Saturday, April 03, 2010

Harper Studio

This makes me very, very sad.

It's late at night, but we can discuss in greater detail tomorrow.

11 comments:

Christi Goddard said...

I guess I'm out of the loop. I don't know what made them so different, as the article states. Their genre choices? Marketing strategies? Book contracts?

S.K. Azoulay said...

It is sad, though I must say when I first heard of this project I thought they would take it in a totally different direction - more towards literary fiction and fostering long-term relationships with writers, rather thanseeking out the latest internet fad (e.g. "This is Why You're Fat"). Now I have to wonder what will happen to the last remaining books under contract - will they be orphaned, ignored and forgotten?

Kate Evangelista said...

Talk about another one bites the dust. And to think I was just celebrating the fact that Borders lives. Sigh.

Candyland said...

Aww snap. That's all I have to say about that.
(Insightful, right?)

moonrat said...

Christi--yup, all three. Their model had three strategies that really excited certain publishing people, like myself:

1) low advances and high royalties (basically author profit-sharing) [their idea of low advances, though, was setting a cap at $100k, so some perspective is in order]

2) non-returnable sales model, meaning they would sell TO chains, and chains would not return [in the end, they were only able to get a few accounts to agree to non-returnable buying, and they weren't the accounts that would be the most relevant]

3) creative technological marketing schemes [and here I think they succeeded unequivocally]

You're probably tired of my talking about how much I think author profit-sharing is a better royalty strategy than high advances, so you already know how I feel about that component. And as for non-returnability, I think returnability is behind 80% of what's wrong and stupid with the publishing industry. So I'm really sad they didn't have a chance to give it more of a go. The team is full of smart, creative thinkers, has a really on-point acquisitions editor who made smart strategic buys for the list's mission, and a really creative and open-minded marketing director. I feel they're being brought down prematurely.

moonrat said...

SK--Yeah, they ended up doing trade nonfiction only. I think what they wanted to prove as a stepping-stone was that companies could make tons of money even off of a model that was harder-nosed with book sellers. The hope was that if they could launch the non-returnable book industry other companies would be able to follow suit (eg publishers of literary fiction).

Debbie Stier made some statements in which she said no contracts would be canceled. As for orphaned, ignored, and forgotten? It's impossible to say. I hope not. But I've seen what companies do when an employee leaves.

Publishing is a very special industry because the products authors are selling [books] are not just business pieces. For the authors, it's not just about money. For some of the people at the heads of corporations, though, business is still business.

JES said...

Very sad, yeah. As you say (well, imply), even though the profit-sharing thing could be awfully attractive to authors, the BIG think was the no-returns experiment. Maybe they should have focused their attention just on that.

Just out of curiosity: are e-books non-returnable?

JES said...

[think = thing]

moonrat said...

JES--yeah. Ebooks are really a service, not a product, aren't they? It's kinda like getting your nails done. Can't return a manicure. Although I guess you could insist on a refund if something was dissatisfying.

JES said...

[belatedly]

Thanks -- yeah, that's what I thought. Maybe as e-everything continues to be adopted, the "feel free to return everything" policy will wither and die of its own weight. Liberation through attrition.

lynnrush said...

I know. It's so sad!