Friday, October 10, 2008

Some Publishing Numbers in this Economic Downturn

(this is taken directly from Publisher's Lunch)

The Publishing Ticker: How Bad Is It? How are publishing-related entities faring relative the overall market as stock prices continue to fall? Fair warning: this story is not for the faint of heart, so skip down if you need to.

Below are some comparative results, looking over the past month, and in particular at the six days of trading ending with yesterday's market close. In this corner of the world, debt-free Barnes & Noble has been the most resilient so far, and among publishers and their parent companies, Pearson appears to have held up the best (though among somewhat smaller companies Bloomsbury is the star performer). As a benchmark, the S&P 500 is down 27.5 percent since its peak within that month on September 19, dropping 21.5 percent in the past 6 days. Since we're looking at some UK-traded companies, note that the FTSE 100 have given up over 20 percent in the past month, dropping 13 percent in the past 6 sessions ending yesterday.

Barnes & Noble is off 19 percent from their high on September 19 of 29.06, beginning their tumble after S&P cut their rating on the stock to "sell." But the stock is down only 10 percent in the last 6 trading sessions.

Scholastic had peaked on September 19, and is down 26 percent since then. The company has slid only 13 percent for the last 6 trading sessions.

John Wiley is off 25 percent from its September 11 high of 43.64, losing 19 percent in the past 6 sessions. Of the group the company is suffering the most in today's trading however, down over 8 percent in the first hour.

Borders is off 44 percent from their high on September 11 of 7.80, and down 35 percent in the last 6 trading sessions.

Books-a-Million has fallen even further, giving up 49 percent since peaking at 7.20 on September 11, shedding 25 percent in the past 6 days.

Among book publishers with publicly-traded parent companies, Pearson's London shares peaked on September 12 at 697.50 pence and have dropped 22 percent since then, but they have given up only 8 percent in the last 6 sessions.

Hachette parent Lagardere is down 31.5 percent from its high of 38.22 on September 12, giving up almost 19 percent in the last 6 days.

Harper's owners News Corp. are down 36 percent since peaking on September 12, dropping 24 percent in the past 6 sessions.

Simon & Schuster parent CBS is down 40 percent since September 11, giving up almost 30 percent in the past 6 days.

But, as noted above, Bloomsbury has been quite resilient, losing just 3.5 percent over the past month and actually gaining 8 percent in the past six sessions.

A little further afield, Amazon peaked at $81 a share on September 19, losing 31 percent since then. The company has declined 19.5 percent in the past 6 days. Company News: Lulu Layoffs; Harper Studio UK; and More is laying off 24 employees, almost a quarter of their workforce of 100. The reductions include recently-hired president Bryce Boothby Jr. and European vp Cristel Lee Leed. The company plans to relocate its headquarters from Morrisville, NC to Raleigh within the next few months. CEO Bob Young tells NewMediaAge "with the credit and capital markets frozen solid Lulu couldn't continue burning through money at its previous pace. We're very disappointed.... we were forced into a position of having to cut costs."

Bob Miller's Harper Studio has made an agreement with Harper UK to provide for direct publication in the UK, Australia and New Zealand of nearly all the books signed by the start-up so far. Studio is working with Harper UK nonfiction publisher Carole Tonkinson and editorial director Susanna Abbott. The same piece, Miller admits to The Bookseller's Gayle Feldman that his intention of selling on a non-returnable basis "might fail" though he says "it's too eary to tell."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Playgirl by Regina Perry and Porn as Plot Element

One of my readers wrote in and asked "Who is it, what's the book and when's the release date?

Also, do you know of any novels centered around porn as a social issue? Or even some that focus on it in a personal way, like this novel?"

So I asked the author if I could share the details of the book with my blog readers, and she said she was happy to do so.

Playgirl is one of the December titles for Ravenous Romance. I'll share the date as soon as we schedule it.

And we also bought a really titillating short story from her, Tan Lines, about an unexpected encounter at a tanning salon.

My reader's second question is a whole other issue.

There's another title in the Ravenous launch list that works in this way, and I had a literary novel that used the porn world as a piece of the meta fiction mythos (which I couldn't sell), but I can't think of any other books off the top of my head.

