by Steve Laube
You may have read about some of the reorganization that has begun after the sale of Thomas Nelson to Harper Collins, which already owned Zondervan. This past week there was a new development that touches the fiction publishing programs. Instead of two separate entities, there will be one fiction division moving forward. Zondervan’s editorial team of Sue Brower and Becky Philpott now report to Daisy Hutton who has been the new head of Thomas Nelson fiction since May. Therefore, in acquisitions, there will be a centralized clearing house for all new projects no matter who is acquiring them. As time goes by each brand name, “Zondervan Fiction” or “Thomas Nelson Fiction,” will develop their own distinctives. But for now, nothing changes.
The Zondervan YA and middle grade acquisition editors will remain under the Zonderkidz division and not move over under Thomas Nelson.
Fiction marketing will be overseen by Katie Bond who was in charge of Nelson Fiction marketing. This will create some dedicated synergy between the new releases, similar in some ways to the synergies we see in the Bethany House and Revell offerings. One catalog, two brands. We have been promised that they are committed to providing marketing support according to their already approved levels, and each brand plans take advantage of the increased synergies and combined efforts. Let’s hope that these efforts will result in better market penetration and greater visibility for each release. I am confident that this transition will be relatively seamless and that no Zondervan or Nelson author should worry. Marketing and Publicity is as much an art as it is a science. With the marketplace constantly shifting it is good that there will be a dedicated fiction team to implement new ideas, especially since fiction sells differently than non-fiction.
The sales division is still being reorganized. Top management is set to oversee both divisions under the roof of the HarperCollins Christian Publishing Division. But exactly how this will shake out down to individual territories, responsibilities, and key accounts is being discussed. Remember, much of this reorganization is less than a week old, so having definitive answers of that scale is not realistic.
The merger of two powerful fiction imprints is not foreign in our industry. Nine and a half years ago (2003) Baker Books, which already had Revell fiction, bought Bethany House. One of the benefits to the merger was that Bethany House authors saw an increase in sales because the Baker side of the equation had new avenues for sales. And Revell fiction saw an increase due to the evident market success of Bethany House’s fiction line. Today, all these years later, each division is distinct and has their own editorial oversight. Each have their strong authors and happily co-exist.
When Waterbrook bought Multnomah in 2006 again there were two distinct fiction divisions led by two strong editors. In that case, after a few years, it was decided to reduce the number of overall titles published and ultimately Multnomah fiction faded, to a certain extent. This was a strategic overall publishing plan and was not a reflection on the quality of the books or the acquisitions editor. In my opinion it was as much a function of market realities (the fiction divisions were merged in November 2008…at the height of the economic downturn).
Back to the Nelson/Zondervan fiction combo. The bottom line is that, for now, it will be business as usual. Authors will “feel” very little change other than those with new books will likely have a new face talking to them about marketing. And veteran authors will tell you that having a new face in marketing has been par for the course across the industry. Fortunately Daisy Hutton, the head of the Nelson fiction division is a great communicator and she has pledged to keep us agents in the loop regarding changes and transitions. I feel like we have a open door to discuss any bumps in the road so that ultimately our authors will be well served…and that the marketplace will find and read some wonderful new fiction in the coming months.