Author Steve Laube

HarperStudio is History

Back on March 17 I blogged about the changes at HarperStudio and asked if this could mean that division would close down. Today it was announced that it has come to pass, the division is no more.

HarperStudio had made big news by setting up a low advance model in exchange for high royalties. It was termed a “profit sharing” model. (of course define “profit” first… 🙂 ) Plus they sold their books on a non-returnable basis to the stores, both online and brick & mortar.

It was a highly creative idea and caused quite a stir, especially when there was talk of a 50/50 profit split.

My questions are these. Does this mean the end to the experiment of “profit sharing” in publishing?Also…

Did the model fail to produce the necessary revenue or did the acquisitions team fail to select the right titles?

At the risk of being a hindsight prophet, I think it was the latter. Don’t get me wrong. The books themselves are quality titles for the most part, but none of them became “blockbusters.” The model might work if the book generates enough revenue. But the combination of a modest list, with no break out bestsellers, and the fact that the stores could not return slow moving titles probably contributed to conservative buying patterns and kept the big box retailers from “stacking ’em high.”

What do you think?


The original announcement can be found here, but the content is reprinted below.

HarperStudio, the unusual imprint founded two years ago by Bob Miller, is being shut down and its books and staff will land at other HarperCollins imprints. Miller left Harper last month to become group publisher at Workman (Shelf Awareness, March 16, 2010).

The final titles to be published by HarperStudio will be the summer 2010 list. All fall titles and titles scheduled to be published thereafter will be published by other HarperCollins imprints. In a memo to employees, Michael Morrison, president and publisher of U.S. general books and Canada, said that Harper “will be contacting agents and authors to discuss the best editors and imprints for” its fall and other future titles. “All of our imprints are happy to discuss profit sharing scenarios on a book by book basis.”

Debbie Stier, associate publisher of HarperStudio and director of digital marketing for HarperCollins, continues as director of digital marketing and continues to acquire books for all imprints as editor-at-large. Kathryn Ratcliffe-Lee continues to report to Stier.

Senior editor Julia Cheiffetz is moving to the Harper imprint. Assistant editor Katie Salisbury continues to report to Cheiffetz.

Jessica Wiener continues as director of marketing.

In its brief life, HarperStudio published mainly nonfiction, offered low advances with profit-sharing, tried to sell titles on a nonreturnable basis and signed many authors who were well-known in other fields or were writers who wanted to try projects that differed from their usual ones.

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New Releases March 2010

Below are new books from March 2010 which our agency represented. (In alphabetical order by author. Descriptions are from publisher’s web sites). March 2010 Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue – Chuck Black MultnomahDetermined, smart and a master of both the sword and the bow, Lady Carliss has proven …

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New Releases January & February 2010

Below are new books by our clients which released in January & February 2010 (in alphabetical order by author and descriptions from publisher’s web sites). January 2010 Dreams That Won’t Let Go – Stacy Hawkins Adams Revell Indigo Burns is excited. Her wedding preparations to the man of her dreams …

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A Volatile Industry

Yesterday’s blog linked you to some fascinating articles about the publishing industry. One friend wrote an insightful comment on the blog and cited the article where Boris Kachka proclaimed “The End” on September 14, 2008 in New York Magazine.

To illustrate how volatile this industry is, let’s look at two of the people featured in the article. Jane Friedman is no longer the CEO of HarperCollins (which she was at the time of the original meeting) and Bob Miller resigned today as the head of HarperStudio. HarperStudio was creative with a unique financial model (see the article for the gist of it). But on a web site set up to answer questions about this development HarperStudio wrote this:

“Of our ORIGINAL goals, I’d give us a 6 [out of 10]. But there were other goals that cropped up along the way that were unintended benefits.”

Founded in April 2008, it has already changed in less than two years. Their first year was developmental as it takes time to acquire and produce new book titles. 2009 was a tough year for the economy in general and publishing was not immune. Thus the changes. They stop short of saying it didn’t work very well, but the tone of their answer page is very much a “let’s wait and see what the future holds.”

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Is This the End of Publishing?

You owe it to yourself to read the following links and then watch the embedded video. We are all quite aware that the book publishing industry is in the throes of considerable change. Sales channels are shifting and marketing channels have splintered.

Some folks are dismayed by this, and others see it as opportunity. But, as usual, a middle ground can be found. And that middle ground is displayed in the video below.

