Wednesday, March 27, 2013

. . . That, and 3 Billion Will Buy You a Cuppa Joe

Random House's daddy Bertelsmann released its annual report today, which included a piece on the stunning success and corporate bottom-line impact of last year's runaway best seller Fifty Shades of Grey (you may have heard of it.)

The report served up three lessons learned from the Fifty Shades event: new strategies, speed, and, (I'm not making this up) "blocking and tackling" (“Instinct and intuition will continue to play a forward role in book publishing, but they go hand-in-hand with personal relationships, response time, maximizing digital and print delivery, operational excellence, and having strong creative teams.”) Whatever.

The "strategies" lesson acknowledges that the publisher must "look beyond traditional routes and consider different strategies when it comes to acquisitions.”   In other words, take a harder and closer look at up-and-coming Indie authors as they start to demonstrate some success--like Fifty Shades author E.L James did--and recruit them as corporate assets before their competitors do, or before all the profits go in the authors' pockets.

"Speed:" The report called this "an instance where a publisher acted swiftly to arrange a meeting with the author and her agent, and then just as quickly we structured a deal to bring the books to market as soon as possible.”  (Holy Shit!  This dirty little piece of Indie trash is selling like hotcakes and we want a piece of that!  Quick.  Git 'er, Ray.)

And we already covered the "blocking and tackling" corpo-jabber.  ("Personal Relationships."  Please.  That one cost me a nose full of Starbucks French Roast .)

It's important to note that these lessons were not humble acknowledgments of the paradigm shift taking place in the publishing world, and a bugle call for RH to lead the charge of the Big Six into a Brave New World, but rather a wake up, a strong cup of coffee intended to sober up the troops.

Peeps, Random House has raked in over three billion in revenue (four-hundred million profit) from Fifty Shades.  Imagine the corporate bottom line without that title and its sequels.  These lessons don't spring from concern for authors or an interest in making the publishing model more equitable for all the players in the industry.  Don't make it out to be anything more than it is.

Maybe I'm a cynic.  Maybe I'm the only one not eagerly watching for their "strong creative teams" to re-evaluate and establish warm and fuzzy "personal relationships" with authors with better contract terms for the writers who sweat blood to bring their marvelous stories to life for readers.

Yeah, like maybe the contract terms their new "digital imprints" tried to slip on us before John Scalzi told 'em where to stick 'em?

Sounds personal to me.

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