Shakeup at Random House

by | Dec 3, 2008 | Publishing Industry | 58 comments

Very big news this morning at Random House, where new-ish CEO Markus Dohle has announced a corporate restructuring.

Your imprint musical chairs is as follows. There are now three big umbrellas on the adult side. “Little” Random (retaining the title Random House Publishing Group), Knopf (now the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) and Crown (the Crown Publishing Group). Random is absorbing Bantam Dell and Doubleday’s Spiegel & Grau, Knopf is absorbing Doubleday, and Crown is absorbing Broadway and Doubleday’s business/religious imprints. Publishing veterans Irwyn Applebaum and Steve Rubin will be stepping down.

And of particular note (and the subject of much agently wondering): the groups will still be bidding independently in auctions, meaning a hypothetical three possible group bids. Although, of course, there are now fewer groups, meaning that there are fewer possible industry-wide bidders than there used to be. Editorial imprints within will still remain independent, but, of course, will not be bidding against each other within their group.

My heart goes out to anyone affected by the restructuring.

UPDATE: Layoffs have also been announced at Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Thomas Nelson. Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.


  1. Anonymous

    My god, man! What does this all mean for writers (specifically still unpublished writers)?

  2. M Clement Hall

    Good to have you back Nathan!
    Isn’t this the same type of consoidation that’s going on in the auto and other industries? But what happens to the good guys? Who gets moved into the cold? Who gets to stay? Do the lovers of good books survive? Or do the ‘hard men’ win out?
    I realise your position does not allow you to make public judgements — but…

  3. Kiersten

    Nathan, does all of this restructuring and holds on acquisitions and other slightly nerve-wracking stuff make you want to hold off on submissions, or are you still confident that your manuscripts have as good a chance of being picked up?

  4. Crimogenic

    At least Random didn’t announce that they are not acquiring books from new authors, that would be really sucky.

    Puppies? Yea, Puppies!

  5. Nathan Bransford

    It’s too early to really know too many details, but with no imprints closing, business is pretty much as usual in the big picture. It’s not a time for panic, and a lot these changes, as Dohle writes, reinforce strengths and eliminate overlaps.

  6. Furious D

    Leave it to publishing to have a corporate structure more confusing than Hollywood studios.

  7. Kimber An

    Geez-whiz, I have absolutely no idea what you just said.

    On a related note, I can’t decide whether I should polish up a Historical or a Science Fiction novel for submission next? (I love them all the same, so polishing up what I love most doesn’t work.) Or does it not matter because the economy stinks so bad there’s no hope for an aspiring author to break into the business right now anyway?

    P.S. Welcome back!

  8. Dara

    I must admit, I had to read that twice to grasp it–and then read the following comments to understand it better.:P

    There’s always hope though–as you said, it doesn’t seem to have hit panic mode yet.

    Should that time ever come though, I will still be writing, because there’s always hope even when things seem to be gloom and doom. 🙂

  9. Juliana Stone

    I see they just laid off ( or fired) 35 people at Simon @ Schuster…sigh…when will it end?

  10. M Clement Hall

    Simon & Schuster, Harcourt Houghton Mifflin, and Nelson are all laying off or "firing."
    What a hell of an industry to work in!

  11. ORION

    I think all businesses are looking to become more efficient in these uncertain times. While it’s unnerving I think it’s good for a business to be proactive and more efficient.
    While I hate the idea of books being orphaned I know in my heart readers are still buying books and agents and editors are still looking for good ones.
    I do my part by buying mass quantities of newly released books…

  12. Miriam S.Forster

    Layoffs? Gross. Ew. That’s so sad…

    Does this restructure affect the children’s literature side of
    Random in any way?

  13. Bryan Russell

    I liked it better without the update. Can we erase that bit?

  14. Other Lisa

    Merry freakin’ Christmas. Sheesh. What sad news. I hate to see even more people lose their jobs in these tough economic times.

