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[Publisher] Pan Macmillan / Macmillan New Writing

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victoriastrauss

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Aconite said:
There's a problem with his logic. He says that some "bloody good things" get "filtered out" by agents and publishers...and to illustrate that, uses the example of a book that was picked up by a mainstream publisher because it was good.
Exactly. You could as easily use this example to support an argument that talent will eventually find its way to success.

This is always the logic problem with the "undiscovered geniuses in the slush pile" notion. The poster boy for this is John Kennedy O'Toole--who ultimately did get published, and thus contradicts the assertion he is supposed to support.

- Victoria
 

victoriastrauss

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ResearchGuy said:
Is this a sign of a new type of Gresham's Law? Bad publishing drives out good? (Gresham's Law is the economic phenomenon that bad money drives out good. Should be a highly Googleable term.)
Based on the fate of iPublish and Inside Sessions, I'd guess that in this case good publishing will drive out bad. If they really are going to throw these books out there with little support and what amounts to a scarlet letter (does it make sense, if you're going to publish books you won't edit, to advertise that fact by grouping them in their own imprint?), I suspect that they will lose money even with the all-rights contracts (it's a lot harder to sell subrights if a book isn't a sales or critical success), or make a profit too small to justify keeping the program going. Since I'm a Sage, I feel justified in making a prognostication: a couple or three years from now, this program will quietly expire.

- Victoria
 

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victoriastrauss said:
...
This is always the logic problem with the "undiscovered geniuses in the slush pile" notion. The poster boy for this is John Kennedy [Toole]--who ultimately did get published, and thus contradicts the assertion he is supposed to support.
Yes, ultimately did get published, after he had committed suicide, alas, and after his mother invested years of effort attempting to get attention for the manuscript before finally catching the eye of Walker Percy, after which the rest is history. I don't think that the John Kennedy Toole story is anything but a one-off phenomenon. A Confederacy of Dunces, by the way, is unambiguously a work of genius. How that escaped recognition as long as it did is beyond me. But I am not persuaded that the fact that through his mother's diligent effort his book was published years after his death proves or disproves any thesis about what is in the slush piles. (See http://www.levity.com/corduroy/toole.htm for Walker Percy's introduction to Toole's book.)

--Ken
 

Roger J Carlson

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Good Grief! First there were outright scams (PA). Then the small publishers jumped on the bandwagon (Rock Publishing, DNA Press). Now the big guys are trying to screw the writers. What's next?

Well, that's probably not fair. I doubt that any of them (except PA and the like) intend to screw writers. They probably just see it as a way to maximize revenue in tough times. The only problem is they're going at it all wrong. It's like banks making more money off the fees they charge customers than by investing the money they hold. They've lost the vision of what their industry is about. This is probably self-correcting. I hope so, anyway.
 

astonwest

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victoriastrauss said:
This reminds me of Time Warner's ill-fated iPublish program (which was also, supposedly, a system to "give new writers a chance", and featured a really bad, exploitive contract)...

:scared:
Aggggggghhhhhhh! Blast from the past!

I remember being involved in that whole iPub thing...yikes! I always found the idea fascinating, of having authors compete with one another and critique each others' work...as if THAT wouldn't be abused...

I wonder whatever happened to the folks who had been selected for contracts...

Oddly enough, some of the folks I met through that stint are folks I ended up meeting again through various writing sites...
 

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Roger J Carlson said:
Good Grief! First there were outright scams (PA)....
There were more outrageous scams before PA. Read Ten Percent of Nothing. And the whole vanity publishing thing has been going on for generations (Vantage, Dorrance ...).

--Ken
 

victoriastrauss

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ResearchGuy said:
But I am not persuaded that the fact that through his mother's diligent effort his book was published years after his death proves or disproves any thesis about what is in the slush piles.
I completely agree. But people who are convinced that large numbers of excellent writers are overlooked by the hidebound publishing industry often invoke him as the ultimate example of a talented writer who "couldn't get published".

- Victoria
 

brokenfingers

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I find this very disturbing insofar as it is indicative of the mindset of the people who run the big publishing houses.

It seems like they are trying to cut expenses as much as possibe while they try a scattershot approach.

So what if they put 1000 failures out there. They’re gambling on getting that one big kill in there that will reap them millions with their totally one-sided contract.

It’s as if the execs said:

We don’t know what the hell is gonna sell, so let’s throw all these two cent baits into the sea and if that big fish we call the public sees one it likes – well then we’ll reel it in, print out more, sell the movie rights, and get ready for the sequel.

Next step: Fire the editors and hire acquisitions managers.

Big business strikes again….
 
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DaveKuzminski

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What some folks fail to notice is not that Toole was a genius in his writing, but that he simply might not have possessed the same skills for submission use. If that was the case, then it's not completely a fault of the system that he was overlooked.
 

