Pub Rants

HarperCollins New Imprint

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STATUS: I can see the glass of my desktop. This is the first time in about a month that I’ve reduced the piles enough to have a clear surface. Now I’m off to do client reading like mad because I’m a little behind.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? WHEN LOVE COMES TO TOWN by U2 and B.B. King

When I first read the news, I immediately thought of Vanguard and the new imprint model Roger Cooper is exploring over there at The Perseus Books Group.

This, too, is an advance-less imprint with some big differences. Basically Vanguard focuses mostly on fiction and working with PR-savvy authors who already have an established name and fan base. Instead of an advance, Roger allocates a budget of 50 to 100k (or an agreed upon amount) for marketing and promotion and then there is a 50/50 split with the author in profits.

It’s an alternative for name authors looking for a different publishing model.

For the new HarperCollins imprint, it’s not clear where the focus will be but I hear the emphasis is on nonfiction. So far I haven’t heard mention whether the monies will be used instead on marketing/promotion as in the Vanguard model. The press release only mentioned a focus on the internet marketing and not buying-in co-op space in the stores.

So my thoughts (off the cuff and will probably evolve as I hear and read about how those first authors do with this imprint):

1. I can see this working for established authors with clear name recognition. Not sure I can see the advantage for a debut writer unless he/she has a large platform.

2. One of the biggest issues in publishing is how long it takes to publish. Since most books take 12 months to hit the shelves (and sometimes 18 or 24), this is a huge concern. I’d like to see an advantage in speed for this imprint—to forgo the advance to get books out in a timely manner (which can be a huge leg-up for nonfiction titles).

3. Connected to this is accounting periods. With this new publishing model, I’d like to see a revamping in the accounting/royalty statement period. Currently, publishers release statements twice a year and thus hold author monies/earnings for that time span. Since there is no advance paid, I’d like to see more regular royalty statements so authors do not have to wait unduly for their earnings from this imprint (as they haven’t had any other book monies to live off of in the meantime). Otherwise an author could be waiting up to a year, a year and 6 months, or whatever before seeing any return on their investment in writing/publishing the book. Since we are shifting the publishing paradigm…

4. Will there be monies allocated to marketing/promotion? Will there be a dedicated marketing person or publicist?

I’m sure tomorrow I’ll think of five other things to add here…

8 Responses

  1. Jamie Hall said:

    The discussion I’ve seen so far among writers has not been very positive.

    There is a lot of fear about this being either:
    (1) an experiment which ends up failing
    (2) a success for the publisher but not the author, which will prompt spreading of this business model and harm authors over the long run

  2. Gary B. Phillips said:

    What does this mean for agents such as yourself? I understand that the author may get a 50/50 split, but how does the author’s agent get paid? Do they just take their 10-20% from the 50/50 split?

  3. Marva said:

    Looks a lot like they’re cutting agents out of the equation. I’ve also seen thoughts that the profit split is very Hollywood. That is, jimmying the books for zero profit. Hmm. So, how much does an author make? Zero. How much does an agent make? 15% of Zero.

  4. Lorelei said:

    Years ago Robert Silverberg agreed to a similar deal. He would take a smaller advance and the publisher would allocate the money to marketing the book. He later sued and discovered that no extra money was spent on marketing his book. Someone should ask him what he thinks about this special deal for “established” authors.

  5. Richard White said:

    As an friend of mine commented earlier: You know the publisher is getting paid up front, the editor is getting paid up front, the cover artists, the copyeditors, the marketing department.

    The only one not getting paid up front in this scenario is the person actually producing the work – the author.

  6. wplasvegas said:

    So lemme get dis straight. I fin de lan. I grow de pot. I smuggle it cross de border… den I gib it all to you for noteeng, an at de en of de bizness yeer, you gonna gib me one haf ob all de profitt you got leff?

    I don teenk so.

  7. Shez said:

    I agreed last year to a deal with no advance. Reasons were: a very tight publishing deadline (and I already had a manuscript that fit their series), it was a educational publisher with a good track record in doing things differently with what they published, the editor was a total dream to work with (big plus as I was dealing with another problematic editor at the time).
    What has happened since? My agent was not happy as he had no input into the contract (it was take it or leave it). The second five of the series, of which mine was one, was supposed to be published by 31 March (now they tell me they don’t know the expected release date). And the promise of further opportunities to submit manuscripts has not eventuated.
    The thing that aggravates me the most? They haven’t stuck to their original publication date. So I have to wait and wait and wait, and am now wondering if the first five bomb, maybe the second five will be cancelled. So no advance, no book, nothing.
    The one thing an advance does is give you money up front for what you have laboured over. Even if the book doesn’t come out, you haven’t completely lost. With no advance, you are relying completely on the publisher to follow through and do what they say.
    Huh. Never do that again.