  15. Zoe Winters

    My opinion here, and I may get slammed for it, but here it is:

    Now is not the best time for an unpublished writer to seek representation or publication. Even if you make it through the even more narrow doors now, you aren’t going to get as good a deal as you would have gotten even a few months ago. With the uncertainty and layoffs, your book could be orphaned, etc.

    Scott Sigler had his book orphaned when 9/11 happened. He started podcasting, giving out free ebooks, and building up a platform. Now he’s got a contract again and published work out.

    Now we can’t all be Scott Sigler because he’s both an amazing talent AND someone who knows how to market and reach and connect with his fans.

    But my opinion is, that unpublished writers need to back off the seeking publication train. The odds were bad to begin with, now they’re just really bad. Get your work out there. Do a podcast, put out free ebooks, connect with readers and build a platform.

    In our economy nothing sells like FREE. So do that work, lay that foundation, and then when the economy picks back up again, and hopefully you have a bit of a platform, you are in a better position to sell, if that’s your goal.

    Again, I know it’s not right for everyone, but IMO this just isn’t a time to seek representation. It’s not a smart business move right now for any writer, and that’s just my opinion.

    I just think building a readerbase (EVEN if you aren’t getting paid for it) is a far more productive avenue for a fiction writer to take right now, than sending out work in THIS economy.

  16. Elyssa Papa

    Oh wow, such bad news.

    My heart goes out to those affected by the lay-offs as well.

  17. Gay

    Not publishing new authors? I’m doing my part to be proactive… I’m trying to ONLY read new authors. I figure it’s the best yardstick to measure my own work against, since they didn’t have the benefit of a previous book deal to open doors for them, either. And I’m enjoying what I read more than ever before.

    The Kindle habit is addictive, though. Bought 5 books from the comfort of my bed last night… just because I finished ONE.

  18. Marilyn Peake

    Zoe Winters –

    I’ve come to the same conclusion. I’m writing a novel, taking my time, trying to make it the best it can be for when the economy improves. Several agents expressed interest in reading it back when the economy was good, but a few months ago was practically a different era and who knows what the economy and more consolidation of big businesses will bring. Right now, I’m building a platform for my small press publications: submitting them to book contests and getting more reviews. In these times, I think, it’s helpful to make your product the best it can possibly be for a future time when, hopefully, the market will improve. I think the next few decades will bring sweeping changes – in book technology, in the emergence of strong small businesses, even in terms of which countries will dominate the global stage. Silver lining: this is all grist for the mill of writing futuristic science fiction novels right now, trying to peer into the future and capture it in fiction.

  19. james Buchanan

    What worries me the most is that the market is consolidating so much that it is going to make it very difficult for new and mid level authors to find deals that are enough to keep them going.

    There is a link here to your post of yesterday about aspiring authors telling of their financial woes. We are all going to take a hit here not only because we won’t be able to sell our books, but because the advances paid for them will diminish as writers will take less in payment in order to make a sale and actually be able to keep writing.

    When I started out in this business my sole goal was to earn enough to make my living as a writer, which at the time wasn’t much. Over the years the ability to do that has greatly diminished and the cost of living has gone through the roof (health insurance anyone).

    But it will all turn around. Right?

    James Buchanan

  20. Liz

    From a tech sector refugee, the layoffs are scary when they’re happening, but there IS a silver lining. At least on the tech side, whenever there was a large cycle of layoffs from the larger companies, even in a down economy, you would see new, exciting small ventures start to pop up 6 mos. to a year later, and the trend would continue for several years. Whenever an industry tosses a lot of talent out onto the street, those folks get to innovating and building, and good things happen. This could be just another impetus for change and innovation in an industry that seems to sorely need it.

    Positive thinking, people!

  21. Kathleen


    It’s so easy to get swept away and let your thoughts snowball. Loved your comment because it reminds people to stop and take a deep breath (something which I wasn’t doing).

  22. lotusloq

    Thanks for the silver lining Liz!