So, how 'bout you? Do you know of any other novels that use porn as part of the plot, especially as a positive element?

I am sure there are classics in this vein in the LGBT market that I am just unaware of, but I would love to know what they are. Please share.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What Comes Around, ...

Three years ago I attended the Florida Writer's Conference (which I am going to again this year) and announced that I was starting to look at erotica. A shy woman scheduled a meeting with me and told me she was working on a novel about a former Sunday school teacher who discovers Internet porn and how it transforms her life.

I told her to send it to me. It was both edgy and sweet, but needed work in its story-telling and structure.

When I got the gig at Ravenous Romance, I looked up the author. She had finished her novel. We read it, and we had a brilliant intern who helped her restructure the book.

She had also grown as a writer by then too, so we were able to buy the book, as well as a short story.

I was the editorial reader on that novel, and I was thrilled to see just how compelling this novel had become.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Tip for the YA Market

So, I was talking to a publisher who is expanding their middle grade fiction list into YA, expecting that they would want more vampires and zombies in high school. I was shocked when he said, "What we're really looking for is historical YA. We think it will be huge."

So, if you've got a historical that you can change the age of the protagonist on and/or a YA that could/should be set in the past, get to work polishing it off.

And let me know when you sell it (or send a query to Jenny Rappaport at

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When Does a Writer NOT Want a 3-Book Deal?

You do this job long enough and you forget that it all looks so much simpler from the outside looking in!

Will Entrekin writes in "Is there ever a time a writer isn't trying to get a three-book deal?"

And the answer is when the economy is good.

Say you're a first time author. You've finished your first 300 page novel and your agent gets you a deal - an OK deal, but nothing quit-your-day-job life-changing. Publishers often want to sign you up for your next novel - often referred to as "untitled" - so they can lock you in at the first-time writer rate. They often "basket" or "joint account" the two-book or three-book deal, so that you have to earn out the entire two or three-book advance before they start paying you any royalties. It's a win/win situation for them. They get the great new voice at a discount rate and if you hand in a "sophomore slump," they can turn it down and ask for the money back.

With a three-book deal, even if your book does moderately well (block-busters are an exception), you won't see any added revenue until three years after the first book has pubbed (because it takes most companies at least one year, but often 18 months, to go from manuscript to print).

So, when the economy is good, you and your agent would expect that your first book would do well and that you should wait for domestic and foreign and film sales to come in to see if you can get a larger advance for your second book, based on performance. You might not, but they should offer you at least what they did for the first one (unless it bombs, which does happen) and the money won't be joint-accounted.

Sometimes the author wants the guarantee of future publishing and writing income (and wants to quit that day job), so s/he takes the three-book deal. Even with a three book deal that covers three years, the author usually has to take another simultaneous three-book deal (or three separate book deals) to make ends meet as a writer.

When the book is part of a series, it's often advised to go for the multiple book deal, too. It's really hard to move a series from one publisher to another, unless it's really popular - and you loose the backlist upsell. But, in a good economy, you're agent would probably be able to get them to drop the joint accounting. Not so easy now.

But when the economy is bad, publishers can just stop handing out contracts and a lot of working writers have no money coming in.

So that's why I say take the three book deal now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What Does This Ecomonic Downturn Mean for Writers?

In case you've been writing under a rock, let me inform you that we've been in a recession in New York for the past six months.

This stock market fiasco is hitting the city pretty hard. One of the 7 major houses has had a hiring freeze since June. They were 4 editors short since the end of the summer, and were not even looking for interns to supplement (BYW, I am looking for interns).

I know a young woman who had been offered a job (not in publishing) in NY and was set to move here this week. On Tuesday morning, she received an email that said they were sorry, but they would have to rescind their job offer in light of the current economic situation. It's gonna' be tough here for the foreseeable future.

It's not all doom and gloom. I just sold another book for one of my clients to Harlequin's Spice line. But the bad news there is that it won't be pubbed until 2011.

And there's the rub. These publishing companies work so far in advance, that when they decide to slow down acquisitions, they can literally just stop buying for 6 or 9 months. And that's what I predict will happen here.

So my advice is to close on any offer that comes your way now, or try to get a three book deal, because it's going to be very slow for the next few months.

But I would love to be proven wrong.