You’re paranoid, they said.
You’re gloomy about the entire industry because you got boned by an editor, they said.
But mostly, you’re wrong. So said a couple of my writer friends who were put off by my pronouncement on the state of the book industry a few days ago.
What I wrote was, “…over the next couple years, I fervently believe there will be no vibrant market. There will be, in fact, damned few books deals going ’round. It’s been ugly for a while, it’s getting uglier, and there will be lots and lots of great writers whose voices you won’t hear for a few years when it comes to novels published by a major house.”
Trey, don’t be such a wet noodle.
Here’s a bit of an email I got yesterday, it’s from the PW (Publisher’s Weekly) Daily Alert.
“It’s been clear for months that it will be a not-so-merry holiday season for publishers, but at least one house has gone so far as to halt acquisitions. PW has learned that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has asked its editors to stop buying books.”
There is other verbiage, that’s it’s “not a permanent change,” that the right projects could still be greenlighted, etc., etc. But what else do you need to know? One of the largest book publishers in the world is no longer buying books.
Yeah, that Trey is so gloomy.
I mean, okay, yeah, I am, but that’s not the point in this particular case.
One of HMH’s head muckety mucks, in the press release, said, “In this case, it’s a symbol of doing things smarter; it’s not an indicator of the end of literature. We have turned off the spigot, but we have a very robust pipeline.”
First of all, they didn’t turn off the spigot. The spigot is the user end of the pipe, where water pours into a cup and where the books pour into the hands of the readers. What HMH did is close the valve at the water plant, where all the water is collected and sifted and filtered and made palatable and put into the pipeline. So when he says there is a robust pipeline, how long does he think that will last when the very thing it is filled with – literature – is no longer being put into the pipeline?
But believe it or not, there is one tiny, little, micrscopic bit in the release that actually got to me maybe more than the lack of acquisitions. This guy who doesn’t know one end of a pipe from another said that HRH’s decision “is less about taking drastic measures than conducting good business.”
Therefore, by his definition, conducting good business for a book publisher is to not buy any books. Huh? Seems to me, then, that the obvious and logical inverse is that the bad business model for a book publisher is to buy books to publish.
And this is one of the people charged with care and feeding of the industry. There are two things I’ve done my entire life, two things that are absolutely essential to how I view and how I define myself. One is music and the other is writing. And this mope is in charge of the writing side of things.
Man, oh, man, does that blow industrial chunk.
And then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, here’s the last sentence in the PW story. “But perhaps an editor at the house put it best; in an e-mail, the editor mentioned the policy and added, ‘Who knows what’s next.'”
Great…it might get worse than not buying books. I don’t even want to think about what that actually means.