    I still say it’s not a time to panic. We need to make our books the best we can get them and then query when they are ready. There is always a market for new books. If every new author decides to wait until the economy is better to try to get their work published where will the books come from? All the old established authors? They can only write so many books a year. That would be a sad state of affairs for me and my neverending reading needs.

  23. Jael

    Just my opinion here, but I’m still against the idea of holding off and not trying to get a book published right now because — honestly, a LOT of people don’t get an agent on the first try. If you’re unpublished and unrepresented, I think your time is better spent querying than it is sending out short stories, for example. You can make progress toward your goal even if that last stage, where the agent sells the book to an editor, is tougher than it was.

    I have my agent because I queried her with a book last year and she rejected it on a full. When I wrote a newer, better book she remembered me, read it, and took me on. If I had decided not to query on Book #1 because things were tough or whatever, I’d be nowhere. Now I have someone who’s on my side, reading my stuff and helping me make it better. I’m that much closer to being published.

    If agents are being way choosier, yes, that may mean querying now will get you a rejection whereas last year it might have at least gotten you to the partial stage. But if you send out 10 queries and no one requests even a partial, that’s not the economy, that’s your query. Keep trying. Keep pushing. You’ll find out more, sooner. And that’s not bad. (Even when it’s insanely demoralizing, which it often is.)

  24. Scott

    . . . and the discouraging news continues to flow. Oh well, such is life. I’ll still write, even with the doorway to my success narrowing as I type these words. I write because I love to write. Yes, I’d love all the glitz and glory stuff, finding my stuff at Borders; but, that day will come, maybe just not as soon as I hoped. In the meantime, writing is a journey, something I love, so why quit with discouraging news bouncing all over the place?

    I hate it for people losing their jobs – now or anytime.

  25. bloggingexperiments

    PUPPIES!!!!! Please tell me there are still puppies in this world somewhere.

  26. Ryan Field

    “My heart goes out to anyone affected by the restructuring.”

    I second that.

  27. Anonymous

    Congrats on your wedding, Nathan!???
    Welcome back!

  28. Marilyn Peake

    I like the quote from Ted Turner about life: “Don’t worry about the wind; adjust the sails.” It certainly worked for him.

  29. Madame Lefty

    My heart goes out to anyone who will be laid off.

    And Nathan, thanks for the update.

  30. Anonymous

    Using the economy to rationalize holding on to your book instead of submitting it to agents strikes me as folly. The same goes for choosing to opt out of big publishing in favor or self publishing. If you have a story to tell, then why not see if the marketplace is interested? You’ll never know if you keep your novel locked in your freezer under the pizza and chicken nuggets.

  31. Lisa

    My thoughts are with those who’ve lost their jobs. From all accounts, those in the publishing industry are talented, good hearted people who are doing what they love. My wish for them is that there is a brilliant entrepreneur working out a feasible business model for publishing and that in a short time he or she will announce exciting plans and pull all of these people into the fold. Lay offs are devastating.

  32. Vancouver Dame

    This is not a new scenario in the business world; this is economics. There seems to be two cycles – flattening the organization or reducing employees; and growing the organization or adding superfluous employees, preferably of new blood.
    An executive is ruled by the bottom line, and must shed whatever costs are needed to re-emerge as the new corporate entity. The easiest way to do this is reduce the amount of employees. It sucks, especially at Christmas, but CEOs these days aren’t in the job for the welfare of their fellow man. New authors will have to work harder than before. This might push ebooks even more than hardcopy.

    Nathan, what is your advice regarding new authors in light of our diminishing opportunities? Any suggestions? (Aside from the usual – polish, revise, etc. – which we do faithfully) Thanks.

  33. Anonymous

    Don’t worry. Stay calm. I’m here to save you. I’m a money-making superwriting rockstar. I’ll bring back the biz.

    Seriously though, I think people need to start writing like its the end of the world. It’s the writers who will save the day.

    Wave goodbye to the peeps on the street, crawl into your cave, and start writing a symphony of words that will play around the world.

    That’s my motto. I’m sticking to it.

