -- Not bad, right? Still a lot of fans in my book. I'm so glad you're continuing the conversation though and would love to hear back about what you see as the solution to a business model that doesn't work as well as it could.

4:12 PM  

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