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DaveKuzminski said:
What some folks fail to notice is not that Toole was a genius in his writing, but that he simply might not have possessed the same skills for submission use. If that was the case, then it's not completely a fault of the system that he was overlooked.
Perhaps. But more likely, I believe, in the 1960s the publishing world was just not yet ready for Ignatius J. Reilly.

This is heartbreaking:

Toole sent his novel's manuscript to Simon and Schuster. After initial excitement about the book, the publisher eventually rejected it, saying that the book "isn't really about anything." Toole began to deteriorate rapidly after he lost hope of publishing his book, which he considered to be a masterpiece. He began to drink heavily and started taking medication for headaches; he also stopped teaching at Dominican and quit his doctoral classes at Tulane. (http://www.answers.com/topic/john-kennedy-toole)
--Ken
 

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From the Guardian article (link on first post of this thread):
Macmillan will copy edit books, but if manuscripts need more detailed work, it will suggest that writers employ freelance editors.

Straightaway they're suggesting that new, inexperienced writers are going to have to spend money on getting their books edited. What happened to Yog's Law about money always flowing towards the author?

Michael Barnard said, "Like a lot of mainstream publishers we haven't in recent years been accepting unsolicited manuscripts, but only ones sent through agents. And we are not discovering as many authors as we need."

To me, the logical answer to their problem would be to stop refusing to see unagented manuscripts. I mean no offence by this. I would LOVE to have an agent of my own, but if Macmillan are implying that they aren't finding enough new talent by only going through agents...

He also said, "There are literally tens of thousands of writers out there - and we have a responsibility to help them. We can't do that by paying a half million advance to every author."

These statements are just plain unreasonable. I don't know why he said them -- the only reason I can think of is that he wants to misdirect attention. Publishers don't have a responsibility to help writers. They have a responsibility to provide readable, affordable books to the public. I seriously doubt that every new author is expecting a half million advance -- more like a low (very low, as low as possible, probably) four figure advance. Rather than paying half a million to one author, they could be paying one thousand each to five hundred authors.
 
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dink

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*previous post continued, because my computer can't seem to handle long posts at the moment*

the standard contract means Macmillan will acquire all rights (such as overseas publishing deals) to the work, and, if it wishes, can publish a second book under the same terms as the first.

Why are they grabbing all rights? What's in it for the author? And why make it part of the deal that the second book be published under the same terms? Surely if the first book was successful enough that they would consider publishing a second one by the same author, then the author should be able to negotiate a better deal.

According to Barnard: "We won't be spending as much on marketing and promotion as on novels that have had big advances; but we believe we can find new ways of promoting and selling these books." He said the books would appear in the main Pan Macmillan catalogue and would be "very posh books" with ribbon markers, sold at £15. He expected them to become "collectors' items".

So not only will the books receive little in the way of marketing, beyond appearing in Macmillan's catalogue, but they'll also be more expensive than other comparable books. Yes, I can really see them flying off the shelves at my local bookshop. "Collectors' items" are things that are rare, aren't they? Nice to see that he's admitting upfront how small the sales are going to be.

But Scott Pack, buying manager at Waterstone's, welcomed the initiative. "I think it's a fantastic idea," he said. "When books are presented to me by publishers they prioritise the ones to which they have given large advances. But the bestsellers are not necessarily the ones that have had big advances. This creates a level playing field."

It doesn't create a level playing field. The New Writing books will look different and cost more. They're going to stand out horribly.

"Agents and publishers act as a filter, but they will filter out some bloody good things," he said. "There are loads of gems on people's slush piles."

Again, I would think that the solution would be for Macmillan to have a look through their slushpile, huge as it must be, find those gems and give them a proper chance at success. This new scheme just seems like a hybrid of commercial and vanity publication, and I can't imagine that it will succeed.
 

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*sorry to be triple-posting -- my computer is being a right royal pain in the bottom*

From Macmillan's own site:

The books are sold in the market by Macmillan and will be carried in the company's catalogues, but to keep costs to a minimum to allow the maximum number of new writers to get a chance at publication, all arrangements for publication and contracts with authors are standard and there is a minimum of communication between publisher and author.

Again, their only mention of marketing is that the books will appear in their catalogues. Keeping 'a minimum of communication between publisher and author' actually sounds a lot like PublishAmerica's way of doing business. Not something to be emulated. Also not keen on the non-negotiable aspect of the contract.

There.

My main problem with this is that, with no advance to the author, they have very little incentive to make any effort to sell the book. Their only costs will be copyediting, sending out the boilerplate contract and author's guide, typesetting, putting the book in their catalogue, and eventually printing (and will that be offset or POD?) the book, complete with collectible ribbon marker.