  34. Zoe Winters

    Anonymous, actually I did choose to opt out of big publishing in favor of self publishing, because partly for me the pressure of NY publishing is insane. First to get an agent and publisher, then to KEEP your contract, all the while wondering if you’ll be stuck on the midlist for the rest of eternity or dropped altogether.

    Since far too few fiction authors can make a decent living doing it, I’m not playing that game.

    I don’t have time in my life for that. I’d rather write my stuff, connect with SOME readers, and just do my own thing. I don’t want my writing to become about “big business” and whether or not it’s “commercial enough.”

    But this is not equivalent to letting it rot in a drawer or sticking it in the freezer. What I’m doing is right for me, it’s not right for everyone, and that’s fine.

    But my point in encouraging people to do podcasts and free ebooks and build an audience instead of submitting is because if you DO get a publisher now, your contract isn’t going to be as good as it would have been before this. The pressure is higher to perform so as not to lose your contract. And your book, IMO stands an even higher chance than normal of being orphaned.

    Those are not odds I would play. Your mileage may vary, and it’s okay if it does. And I do agree with you that most people don’t get an agent on their first try and it does take awhile. And it’s quite possible that by the time you get an agent, and a publisher, the economy will be back in an upswing.

    All I’m saying is, I wouldn’t want a publishing contract, or my first book coming out with a major publisher, right now. It doesn’t make any business sense. IMO.

  35. A Paperback Writer

    Y’know, self-publishing just really looks better than it ever has before……

  36. Kathleen

    “Y’know, self-publishing just really looks better than it ever has before……”

    A friend recently asked what I would do if I couldn’t find an agent or a small publisher. I told her I was planning on selling books out of the trunk of my car.

    For the moment, though, I’m sticking to my original plan of querying and just reminding myself that I’m flexible enough to change the plan.

  37. Other Lisa

    @Vancouver – I politely call “b.s.” The truth is the system is rigged in favor of the corporate CEOs, who never personally suffer the consequences of their poor decision-making. They get bailed out with golden parachutes while rank and file people lose their homes. Yes, businesses should be able to expand and contract and shed employees when the market requires it. But look at statistics about income inequity since 1980 in the US and look at how financial risk has become privatized with the shredding of any kind of government safety nets.

    It would be one thing if the people at the top who make these kinds of decisions shared in the pain, but how often does that happen? Nope, instead we all get lectured about how autoworkers make too much money, because they are blue collar guys who, OMG, actually earn a middle class, 50-60K income. Can’t have that, I guess.

    If I sound bitter, it’s just because…I am. I’ve seen this happen too many times.

  38. Steppe

    Welcome back Nathan.
    Thanks for the update.
    Glad you didn’t disappear into the permafrost.

    Everything is in a state of flux.
    I don’t think anyone could get a rational
    argument against that. Maybe change is
    good and inevitable.

    Blogger Zoe Winters said…

    My opinion here, and I may get slammed for it, but here it is: []

    I second the whole bit you wrote.
    I connect with small audiences for the emotional intellectual presuure of wanting to feel that I owe them something a little bit better on each
    outing of a story.
    Mostly teasing but kind of serious…
    I have a serious cult following who consider me the weirdest writer not in custody of a higher authority.
    It drives me on.,, when feeling down.
    Nathan’s my high corporate guru ninja infiltration reconnoitering and penetration specialist.

    Tough to read between the lines sometimes but hey…

    I am going to self publish a vanity edition of some stories just to hold the trade style 8×5 with low gloss cover.
    Give freebies to everyone who tossed me cash in the past.
    That would be a good publicity stunt.
    Dress up as Santa and hand them out
    in front of the big publishing houses in NYC for 8-9 days.

    I think the biggest sympton of the publishing chaos-disorder is:

    Information Glut.

    That would be my thesis.
    A lack of organization dedicated to
    puposeful survival and to much smarmy
    attitude without actual: “product lines”.

    New Writers Line
    New Mystery Line
    New Crime Line
    Etc etc.