But first, the articles to read:

The New York Magazine proclaimed “The End” on September 14, 2008 in an article by Boris Kachka.

Publishers Weekly agreed on January 5, 2009 in an article by Peter Olson, former chairman and CEO of Random House .

Mike Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, chimed in on December 10, 2009 in his insightful blog.

Richard Nash continued the assault on January 5, 2010 in an interview on GalleyCat. More was added the next day.

The below video originally prepared for a recent Penguin sales conference by the UK branch of Dorling Kindersley Books. Watch the entire piece without interruption.

Let me know what you think!

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Is Print Dead?

There is an unsettling myth being perpetuated about the death of print books. The news of print’s demise is simply not true. It sounds a bit like Mark Twain having to write a note to a reporter saying “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

To fully explain I need to start with the music industry.
The impression is that all sales are now digital. And iTunes has killed the physical CD. This is not true.

Approximately 12 songs fit on a CD. And since individual songs can be downloaded, the only way to compare physical CD sales with download sales is to divide the number of songs downloaded by 12. That way you have a one-to-one comparison.

With that assumption in place, Apple is the #1 retailer of CDs in America. No surprise. The surprise is that they only comprise 25% of sales. Walmart is #2 at 14% and Best Buy is #3 (my guess is that Amazon.com is #4 but wasn’t mentioned in the article).

Why is that surprising? Because that means 75% of all sales are still “hard copy.” Physical CDs. It is significant that Apple’s share has increased as a percentage of all sales from 21% in 2008, up from 14% in 2007. But it still means the physical product is outselling the digital by 3 to 1. (In total dollars, across all forms of music, digital downloads comprise only 35% of all music sales.)

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Incoming Proposals

To your left is an actual picture of the pile of proposals our office has received since December 1, 2009. About 30 days worth of incoming mail…during a slow time of the year. The stack of books next to the pile include books sent for review (consideration) and recent publications that I want to look at.

That does not include the myriad of email submissions we get (many simply ignoring our guidelines regarding email submissions)…inquiries from those who use the contact form on our web site (many of those ignoring the request to “Please do not copy and paste your entire manuscript into this form.“)

Or the poor soul that failed to proofread their email before sending this sentence, “I would like to send you my quarry letter….”

Nor does it include those that do an Internet search and call us. Recently we got a call that went something like this:
Agency: This is the Steve Laube Agency…
Caller: What kind of agency are you?
Agency: We are a literary agency.
Caller: What does that mean?

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A Year in Review

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The Christmas glow is still present and since the publishing world is, in essence, on vacation, it is a perfect time to to reflect on the past twelve months.

This was a hard year for many as the economy touched everyone in some way. And yet, despite the ominous cloud of doom and gloom, there were many exciting things to celebrate.

On a personal level our middle daughter was married at the end of June. What a joy to see God at the center of the ceremony. And our oldest daughter had a blast playing keyboards for Alice Cooper (singing “School’s Out”) in front of 50,000 people at the ASU graduation ceremony in May.

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Art of War for Writers

Periodically I plan to recommend a title or two for you to read. I’ve always enjoyed this form of “word-of-mouth” marketing, thus I will “pay it forward.” 🙂

Yesterday afternoon I received James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers: fiction writing strategies, tactics, and exercises (published by Writer’s Digest Books). With interest I took the book home and devoured it. Not literally of course, as I’m not sure what the pages would have tasted like with extra cheese. But I could not keep from turning the pages with delight.

James Scott Bell has done an immeasurable service to writers everywhere. This little book is chock full of sage advice. Loosely based on the ancient classic The Art of War he consistently nudges the reader with nuggets of wisdom that are hard to assail.

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Do you Facebook?

The following article appeared in the UK on November 5th, “Facebook Users Spend Three Solid Days a Year on the Site.”

Three full 24 hour days on Facebook per year! Or nearly two full work weeks if you count a work week as 35-40 hours a week. And I suspect the statistics hold true in the U.S. as well.

Not all writers are full-time. Some must juggle day jobs or home-life responsibilities around their writing. So let’s say the average writer is cramming 20 hours a week of actual writing into their craft.

Thus if you are a writer AND you “Facebook” (is that a verb now?) this would mean the average writer is spend nearly a month’s worth of work time…on Facebook.

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