My other problem is that if the book does well, the author has no room to negotiate a better deal -- either with selling the other rights (unfortunately all will belong to Macmillan) or getting more favourable terms on their second book (unfortunately the same terms will apply).

EDITED TO ADD: I've also posted my thoughts on this (word for word what you can see here, pretty much) in Agentobscura's LiveJournal.
 
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Torgo

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A few telling bits:

Macmillan denies sharp practice. "I have been through over a thousand manuscripts, and, hand on heart, I haven't had a single author who has said it's unfair ... We are doing this with great integrity," Barnard said.

Not yet you haven't! I see the PA thing happening with their authors...

According to Barnard: "We won't be spending as much on marketing and promotion as on novels that have had big advances; but we believe we can find new ways of promoting and selling these books." He said the books would appear in the main Pan Macmillan catalogue and would be "very posh books" with ribbon markers, sold at £15. He expected them to become "collectors' items".

Now, that's hilarious. If Macmillan had discovered new and cost-effective ways to promote and sell books they'd be using them on their main list, where they need them. I suspect that these new methods might involve the author rather more... You might also find that big, royalty-slashing discounting may play a part. There has to be some way for the poor Macmillan sales reps to incentivise buyers, who will be unwilling to pick up many unedited books from authors with no sales history. As for the collectors' items line - that's essentially an admission that they will have limited commercial appeal, and they look forward to sales to friends and family.

Scott Pack, buying manager at Waterstone's, welcomed the initiative. "I think it's a fantastic idea," he said. "When books are presented to me by publishers they prioritise the ones to which they have given large advances. But the bestsellers are not necessarily the ones that have had big advances. This creates a level playing field."

Well, Scott is entitled to his opinion, but that's the sort of thing that makes me worry about Waterstone's. Their central buying system is particularly biased against new authors, and one of the reasons that the playing field isn't level. Barmy.
 

Lauri B

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Okay, I'm not condoning this in any way and I think it's really crappy of Macmillan to use an PA-type operating model, but from a revenue-generating standpoint, I'm sure they looked at what PA does and saw a potential cash cow. I mean, come on--if they don't offer any advances, use an operating model where the authors will have to buy copies, retain all rights (you never know if there will be a gem mixed in with the rotten ones), and retain all rights for the second book if they want it, it's a pretty decent deal for them if they can churn the authors through quickly. Their upfront financial commitment is negligible, outside of printing costs, some in-house proofreading, and putting together their catalog, since they say they are going to advise their authors to hire their own editors. I have a feeling some marketing "packages" will be available to their authors, as well, to offset any other costs Macmillan might incur. We'll see--it definitely cheapens the brand name, though. I feel bad for the "real" Macmillan authors, actually.
 

Richard

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there is a minimum of communication between publisher and author.

Well, that says it all, I think. They don't want to talk to you, they don't want to promote you, they don't want you in their mainstream line. Basically, it's a chance to be Macmillan's red-haired stepchild.

Woo! Sign me the hell up!
 

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He said the books would appear in the main Pan Macmillan catalogue and would be "very posh books" with ribbon markers, sold at £15.

Right. Because the thing that most determines whether or not I'll buy a book is whether it comes with a ribbon bookmark, which is just so damned posh.
 

victoriastrauss

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Nomad said:
We'll see--it definitely cheapens the brand name, though.
I agree, and I suspect it will be this (as well as the discovery that publishing unreliably-edited, unsupported books isn't as profitable or hassle-free as they think) that eventually will put paid to the program.

- Victoria
 

Lauri B

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Aconite said:
Right. Because the thing that most determines whether or not I'll buy a book is whether it comes with a ribbon bookmark, which is just so damned posh.

Ha! It's going to be a very nice book ribbon, though. Well worth the extra cash.
 

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Only 6 books?

I read the article a couple of days ago and if I remember correctly they will be publishing six books a year (or they have already signed six books). If the imprint will be publishing such a low number of titles what's the point of cutting costs and claiming that this is a way to publish more new authors?

I had the same reaction others did to the whining about not finding new authors. Isn't that what a slush pile is for? (Okay, maybe not. I might just be a little naive on that point.)

And I'm still not sure what the point of all this is. So they cut some costs by not paying for editing, advances and marketing. But if they don't sell any books because of that then what have they gained? I saw no hint that they might be trying the PA route in selling copies to authors. This just reeks of a Very Bad Marketing Idea born after a late night brain storming session. Just another example of "marketing dorks" trying to treat books like widgets.

Hopefully Pan Macmillan will wake up and realize that cutting costs in this way is not worth the added headache of public dissatisfaction.
 

DaveKuzminski

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Is it possible that this was first announced as an April Fool's joke meant to play off the PA business model that remained around longer than it should have?