    The whole imaginary economy theme.
    Where trust devolves into a story which devolves into money which devolves into a story ad infinitum.

    Back to basics.
    Build value from scratch.
    Establish trust with an audience.
    Live up to the audiences trust in you.

    Hoorah soldier.
    Glad to see you back N.

  39. Dawn

    I’m very sorry to hear this, but all I want right now is for an editor to judge my book worthy and publish it. I’m not so concerned with the deal I get.

  40. the Amateur Book Blogger

    So, to be simplistic for submitting authors: if we had decided that our work was best sent to Bantam Dell Publishing Group, we would now address it to The Random House Publishing Group instead? Or will the old imprints still continue to operate under their existing names with just a different structure behind the scenes which does not affect submissions?

    Lots of changes to Writers and Artists Yearbook 2009.

  41. Anonymous

    Sorry, but for the posters suggesting that self-publishing is the answer — that is just insane. Everyone in publishing looks down on self-publishing, everyone. Those are the cold, hard facts. I can’t think of anything worse in a bad economy that expecting the book buying public to take a risk on an unproven author — unproven, meaning no agent was excited about their work, no editor by a small or large house agreed to buy it, no marketing money except the ten bucks that came out of the author’s pocket was spent on it.

    Get real. Midlist books that ARE good enough to be published often don’t sell through their advance and they’ve got an entire publishing company behind them, that pays for reviews and prints up catalogs…

    I don’t have a lot of cash right now, but I am buying myself a new book this weekend as a Christmas present to myself. I’ve been eyeing it the past few weeks, I’ve read reviews, I saw it in Barnes and Noble, and flipped through a few pages. It won’t be a risk.

    Self published books are always risks. Who in a bad economy wants an additional risk to tossing their money down the drain on something unprofessional?

  42. Erik

    “Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”

    – Pablo Picasso

  43. Anonymous

    Some of us…well…at least one of us here, is/are old enough to remember when the great publishing houses began going corporate, consolidating, cutting back editorial staff and cutting back on the things editors did in the good old days when publishers considered themselves lucky to keep the presses running. The thought, in those times, of kowtowing to the voracious hovering miasma of shareholder interest was anathema to everything such publishing luminaries held valuable. The end result of the rush to merge and be consumed was just as predictable then as it is now. Fewer good books, more and narrower genre focus, and much less nurturing of talent by people whose interests were defined more by a sense of art than a sense of how they were going to afford that new roof on the chalet in Vermont. Perhaps, as some here have argued, the dynamic is one of renewal as well as of decrepitude. New, independent publishers may spring up across the land as bluebonnets along the highways of Texas after a long, dry winter. But the more likely scenario is a continued tailspin as Americans read less and less and the corporate leashes tighten more and more, attempting to squeeze that last buck from a market that they themselves have helped kill.
    On a somewhat happier note, however, I can say that people in other countries continue to read at alarmingly high rates. Visits to Paris and Rome and Venice and Vancouver will yield…wait for it…independent bookstores (!) teeming with people, many of them young enough so that, if they were Americans, they wouldn’t be caught dead in a book store on a day other than the release date for some mega-hyped spectacle (not that all mega-hyped spectacles are necessarily bad, we read Twilight and Harry and Lemony Snicket from cover to cover). So yes, people continue to read and to appreciate a good yarn ably articulated. The question is how to reach them, how to let them know you’re there with your characters, waiting to tell an amazing story. The question,is complicated further for American writers in that they have to cut through a constant deluge of sludge from other forms of media and convince other Americans that it’s not always a bad thing to spend some time alone in your head with a book.
    Ah, well. Enough curmudgeonly ranting for today. Time to go out and watch the neighbors attempting to rake and bag their leaves in a cold, hard December wind.

