Sunday, May 02, 2021

Big 6 now Big 4

The publishing world is under ever-tightening control. An agent explains why this is going to make things worse for authors and readers alike.

By 2022, we will be down to The Big 4 - Penguin Simon & Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, and Harper Collins Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  - plus a smattering of some mid-size but growing independents. And that’s it.This contraction significantly impacts writers an authors, and here’s why:
  • Merging companies always declare that the houses will be run separately. This was certainly the case when Random House bought Penguin more than five years ago. Now these “separate publishers” exist under the same roof, use the same publishing contract, and operate under merged accounting and royalty systems. It is, in essence, almost like one house even though agents can still submit separately.
  • When publishers merge, there are often new mandates regarding how those houses will participate in auctions and submit bids. Some houses stipulate that imprints can no longer bid against each other. So if several imprints are interested in acquiring a project, they communicate and form a “house bid” (which is where all imprints propose one bid to submit in the auction, and if it is the winning bid, then the author can choose which editor/imprint to work with). This removes competition from the auction and lowers advances, which translates to less money for the author.
  • The merging of publishers results in the must-acquire-blockbusters-only mentality. Tighter budgets means fewer books will be acquired, which makes editors less likely to take chances on unique, creative voices—authors with talent who might not break out until their fourth or fifth novel. In other words, there is less focus on building an author and more focus on acquiring the obvious “big” book—which limits the diversity of unique stories in the world.
  • Contraction squeezes out the mid-list author—the author who’s not a blockbuster but whose sales might be humming along nicely. How? Because it makes the publisher less likely to pick up their option material. This precludes the possibility that a mid-list author’s third or fourth book might have been the one to break out. Not to mention, if the agent must shop the author anew, the current house (and all those imprints) are off the submit list. That equals fewer outlets where an agent can place that author and relaunch that author’s career.
  • Contraction eliminates editorial positions. Smaller staff equals fewer editors equals less diversity and narrower taste in what gets acquired. Also, smaller staff equals fewer editors equals those editors getting way more submissions from agents. Editors are already strapped for reading time and inundated with submitted manuscripts. The sheer volume makes it hard for any debut project to stand out in the crush—reducing a new writer’s chances of getting a foot in the door.
  • Contraction equals less-author-friendly publishing contracts. Fewer houses at which to place a client means publishers have the upper hand when it comes to dictating the terms, and agents have less negotiation leverage. 

Fortunately, I left that world once and for all back in 2014. So as long as there are people interested in buying books from Castalia and Arkhaven, there will be options to the increasingly converged mainstream offerings.

And speaking of Castalia, we'll be announcing a few things tomorrow. Nothing terribly crazy, just getting caught up on the regular business now that Arktoons has successfully launched and we can start keeping reasonably normal hours again.



Blogger tuberman May 02, 2021 5:55 PM  

And, all these houses are run by Womyn, who firmly believe that all males are toxic, especially white males. Could be some Tranny (pass for females, cross dressers), but how would we know?

Blogger jijijeac May 02, 2021 6:04 PM  

as you said vox big corps always bring sjw ideological monopoly. anything large in business is bound to be infested by sjw's.

Blogger JfromAus May 02, 2021 6:08 PM  

Hi Vox, would you print theological works? Asking because I am working on a biblical theology but am unsure if any publishers would want to publish it, since I am completely anti feminism etc.

Blogger VD May 02, 2021 6:14 PM  

No, we don't do theology.

Blogger rcocean May 02, 2021 7:17 PM  

Muh free market in action. I looked forward to the Book world having only two publishers. jeff bezos, and Vox Day.

Blogger tdcommenter May 02, 2021 7:50 PM  

Like many other companies, they will use employ social media data mining to predict trends & end up with the same twitterati nonsense that plagues comics. I see a bright future for both Castalia & Arkhaven.

