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High times in publishing!

January 6, 2009

It’s a new week in a new year.  Why NOT write another article about the downturn in publishing due to the new economy.

Except, I’m not sure what publishing world this article is talking about:

For decades the New York publishing world promised a romantic life of fancy lunches, sparkling parties, sophisticated banter and trips to spots like the Caribbean to pitch books to sales representatives. If the salaries were not exactly Wall Street caliber, well, they came with a milieu that mixed cultural swagger with pure Manhattan high life.

Seriously?  Has this writer ever TALKED to someone in book publishing.  Because that’s not the world I know.

Sure, I got to go to a book launch at Gracie Mansion, where we ate Costco style appetizers and mingled with the elite of the Landmarks Commission. That’s hardly Capote’s Black and White Ball, I’ll have you know.  Events like that don’t happen every day, week or even month.

Yes, on occasion, we travel to warm climates to have sales conferences.  Business travel being so glamorous, and all.  It doesn’t mention that often you don’t see the outside of the hotel for days at a time.  I’d much rather be home with my family at night than having to sleep in a generic hotel room and face back to back meetings the next day.  I can see BEA being less important to publishers but Frankfurt and London are awfully important to deal making, and to portray them as a total boondoggle is misleading.

I really don’t think that even if our expense accounts were taking on as much as this article implies, that it’s the biggest problem we’re facing in publishing.  How about sky-high advances for mid-list books that don’t earn out?  What about printing books to sell into an account for a promotion, and then having to take 1/2 of them back, not to be resold, and that’s considered a success?

I can see people reading this and getting really mad, thinking that we’re all ready for our next meal at Le Cirque.  Well, I certainly am, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to be expensing it.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    January 6, 2009 10:46 am

    I’m not sure the Indy publishing world was ever so glamourous. In my 12+ years with IDG/HMI/Wiley, I can recall:

    * Holiday parties at the Indiana Roof ballroom and Columbia Club. Probably ranks about a 4/10 on the NYC scale of glamour.

    * I’d guess the most exotic biz trip I ever took was to San Diego for the old Waterside Conference. A few pricey meals with million+ selling authors, but that’s about as good as it got.

    Can’t comment on sales conference – never been. I’ve gotten to stay in a few metropolitan hotels that normally I wouldn’t board in unless the company were picking up the tab. Otherwise it’s mostly been a 16 mile commute up I-69 in my 2000 Chevy Astro to and from my suburban office. We occasionally see deer frolicking behind the building. That’s pretty glamourous by Hoosier standards.

    I will say I like the idea of the beer & pizza holiday party.

  2. January 6, 2009 10:46 am

    I think the fancy lunch is the mystique of how glamorous business in New York (all media businesses actually), but I have to admit that there were moments in fairly recent history that I did actually bear witness to some of this.

    There was a brief, shiny moment sometime in the early 90s when Barnes & Nobles and Borders were opening on every corner, and at the same time the bubbling dot-coms were luring editorial talent away from print and into digital publishing. Those two factors converged to make life as a Publisher or Acquisitions editor pretty lush for a few years — salaries in the industry went up by over 30% and the enormous competition to sign talent to fill the shelves of all those miles of shelves in those new stores (and that mysterious new thing called too) made way for expense accounts and advance budgets that were unprecedented.

    That crazy growth, however, was totally unsustainable. Once the dot-com bubble burst, and new stores were no longer coming online, we were left with no new growth, a significant erosion of independent bookstores, consumer trained to expect cheap prices on books, and a overabundance of new “B-level” titles.

  3. January 6, 2009 11:10 am

    It’s funny you post this. Whenever I tell non-publishing people I work in publishing, it’s clear they think I work in the glamourized version you mention above. I guess if staying at Mandalay Bay for a geek conference qualifies as glamourous, then I’ve been there, done that. Whatever the case, that article is missing the boat. I’ll throw another macro problem out into the discussion and it’s an issue no one wants to talk about – myself included – and that is the impact the availability of free information on the Internet has had on traditional print publishing – more specifically non-fiction reference.

  4. January 6, 2009 12:19 pm

    Great points, Julie, Steve and Katie. I’d comment more on them but I’m on my way out for a 3 martini expense account lunch.

  5. Jenny Webb permalink
    January 6, 2009 4:02 pm

    Yes, all of those trips to the Carribean on business expense dime has made me long for the time that I stood for 10 hours non-stop at Java One 2001 in SF – and had to sleep for 3 nights afterwards with my feet propped on pillows….NOW THAT IS BUSINESS TRAVEL!

  6. January 7, 2009 1:32 am

    Hey, from the author’s side? Let us not forget the ever-glamorous PR tours. (When they occur). Peeps think they are so grand – forgetting the long hours and non-stop travel.

  7. January 7, 2009 9:00 am

    My Fashion Design Career was much more glamourous. Ha. That in itself could be a book.
    Why do people think certain careers immediately conjure images of glamour and good taste.

  8. January 7, 2009 4:04 pm

    Marsha, there isn’t much that’s glamorous about a press tour, that’s for sure.

    PVE – I think it’s the media that gives this impression. TV shows and movies that portray all the glitz of these worlds are fiction, and certainly not what we experience in real life.

  9. November 12, 2010 4:23 pm

    thanks a lot . i share my blog it post.


  1. My Glamorous Publishing Life

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