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.

4 Responses to HarperStudio is History

  1. Avatar
    Ben Whiting April 5, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    This seems like a model that has potential to work better if Amazon and eBooks continue to grow because unsold books are less of an issue that way. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this model.

  2. Avatar
    Jill Williamson April 5, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    My guess is that retailers were hesitant to order too many, knowing they wouldn’t be able to return them, so sales were likely lower due to that. Had there been a breakout book among the titles, that might have been a different story. Those kinds of books will sell themselves, no matter who published them, as long as people can find them. But perhaps that was another issue. How well were they marketed by Harper Studio? An how about the authors? A hardworking marketing author makes a big difference in sales of a book.

  3. Avatar
    Timothy Fish April 6, 2010 at 3:45 am #

    I think that if a publisher is going to mess with the acquisitions and royality model, they should also consider changing the marketing model. This model appears to be a move closer to the self-publishing model. The self-publishing model doesn’t rely on author selection, book selection or breakout best sellers for success. So, I would assume that the proper model for a situation like this would rely less on those things than the traditional model, but it would also have to focus more on the niche markets the books fall into.

  4. Avatar
    Bruce May 19, 2010 at 6:41 am #

    I think that if a publisher is going to mess with the acquisitions and royality model, they should also consider changing the marketing model. This model appears to be a move closer to the self-publishing model. The self-publishing model doesn’t rely on author selection, book selection or breakout best sellers for success. So, I would assume that the proper model for a situation like this would rely less on those things than the traditional model, but it would also have to focus more on the niche markets the books fall into.

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