A brutal look at publishing from Crain's Business New York
By Matthew Flamm
SAVING TREES: [+] SAVING TREES: Brian Napack says Macmillan is getting to the point where manuscripts will move through a paperless system. Photo by Buck Ennis
Filed Under :
Brave New World, Hachette, HarperCollins, Top Stories
Last week, an auction for a book by Capt. Richard Phillips, the merchant-ship hero who saved his crew from pirates, drew top bids of around $500,000—half the seven-figure advance it had been expected to fetch.
At least that book had bidders. In February, the William Morris Agency failed to find any takers for a Britney Spears memoir.
Further down the food chain, the mere mortals of book publishing—professional writers—are having a tougher time too. “Somebody said to me recently, "$35,000 is the new $75,000,' “ says Michael Morrison, president of the general books division at HarperCollins Publishers.
Faced with declining sales and a bleak outlook for consumer spending, the book publishing industry is cutting costs where it can. At the same time, it is digitizing systems to do more with fewer bodies and less paper, experimenting with online marketing and pouring resources into e-books—a still-tiny segment that is seen as the industry's one hope for growth.
Underlying all these efforts is the feeling that the book business has changed, and that it may never go back to the way it was.
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