  44. Grym

    Just been on a friend’s blog to learn that she’s having real trouble with Macmillan (who she’s been with for 10 yrs) over her latest book which is due out in paperback in autumn 09.The paperback edition is all on hold while they see how the sales go on the hardback – WINTERSTRIKE, by Liz Williams, her writing really is good. Not so long ago I heard even Ursula LeGuin was having troubles !!! If it’s hitting hard at that kind of writing level publishing is in a bad way. Another writer-friend thinks it’s very much about the credit-crunch and I feel she’s right too but she also says that the publishing industry seems to be in melt-down and probably needs to find a new direction to go in.

    Some mainstream writers I know who have had a lot of trouble with their publishers have gone into alternative – one of P K Morrison’s new detective series for instance has gone out with Lulu. What do you think about all this?

  45. Madison

    There’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel…..but it’s REALLY hard to see right now. 🙁

  46. MzMannerz


    I think I should go out and buy a book today.

  47. Anonymous

    So that’s what they meant when they declared the coming of the end of days…ouch and hopefully this too shall pass. What does not destroy us will make us stronger and yea though I walk through the valley of death. And don’t forget to whistle while you work or is that whistling in the dark? Or when you walk through the storm hold your head up high? Arrgh, make it stop.

  48. Roy Hayward

    Madison, “There’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel…..”

    Yes, I see the light too, but I think it is the train coming!

    I have been learning a lot from reading this blog, and for that I thank you all. On the other hand, the very fact that I am writing this, and you are reading this, is because there is a change happening in the world of the printed word.

    Yeah, I know, not very earth shattering, (sorry for the use of shattering Nathan).

    There is a current in the change of publishing. Big media, like major networks on TV, Major newspapers, and even book publishing, are all being effected by the new media that we are all participating in.

    I think the trick will be to figure out how and what the media is turning into. Because we are either going along with this current, or we are fighting it. Making the transition will be more about being prepared to make a transition that predicting it.

    I don’t think Zoe is saying stop trying to publish your book, as much as that getting it published today won’t be like getting it published last year.

    And if you make sure your podcast, ebook, blog, etc. connect your readers to you and each other, then as the market for media changes, we will be in a position to change with it.

    I am not an expert or a prophet predicting the future or selling 10 steps to making money in the new media. But I have been a consumer of media for a long time, and my consumption is not decreasing. It is growing and changing.

    I don’t think that it is done changing yet.

    Roy Hayward

  49. Zoe Winters


    I’ll respect your views on self publishing when you can back it with your real name instead of hiding your opinions behind “anonymous.”

    I could give you a long list of writers using indie methods who have either attracted agents or publishers, or who are doing fine on their own without it. Or who, realizing there isn’t much money in fiction writing for the vast majority of PUBLISHED fiction writers, have determined to forge their own path for love of what they’re doing, instead of clawing and grasping to get into the coveted gates of “real publishing” where their book will be re-titled, given a cover they didn’t approve, and possibly dumbed down for the masses.

    Thanks, but no thanks. You can have it if you want it.

  50. Zoe Winters

    Yes, Roy, that’s exactly what I’m saying, thanks! 😀

    I don’t believe I said: “Go out and self publish.” While that is “my” path and what I feel is right for “me,” I don’t feel it’s right for everybody, or even most people.

    But there is no universe in which not having a platform of people who like your stuff is better than having a platform of people who like your stuff.

    So start building it. That doesn’t equal “self publishing” with Lulu.

  51. LiteraryMouse

    How depressing. So in happier news…

    I have puppies! Two of them (the other two have already been adopted), just rescued from certain death from a Georgia shelter. My family’s fostering them for the time being. They’re a bunch of roly poly shoe-lace chewing little rugrats. We’re guessing some sort of boxer mixes.

  52. Anonymous

    Zoe Winters said —

    ” … Anonymous,

    I’ll respect your views on self publishing when you can back it with your real name instead of hiding your opinions behind “anonymous.”

    I could give you a long list of writers using indie methods who… (are)… determined to forge their own path for love of what they’re doing, instead of clawing and grasping to get into the coveted gates of “real publishing” where their book will be re-titled, given a cover they didn’t approve, and possibly dumbed down for the masses….”

