Robert S. Miller, founder and president of Hyperion, announced on Thursday that he was leaving the company to head up a new imprint for HarperCollins. The new division will reportedly focus on publishing short, “popular-priced” books; pay authors low advances—or none at all—but share profits equally with them; and send releases to bookstores on a non-returnable basis. (AP)
What the commentators said
Miller’s move certainly “surprised many industry insiders,” said Motoko Rich in The New York Times, but it makes a certain amount of sense. “Author advances and bookseller returns have long troubled the publishing industry. Best-selling authors can command advances so high that publishers often come away with slim profits, even for books that are significant successes. Publishers also sometimes offer high advances to untested authors in the hopes of creating new hits, but often those gambles do not pan out.”
Please, said Ryan Tate in the blog Apoklyptk. HarperCollins “decided that the book biz is too hard these days so it’s going to try to get everyone else to do its job for it.” If “its books don’t sell? That’s the bookstores’ problem.” If “writers need to eat?” Let them get into credit card debt. But maybe this shake up will make writers realize that they don’t need publishing companies, that “there is actually a way to publish your stuff for free to the entire world without giving up most of the revenue.”
HarperCollins’ plan isn’t perfect, said Kassia Krozser in the blog Booksquare, but at least they’re “trying to push publishing into this century.” It’s going to be a slow process, though. “It will be a long time before an effective ‘no returns’ policy can be implemented. After all, how do you get everyone past the gloating ‘1,000,000 units shipped’ announcements?” And it’s great that authors could share profits “as high as 50%,” but “the question is, ‘Fifty percent of what?’”
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