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View Full Version : Publishers that have had major trouble??



profen4
09-19-2011, 04:30 AM
Hi guys,

Of course Dorchester got a lot of attention a while back when they ran into some financial troubles and switched from print to eBook publishing. But I was just wondering what other well regarded presses have had major troubles (in the last few years) and either gone under (cease to exist) or survived only after making major paradigm shifts in how they operate (like dorchester).

Cheers

CheshireCat
09-20-2011, 01:01 AM
I know Random House underwent a pretty severe restructuring a couple of years ago, though I think it was mostly due to the parent company, Bertelsmann, wanting to maximize profits in its publishing arm. They sent over a money guy from Germany -- whose name I can't remember -- and after spending a few months studying the setup, he set about consolidating a LOT.

Heads rolled. Really big heads, I mean. Irwyn Applebaum went, and he virtually built the mass market paperback programs over there. Imprints were consolidated under single executive editors or publishers. Lots of editors -- mostly at the "publisher" level -- were fired or given early retirement. If I remember correctly, even the main guys in the art department got the ax.

Bloody times over there. But I don't think it was a move out of desperation, I think they were trying to avoid it coming to that.

Of course, this is also the company that has tried to get the backlist of every author they've ever published out there as an ebook, whether they have that right or not.

thothguard51
09-20-2011, 01:07 AM
After 2008, lots of publishers went through a restructuring cycle. The big six are still the big six and smaller imprints are still around as well as some pretty new publishers.

Seems to me the biggest bust since 2008 are the book sellers struggling to find themselves in this evolving publishing climate.

profen4
09-20-2011, 01:10 AM
Can you think of any that actually closed up shop? I can only think of Key Porter Books and Kunati Books. But I'm sure there were more.

I'm just doing some research for a blog post - but I'd like to point to publishers who had a presence in major book chains and at least some history.

thothguard51
09-20-2011, 01:40 AM
While I can't recall specific names, I have seen more magazines, both print and ezines, go out of business than well established publishers.

Of course, there are hundreds of small, self-published publishers out there that have folded. Of course most of those never truly got off the ground.

I think it will depend on what you classify as a publisher, such as POD publishers...

Little Ming
09-20-2011, 01:45 AM
Night Shade Books went through some hard times recently. But I think they still exist.

blacbird
09-20-2011, 06:54 AM
Can you think of any that actually closed up shop? I can only think of Key Porter Books and Kunati Books.

I never heard of either of these places, which may say something. Would you call either of them "major publishers"?

Not too long ago we had a rancorous thread here where someone new to the site went off on "celebrity books", and how their failure supposedly had caused major publishers to tank. Several people countered this assertion, asking for documentation of which publishers had failed. To which, as I recall, there was no response or documentation.

Businesses have ups and downs. Small businesses routinely get killed by the "downs", largely due to capitalization issues. Big businesses tend to adjust, reorganize, downsize, and proceed on. HarperCollins had a highly-publicized issue back in the 1990s, when they paid an ungodly advance to Johnny Cochrane, the flamboyant defense attorney in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, for his memoir of those events. The book tanked, bigtime, and HC publicly announced the cancellation of something like 100 contracts for other writers to make up the deficit.

But HarperCollins remains extant, and remains one of the biggest publishers in the world.

caw

KTC
09-20-2011, 01:22 PM
There's a publisher in Canada going through a tough time right now. They were written up in Quill & Quire and I heard that Publishers Weekly will be doing an article on them also. LOBSTER PRESS

http://www.quillandquire.com/google/article.cfm?article_id=11962

profen4
09-20-2011, 05:43 PM
Them I knew about ;) (see sig.)

IceCreamEmpress
09-20-2011, 08:20 PM
I think that the big US publishers are pretty recessionproof. They're mostly subsidiaries of large multinational, multi-industry corporations. There have been major restructurings and some downsizings, but I haven't heard even the wildest gossip that suggests any of them are likely to fold.

A lot of big US publishers closed during the 1930s economic depression, and it seems like the people who own the current market leaders have been watchful of those examples during the recent and ongoing hard times.

CheshireCat
09-21-2011, 02:13 AM
I think that the big US publishers are pretty recessionproof. They're mostly subsidiaries of large multinational, multi-industry corporations. There have been major restructurings and some downsizings, but I haven't heard even the wildest gossip that suggests any of them are likely to fold.

Yeah, what's been happening over the last few decades has been a consolidation of imprints under giant multi-media conglomerates. Bantam, Dell, Ballantine, and Doubleday used to be separate companies. Now all the inprints, if they still exist, are under the Random House/Bertelesmann umbrella. Silhouette used to be a separate imprint, but now it's part of Harlequin. And Hachette (French-owned family company) bought up -- either Time-Warner or Harper Collins, I can never remember which.

The thing is, the publishing arms of those companies have, traditionally, been the least profitable. And that was okay for a while, since other arms were raking in profits. But now many of the companies behind the Big 6 expect publishing to make "decent" profits for them as well. Hence all the cost-cutting, despite the parent companies still having deep pockets.

And the consolidation has definitely affected the number of print markets authors can submit to. I mean, you can say all day that Bantam and Ballantine are different imprints, with different editors, and that an agent could shop a manuscript to both places -- but I just heard today that Bantam editorial has been "moving floors," and word is they may be sharing space with Ballantine.

So in something like an auction situation, I seriously doubt you'd get bids from both imprints; they would decide among themselves which imprint was best suited to the project and only one bid would come in from RH.

Then you've got Amazon, busy creating imprints of its own, and who knows how that will turn out. They could be wildly successful and drive a few other publishers out of the business. They could fail spectacularly. Or they could just become part of the publishing landscape, offering, perhaps, more Internet marketing smarts than the Big 6 can match anytime soon, but lacking the paper distribution channels.

And maybe that won't even make a difference. Who knows?

We live in interesting times. In Chinese-curse terms, I mean.

:Shrug:

Medievalist
09-21-2011, 02:31 AM
Honestly, you'd have to look back to the mid-eighties to the early 1990s.

That's when the consolidation started, when Random House, Hatchette, Holzbrink, and Bertelsman and etc. etc. started buying up everything in sight. And they're all invested in all sorts of things besides publishing.

I used to write for four different (and competitive) consumer compter book publishers.

As of c. 2000, they're all owned by Pearson. All are doing quite well, thanks, but it's all one publisher.

I used to write for four higher ed English Comp/literature textbook companies. They're all owned by Macmillan now. Again, they're doing quite well after the 2008 slump, but it's one giant happy publisher.

IceCreamEmpress
09-21-2011, 08:59 PM
CheshireCat and Medievalist both make excellent points about consolidation in the US publishing industry. The impact of the many consolidations is certainly deeply felt by everyone working for/freelancing for/published by the affected publishers/imprints (self included!) but it's not the kind of public implosion that's visible to readers like the Dorchester thing has been.

willietheshakes
09-21-2011, 09:15 PM
I never heard of either of these places, which may say something.

That you're American?

Bubastes
09-21-2011, 09:19 PM
MacAdam/Cage (publisher of The Time Traveler's Wife) is going through some tough shifts:
http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/47088-macadam-cage-fighting-to-stay-in-business.html