    I think I might be the Anon you are referring to. I put Anon because I don’t have a blog to promote like yourself. The opinion I stated is indeed my own, and also the opinion of EVERYONE involved in publishing. Go read Janet Reid’s blog on the subject. Or Kristen Nelson’s, or, I don’t know, Nathan’s, as well. Self publishing is not real publishing. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings. But it is the truth.

    I’d rather have an editor’s expert opinion on my work, a cover done by a real book designer and a book that will appeal to many people through such atrocities as, gasp, editing, than to have no sales, and be seen as a joke while I solicit book store employees to carry my book.

    Talk to any book store employee. They do not take self-publishing seriously, either. For writers who want to see their words in a book form, great, but for those who actually want a chance to sell to someone other than their immediate family members, self-publishing isn’t the way to go. You are free to disagree. Good luck to you.

  53. Zoe Winters


    Fair enough. I guess I just assume the entire world has a blog and it’s a little goofy for me to assume that. I apologize for being so abrasive. Rereading my comment I sounded like an angry ninja on crack. It sounds civil in my head but later re-reading it, it just… doesn’t.

    What you say doesn’t “hurt my feelings”

    I have a 10 block set of ISBN numbers from R. R. Bowker that proves you wrong on the “not real publishing” thing. (And I fully intend to use every single one of those ISBN numbers on my own work, and then buy more.)

    I started my own small publishing imprint. I have a federal tax ID number under my publishing company name from the IRS. I’m registered with my state. So yes, I am in fact doing, “real publishing.”

    I am a small publisher, that happens to create my own product instead of outsourcing to other writers for it. I am not publishing on iuniverse, or authorhouse, or any other POD vanity press.

    You might not like what I’m doing, but if the dividing line between being a ‘real publisher’ and a ‘fake publisher’ is where I get the work I publish, that doesn’t even make any sense.

    If I was a small press publishing someone else’s work instead of my own work, doing all the exact same business things would I be real then?

    Also, there is this fabulous new thing called the internet. I am not seeking brick and mortar bookstore sales. The returns policy is insane.

    My work is polished, and my cover and interior layout are far from ugly. I chose to indie publish because I don’t want a NY publisher because it’s more pressure than I can handle at this time in my life (especially without a built-in platform that would guarantee a longer career.)

    And a small publisher can’t do a thing I can’t do for myself. So why would I give them my profits, when I can make four times as much per book on the back-end?

    Anyone is free to wave the stigma flag around me all they want, but I started a business because I believe in my writing and my own ability to package it and sell it. And I’m a control freak.

    I’ve just released my free ebook novella a week ago. And every single person who has read it or bought the Kindle version off Amazon except for one person, has been a complete stranger before they were introduced to me online.

    One other thing on bookstores. The major chain bookstores only have 32% of book buying market share and falling (according to a recent Zogby poll.) Meanwhile has 43% of book buying market share and rising.

    Further, independent book stores will stock independently published books if those books meet quality standards. In fact, Barnes and Noble will do it too if your book passes their review board. And that board is based on the quality of the book, not whether or not the author started their own small press.

    It’s not “who” produces a book that matters, it’s the quality of that book that matters. In a world where indie filmmakers and indie musicians are respected, I refuse to believe that indie authors are unable to achieve the same.

    Give it 10 years. I believe indie authors are going to rise to the challenge and wipe the “self publishing” stigma off their shoes.

  54. Grym

    Further to my comments about publishing and friend Liz … today we find she's in Amazon's top 10 … *grin* se . and this quite oppsosed to the paperback and the rest of the series being on hold with Macmillans.

    Like Authonomy – must go see that later, sounds very good – is this the way to go in the furutre? I feel it is. People making up their own minds … ??? It feels good. Shall go and enjoy Authonomy and send it round to friends.

