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When Two Publishing Giants Merge They Become Even More Incompetent

Like awkward dinosaurs stumbling around unaware of their coming extinction...

Sarah Hoyt


August 8, 2013 - 7:00 am
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Amy Fleischer's redesign of the logo for Penguin's 75th anniversary and their reissue of Frankenstein

Look out, they’ve created a monster!

They apparently start/continue committing Acts of Random Penguin.

I thought I was inured to the craziness that is traditional publishing. Until I found this:

Penguin’s insane policy on electronic galleys for authors.

What kind of organization would make authors pay for electronic images of their own covers? After all, this is an image that can ONLY be used to promote your book. But Penguin Random House wants to charge $300 for that image. They wish to be compensated for their design work, they say. Apparently getting around 94% of the take on a paperback is not enough.

Then there is the insanity – which has been going on for a long time – that they wish you to pay for a PDF of the electronic copy of their book. These are often demanded by foreign agents, but the house wants you to pay hundreds of dollars (and in my time with them, it was thousands) for it, thereby impeding foreign sales.

On top of all, Penguin also refuses to send free electronic reading copies to reviewers and other promoters.

Perhaps it is the old way of doing things. Or perhaps it is that they can’t stand to let go of control over promotion, even though they’ve actually stopped promoting most authors.

Or perhaps they’ve forgotten that they – not the author – get the lion’s share of the profit?

When Penguin and Random House, two of the largest publishing houses in New York City, merged, most people were hesitant what to think. Some of my colleagues talked of how the bigger organization allowed for cuts in staffing and publicity could be consolidated and…

And I remembered working for both houses. One of these houses is the one that sent me on a book tour for the Magical Shakespeare Trilogy a year after the last book had come out – which for traditional publishing purposes meant it was useless, since stores weren’t going to restock books they’d already sent back – without any promotional materials, over my birthday, with two weeks notice and… wait for it… when another of their departments had already taken the books out of print.

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$300? WTF? What are they smoking/drinking at Random Penguin? Look, I've pubbled through a reputable POD house, and they charged about half of that for original covers for my first books. Then I went into partnership with an old local subsidy press house - and we budget $250-300 for the original cover art to be created. Once done and approved - we provide the cropped image of the front cover free for the asking to the customer! (So did the POD house!) No, it's not as if any of the resulting covers will win any top-drawer design awards; they are merely serviceable, professionally-done and attractive. It sounds as if the industrial publishing complex is trying to squeeze the last little drop of money from whatever source. Catastrophic change indeed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Penguin Random House ... gak, what an idiotic name. Random Penguin would have been an improvement.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Penguin House" would amply express the zoo-like atmosphere.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
And odor.
1 year ago
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