An Agent’s Thoughts on a Publisher’s Restructuring
- By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jun 30 2015
It’s no longer news that there have been some dramatic changes at Berkley/NAL, changes that aren’t necessarily a complete surprise, but still difficult for everyone involved.
I knew this was something I needed to, and wanted to, address on the blog, but after several starts and restarts I realized I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say.
When Random House and Penguin announced the merger in 2013 everyone in publishing knew that change would be coming. At the beginning of 2015 we started to see the first effects of those changes. Appointments were made announcing new names in new positions, contract renewals were slow to come and imprints were consolidated. While I’m not sure any of us foresaw what exactly would happen, it’s hard not to look at these changes and see why it did happen. In many cases there was just too much overlap between the many imprints of the new Penguin Random House.
It’s been a tough week for a lot of people, including the BookEnds team. We’ve been in business for over 15 years and we’ve worked with editors over at Berkley/NAL for 15 years. These are long-standing, trusted relationships. I’m not going to lie, when I hung up the phone with an editor who lost her job I cried. She’s good at what she does and a victim of restructuring. I’m going to miss discussing everything from cover copy, to contract negotiations, to cover art, to an author’s next idea with her.
While agents and editors are often seen as working on opposing sides, the truth is we work more closely than many realize. I think sometimes even more closely than we realize. Together we are part of an author’s team and together we work to try to make each decision in the author’s best interest. That means long discussions about the cover art, the cover copy and even the direction an author is taking with her next book or her career. An author’s success means success for all of us. Seeing an editor leave, for any reason, is losing a trusted member of my team.
Well if I’m upset, you can imagine the state of many Berkley/NAL authors. The question in almost every author’s mind is what’s next. What can an author expect during a time of upheaval with their publisher and what should an author do? Of course each author’s experience is different. For some everything is status quo and nothing should change. For most, unfortunately, change is inevitable. Even those who are lucky enough to retain the same editor, change is happening within the publisher and that will have an impact on everyone. This could be because of the change in the art department, the copy department or even buying decisions. I’m not saying it’s all bad, I’m just saying there will be change.
The first thing to remember is that we can’t control the actions of others. The only person you can control is yourself. Panicking isn’t going to help, but coming up with a plan might.
Once you’ve taken a few deep breaths here are some suggestions:
1. Penguin Random House just introduced this wonderful Author Portal where you can see sales, royalty reports and get hints and tips to how to build your brand as an author. Spend some time there and really look things over. Take notes if you need to. Get some perspective on what more you might be able to do to build sales and, most importantly, get perspective on how your brand is doing. A good CEO always has an idea of how well the company is doing at any given moment. As the CEO of your brand you should do the same. Check out your book sales. Are they going up? Going down? Do they seem to be holding strong?
2. Talk with your agent. Once you have an idea of what your numbers look like, give your agent a call to discuss them with her. What concerns do you have and are they valid? Should you continue on the same path or is coming up with something new a good idea? Knowing how to proceed is always smart, plus, as one author once said to me, “it’s always good to have something in your back pocket.”
3. Ignore the gossip. I can only imagine what the writing loops and discussion boards look like right now. In fact, I think I’d prefer not to imagine it. Watch out for the doom and gloomers, the Chicken Littles with the falling skies. This sucks. It sucks for a lot of people, but as in any good Dystopian YA, those who are prepared to fight and accept change will win. Those who want to sit in a hole and refuse to accept change, will die (probably in some horribly gruesome death). If you are concerned about some of what you’re hearing please call your agent. Many times she has an insider’s perspective that can be very helpful.
4. And here is the same advice I give in any situation. Keep writing and make your next book even better than the last.
Change is always a frightening thing and it’s not going to be an easy road for some people, but those who are willing to pull up their boots and keep walking (love that song) will always see the light at the other side.