HC New Paradigm

I just read the ICV2 article about Harper Collins starting an imprint that will only sell on a nonreturnable basis, won’t pay for premium store display space, will focus marketing on the internet, and won’t pay author advances.

My first thought is: Subtract the Harper Collins name and this is no different than some guy with almost no money deciding to become a publisher in his basement. I can think of several tiny publishers that have the same practices. No distributors. Very little risk of to their own capital.

These tiny companies often end up exploiting creators. Will the Harper Collins name be enough to generate a sales volume that will ensure authors are adequately compensated? They’re cutting costs in marketing and returns. These are two huge expenses for publishers. Is it right to cut the advances too? It’s an experimental program that could bomb. The authors will presumably have to do as much work producing a book for this program as for any traditional publishing program. Why should they have to assume so much more risk to participate?

Publishing is a tough business. Of course, I know this first hand. It’s also a cooperative effort between creators and management. Creator costs should not be considered different than salary for other employees. The creators are the most important ’employees’ of all. You wouldn’t ask for an accountant to work a year before seeing their first paycheck. Maybe the accountant would say ok if they were guaranteed a certain amount in the end. They’re asking for an ok for possibly no future reward. I say ‘no’ as in zero. None at all, or sometimes $20. This is what I’ve seen smaller companies pay (or not) in royalties.

I must point out that the article didn’t mention ‘royalties’ but ‘profit sharing.’ I could be missing something in this equation that will prove it’s fair to authors.


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