On the other hand, there will be enough breathing room for there at least 2-3 publishers between bodice rippers & the need to launder money to bought politicians, pseudo-intellectuals, and other promethean pets. YA may fade away as the youth come to favor e-readers.

Blogger CostelloM May 02, 2021 7:50 PM  

As I recall your the only author to date who's made more for not publishing a book than actually publishing it. It's like your enemies were paying you tribute not go full on Mongol on their territory.

Who'd have thought that the publishing world would look back on that time as the good ol' days.

Blogger Chris Lopes May 02, 2021 8:15 PM  

This is a very predictable development. The only thing I don't get is the "lower advances translates to less money for the author." Advances are just that, an advance on what the book is projected to earn. Sell the same number of books and you make the same amount of money. The only effect advances have on earnings is if the book doesn't earn out.

Blogger Call Me Mort May 02, 2021 8:23 PM  

Sooo, whatever happened to self-publishing? Anyone can get their book out there for a few thousand.

Blogger Crunchy Cachalot May 02, 2021 8:37 PM  

It's already pretty much a Conglomco Amalgamated Industries Inc. situation (just look at those company names), and very much a Simpsons situation: all the different brands of Duff actually come out of the same pipe. So it is with most "publishing" today, which would make Julius Streicher positively green with envy.

Blogger LoneWolf May 02, 2021 8:51 PM  

"The publishing world is under ever-tightening control."

Yes, but then who really cares anymore about ever-increasing irrelevance of the "publishing world"? They're dead.

Blogger M In The 517 May 02, 2021 9:01 PM  

Goodreads grannies.

/me throws up a little in his mouth

Blogger Fernando Covett May 02, 2021 9:32 PM  

Nobody gets paid anything more than advances, really, and not only in book publishing.

Blogger Tom May 02, 2021 10:04 PM  

As owner, operator, and sole author of a profitable micro-publishing company, may I say how little I give a f**k about the NYC-centric witches who pretend to run the industry?

Blogger nswhorse May 02, 2021 10:11 PM  

What drives the endless mergers and consolidation of corporate power in every industry? Why is nothing ever done about it by the blowhards who prattle about the benefits of competition?

Blogger Peter May 02, 2021 11:09 PM  

But... six is their favorite number.

Blogger Autarky Bear May 02, 2021 11:24 PM  

I wonder what you think about allowing companies to buy and sell out. I've heard from some that this should be prevented and possibly even outlawed as it eventually creates the monopolies we see today. I don't know how that would be enforced though.

Blogger David May 03, 2021 1:14 AM  

Its what happens in any industry that is monopolized or reduced to handful. They essentially own the market and can dictate terms. We can see this with Walmart or Amazon.
The only way around this is to be patient and daring and go with an independent. I believe, unlike some industries, the final retail side is not wholly locked up

Blogger Ray - SoCal May 03, 2021 1:29 AM  

VD - Congrats on doing a huge release so cleanly you can go back to normal hours so quickly!

Minor suggestions are add a link to a number for each episode below each comic box on the main page, then at the end of the link to a + limit space used. It would make checking what I have not read much faster. I also did not see a way to get from the to the arkhaven online comics site.

Blogger GB May 03, 2021 1:57 AM  

@Chris Lopes:

The sad reality is that most books never earn out their advance. That's how manifestly terrible trad publishers, editors, and agents are at their job. If they actually knew how to pick winners, independent publishing wouldn't exist.

What seems to be occurring is that the mainstream publishers retreat to safe authors with known selling power and use the profits to fund grossly unsalable SocJus books. As these fail they chip away at the profits leading to lower staff salaries, worse editors, worse artists, and even worse picks. The publishers are happy to give up genre books and non-woke pulp stuff because they don't *want* customers who buy that anyway. Nowadays just having straight white customers buy your products is considered a black mark.

So we're at classic Christensen disruption; the established firms retreat upmarket while leaving 'crappy books for crappy customers,' perfect for new publishers without woke baggage to thrive.