  55. Anonymous

    Zoe Winters — (this is Anon again)

    “…I started my own small publishing imprint. I have a federal tax ID number under my publishing company name from the IRS. I’m registered with my state. So yes, I am in fact doing, “real publishing.” …
    … I am not seeking brick and mortar bookstore sales… I chose to indie publish because I don’t want a NY publisher because it’s more pressure than I can handle at this time in my life (especially without a built-in platform that would guarantee a longer career.)…


    See, though, Zoe, that’s the difference between you and most self-published people. They DO want to end up in bookstores, and many do think editors will somehow read their self-published book and snatch them up, re-releasing it under a NY publisher’s umbrella.

    But that doesn’t sound like you, and even if it is, it probably isn’t my business, anyway. I do mean what I said, by the way, good luck to you.

    I supppose I was trying (unsuccessfully) to look out for you/other writers. I’ve been in line behind someone at a bookstore info desk once — the woman was trying to convince the salesperson to stock her self published book, to no avail. Company policy. After the woman departed the counter (fifteen minutes later, crushed and pissed off) the salesperson rolled her eyes at me, and said something to the effect of, “We get five of those a week. We don’t even have shelf space for books that are pubbed with big houses. Other books get a three month shot, they don’t sell and they’re gone, and people want us to open a section of the store for something that’s amatuer hour?”


  56. MoJo

    ” . . . We don’t even have shelf space for books that are pubbed with big houses. Other books get a three month shot, they don’t sell and they’re gone . . . “

    Ah, but in your entire conversation with Zoe, this was the most important point of all, and it perfectly buttresses Zoe’s argument.

    If the odds are *that bad* with traditionally published books AFTER you get the agent, get the contract, then why is everyone on this merry-go-round? (And that was BEFORE this meltdown started.)

    Is it better to be never read, spending years “perfecting the query,” “honing the craft,” listening to the cheerleaders who say, “If you work hard enough and wait long enough, IT WILL HAPPEN” and thus, be persuaded to wait for The Call, than to be read and enjoyed by *someone*? Why? Because nobody respects self-publishing?

    Nobody respects work they’ll never get to read, either.

    Agent Richard Curtis today posted an article he wrote in 1992, that could have been written today. Things may have been a little rocky way back in the day, but as of Monday, it’s downright dangerous. The odds of finding an agent and contract were bad before, but now– Wow.

    I find it telling that in this entire thread ON A POPULAR LITERARY AGENT’S BLOG, there is only ONE person who has truly argued against self-publishing.

    Last week, it would’ve been five or six.

  57. Zoe Winters

    Hey Anon,

    No, you make a very good point. And thank you for acknowledging that what “the self published stereotype” is doing and what I’m doing, are two different things.

    I think the problem is, there are very few writers who have any business acumen. There seems to be far more naivete in writing, then in any other profession, including most other creative professions.

    The only solution I can think to that, is to keep plugging along, and hope that people take more time to consider their goals and to research what they’re getting into before they get into it.

    No one opens a flower shop without researching all they can about both business in general and the particular business they are getting into. When it comes to publishing though, most people who publish their own work don’t do the necessary research.

    It’s a mentality I really don’t understand. It’s not that hard to learn that the bookstore market isn’t really the best starting ground for an indie author. Yet so many people publish their own work thinking it’s “easy” to get on a bookstore shelf. It’s clear they haven’t looked into even the most basic aspects of publishing or book selling and it makes the rest of us look bad.

    And I also agree with what MoJo is saying. To me it’s about the end reader. It’s not about jumping through hoops to please the gatekeepers. They just aren’t on my radar right now.

    If I please enough end readers then maybe someday if I actually deserve to play in the big kid’s pool, I’ll get to play there. But if not, I believe I can be happy creating and controlling my own work, and finding and interacting directly with my audience, however small that is, or however big I can grow it.

    It’s about nothing but the writing and readers for me. If I do well, someday I’ll hit pay dirt. If I can’t do even moderately well for myself, then I’m not a good enough writer or savvy enough marketer to play in the big kid’s pool to the level I would want to play this game.

    Low midlist with a NY house, doesn’t get my motor revving. I’m not interested in that.


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Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

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