Grim times in the old book trade

It’s all over the blogosphere. Publishers are making major changes. One publishing news site already referring to today as Black Wednesday. That’s awfully disheartening. But reality, it might be.

Major reorganizations at Random House. The head of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s division “leaving the company.” Lots of shake up at Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt after they announced a freeze on new acquisitions. Also, Christian publishing house, Thomas Nelson announced that it’s cutting 10% of its staff, approximately 55 people (according to Publishers Weekly). Hard times all around. Even if god is your copilot.

The Comic Book and SF & Fantasy world have been affected too. I’ve read about layoffs at Wizards of the Coast, the CEO of Devil’s Due leaving his position along with a few staffers let go. And word from L.A. is that Tokyopop has let a few people go.

Also, a few comic book magazines made some startling announcements this week as well.

The Comic Foundry — only in its fifth issue — decided to call it quits, as the good folks behind it are simply too busy with their day jobs. [Edit. Note: I’ve had one small article published in CF #3, and will hopefully have a longer piece about comics in the last issue, #5]. And this magazine was nominated this year for an Eisner Award – an amazing achievement in the comics industry. [tears]

Also, comics industry veteran, Danny Fingeroth’s comics writing magazine, Write Now! will publish its last issue in Feb. of ’09 reports The Beat. I’ve purchased this magazine many times over the past few years, loving its approach to writing in the industry [something near and dear to my heart]. I’ll be definitely picking up the last issue.

Say it ain’t so? [insert appropriate Weezer riff here]

As a freelancer in the publishing world, this is a precarious time to be entering my second year ‘on the outside’ but such is the state of things. This grim reality reminds me how important it is to maintain a positive attitude, not to burn bridges, and to do everything possible to stay connected.

It is also a reminder to be as much of a jack-of-all-trades as possible. And that’s what this experience was all about for me. Trying my hand at special sales, subsidiary rights, book development, marketing strategy, and of course copyediting and proofreading – which I’m enjoying working on right now.

And, it’s important to hustle. I mean to literally hit the pavement. Getting work done at your desk is just fine, but sometimes in this big city, you have to get out there, walk the streets. Shake some hands.

I spent most of today going up and down subway steps, working my way across town then downtown, then back up again, all in the attempt to make a sale at a specialty store. So I lugged two heavy bags of books with me all day, and then dropped them off until the next specialty sale idea comes my way. You don’t know if you’ll succeed until you get out there and give it a try.

I realize the publishing business, just like any other, can be brutal at times. For me, I can’t see myself working with anything else – I love books. Comics, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, and of course non-fiction, such as military history.

I don’t know who I’m writing this post to. Maybe to myself. It’s scary when you see reorganizations happening (and I’ve been through one or two myself) and witness magazines fold. Not to mention watching the news these days about our economy is painful.

But we carry on. That’s what we do. Publishing folk. New Yorkers. Editors. Writers. People. We carry on.

As I told a friend earlier today when I emailed him to see if he was still safe at his day job, in the eternal words of Trent Reznor:

The Way Out Is Through [words to live by]


Booklover said...

Sad day for sure...Hang in there...
Books and the love of reading will make a comeback.

Peat said...

Yeah, yesterday's events will impact the publishing world for some time to come, and I think many of their effects will not be seen for some time.

It's always depressing to see these kinds of cutbacks, and it makes me think mostly of the editorial assistants who have been working hard for years during the prime of their lives for substandard salary so they can do what they love and wait patiently for one of the precious few and highly coveted editor slots to open up above them. They're the grease that makes the publishing wheel turn, and every time one of those few slots above them vanishes, a fairy dies somewhere.

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