Blogger SciVo May 03, 2021 3:02 AM  

Speaking of published authors, Sarah Hoyt has been on a roll lately, out-couraging even Glenn Reynolds and Kurt Schlichter. Her Portuguese socialism experience, her female privilege, and her immigrant privilege have apparently combined to make her fierce in calling out the wicked:

Like all occupiers in the pay of a foreign power, they hate us and are afraid of us.

That's it. It isn't a paragraph, let alone an essay, let alone a book. But she is stating truth, and that matters.

Blogger Unknown May 03, 2021 5:32 AM  

Let's look at Tor. David Weber, who will be lucky to live out another year. Wells and her novellas about a working class robot on a journey of self discovery, eat pray love in space.

And whole bunch of poorly written trash by the most vibrant of hack writers.

Blogger VD May 03, 2021 6:04 AM  

Sooo, whatever happened to self-publishing? Anyone can get their book out there for a few thousand.

Amazon all but killed it with Kindle Unlimited and their manipulated algorithms, moron. Have you not been paying attention for the last two years?

Get your gamma under control or go away.

Blogger xavier May 03, 2021 6:19 AM  

So the backlist is also dead... unless you're a blockbuster authour.

And the publishing companies will hoard their backlists making it all but impossible for midlist authours to every buy back their rights.

Blogger Pathfinderlight May 03, 2021 6:24 AM  

Because the blessings of holy efficiency are being bestowed on the industry. Benevolent upper management makes sure to generously distribute it to all the workers and never themselves. Prattlers who talk about the benefits of competition all understand how necessary individual upper management agency is, and that government should never restrain them from blessing the masses with holy efficiency.

Hope this helps.

Blogger RedJack May 03, 2021 7:06 AM  

I had noticed the well of indie books going dry.

And a doubling of ebook prices.

Amazon is trying to kill the Kindle it seems

Blogger Leif Erikson May 03, 2021 7:37 AM  

#26 RedJack
No Amazon is well on the way to effectively monopolizing book publishing via the ultimate weapon of Kindle Unlimited.

Blogger EH May 03, 2021 9:17 AM  

I know there have been other priorities, but when was the last time Castalia House published a new book? Based on my limited search, it's been a couple of years.

Blogger VD May 03, 2021 9:19 AM  

Your "research" is off by a couple of years.

Blogger Darren May 03, 2021 9:21 AM  

@Peter Yes, but they detest three -- and four is one greater.

Blogger Darren May 03, 2021 9:23 AM  

@GB "What seems to be occurring is that the mainstream publishers retreat to safe authors with known selling power and use the profits to fund grossly unsalable SocJus books."

And "What seems to be occurring is that the mainstream film studios retreat to safe actor brands with known selling power and use the profits to fund grossly unsalable SocJus video propaganda."

cf. Video Games, increasingly.

Blogger EH May 03, 2021 9:37 AM  

Can you tell me where to find CH's new books? Besides the comics, everything on Arkhaven appears to be largely prior to 2019, and I have most of it already.

Blogger Darren May 03, 2021 9:49 AM  

@RedJack ^ see above VD re. Kindle Unlimited

"doubling of ebook prices" makes more sense now doesn't it.

Blogger wahr01 May 03, 2021 1:17 PM  

Application of "specialized algorithms" is going to be the antitrust issue of the 21st century.

The WH40K concept of the "dark age of technology" is in play here, as the judiciary is fundamentally incapable of understanding the concept of algorithmic manipulation, and neither are legislatures.

Blogger RedJack May 03, 2021 1:20 PM  

It does. Not my industry other than as a consumer, but such things are common in disruptive industries.
The disruptive force is converged by the same forces they disruptived

Blogger Based Boomer May 03, 2021 7:38 PM  

I'm gonna guess that the mainstream publishers who make it out on top somehow capitalized on the SJW plague to destroy competition and ensure an "economic moat" that looked insane on the surface.

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