Sunday, January 18, 2009

Doom and Gloom in the Publishing World? You Decide

Everyone knows that when recessions hit, those in the arts are among the first to feel the pinch. So it wasn’t surprising to hear that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has stopped acquiring books. How long they maintain this policy is anyone’s guess, but with so many books being published today, is this a horrible thing for the industry as a whole? You decide. Of course, HMH's decision hurts writers, especially those whose agents were about to strike a deal with them, but writers are often getting hurt through cancelled contracts, scams, incompetence, or abrupt changes in staff or policies, to name just a few unhappy events. The survivors have learned to grow thick skins and come up with Plans, B, C, D, etc. Some agents are saying that HMH’s decision scares them because it’s never happened before. On the other hand, neither have so many books been published every year as they are in this new millenium.

Random House, owned by the Bertelsmann group, is now undergoing a major restructuring which has already involved the resignations of two division heads: the publisher of Bantam Dell and the publisher of Doubleday. Needless to say, some pretty big names publish with these two groups but Random House has publicly denied any layoffs.

Meanwhile, Simon & Schuster announced the layoff of 35 employees, which shouldn't surprise anyone. After all, layoffs and recessions unfortunately go hand in hand. A decade ago, HarperCollins laid off over 400 people and cancelled 100 writers’ contracts. Some people claim that tough economic times are a company’s excuse for trimming the fat and getting rid of employees who haven’t met expectations. Again, you decide.

All I know is that every few years the economy’s shaken up and the publishing world along with it. Some people will suffer, others will manage to survive, and still others will shine and forge ahead. And so it goes.

To read excerpts of FATAL ENCRYPTION and TAXED TO DEATH, please visit

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