News & Updates - November 2022
Check out the Policy Advisory Committee's monthly column, "News & Updates," rounding up news and articles of importance to writers.
HQN Relaunching as Canary Street Press
Harlequin’s flagship romance imprint HQN is relaunching as Canary Street Press (named for Toronto’s Canary District, a historic area in downtown that has undergone a renewal), and “reflecting its expansion to publish a greater variety of modern, commercial love stories.” They write in a release that they plan to publish in trade paperback and hardcover formats, as well as mass market paperbacks.
Rainy Day Books of Kansas City Sold
Longtime Kansas City independent bookstore Rainy Day Books will be sold to a local ownership group, with the deal expected to close in November. Some of the owners of Made in KC, a quickly-growing group of retail shops, have paired with a group of investors and bookstore customers known as Friends of Rainy Day Books, forming a consortium of at least 16 people financing the purchase.
Callisto Slashes Workforce “Again”
Three months after Callisto Media laid off 35 percent of its staff, the company instituted another deep round of cuts Monday—this time approximately 200 positions, or around 70 percent of its workforce—in all departments. An estimated 60 employees remain in the book-making departments (editorial, marketing, design, etc.). Access to internal systems, other than email, was reportedly turned off this weekend for the employees who would be laid off, and their emails were turned off at 5 PM Eastern on Monday.
Pen America Addresses Complexities of Diversity
Last week Pen America released Reading Between the Lines: Race, Equity, and Book Publishing, a report on racial and ethnic diversity in the industry—”acute and urgent, if not the sole, areas of under-representation”—compiled from publicly-available data, information from publishers, and interviews with more than 60 authors and publishing professionals.
The report explains the complexities in the movement for greater diversity and addresses what makes publishing both the same as and different from other industries. It touches on the gold rush of publishers looking for books by Black authors in the wake of 2020’s protests, why comps aren’t sufficient to determine advances for authors of color, and why the struggles are particularly acute for people of color, even if white authors and staff face the same challenges. It also compares the Big 5 houses’ commitments to structural change after their diversity pledges two years ago.
The whole thing is worth reading, but we’ve pulled some of the most resonant excerpts below, all of which is quoted directly from the report (except for the material in brackets).
NFTS in Publishing Face Audience
On day two of the Penguin Random House antitrust trial that recently captivated all of publishing, agent Ayesha Pande was asked by the government to name some of the rights in publishing contracts that are non-negotiable. “Ebook is one of those rights and audio is one of those rights,” responded Pande. “Now the new territory that seems to be a little bit in contention is NFTs.” Though it was far from the trial’s flashiest moment, this exchange brought to the fore a question that has lingered at the fringes of the business for over a year now: what is the future of NFTs in publishing, and who will control those rights?
Ever since August 2021, when Gary Vaynerchuck broke preorder records for his latest book with an NFT campaign, publishing has been in a state of hedging. Both publishers and authors seem hesitant to jump in, and those who have tried haven’t come close to Vaynerchuk’s success (which was an NFT offer that happened to come with cartons of often unwanted books, rather than a book offer that included an NFT). This spring and summer also saw a broad deflation in values and expectations for NFTs, following a collapse in cryptocurrency. Complicating the issue within publishing further is that contractual language around the new format remains ambiguous.
Still, according to those working in the space–and there are many entrants with similar propositions–the rise of publishing NFTs is all but certain…just as soon as people figure out what to do with them.
HarperCollins Institutes Layoffs, Hiring Freeze due to “Cost Pressures”
HarperCollins has eliminated positions and paused hiring due to financial pressures, the company confirmed to Publishers Lunch on Thursday. They shared the following statement: “The business is facing continued cost pressures, including price increases related to printing, production, freight and distribution, and we are taking decisive steps to operate as efficiently as possible. As part of this process, we have made some difficult decisions and a small number of positions have been eliminated as teams restructure.”
Sources tell us that an estimated 12 people have been let go across departments in both the children’s and adult divisions.
Estate of Boris Pasternak v. Lara Prescott (UK)
In the long-running case brought in the UK by Boris Pasternak’s great-niece Anna Pasternak against Lara Prescott, author of the novel The Secrets We Kept, alleging copyright infringement of Pasternak’s nonfiction book Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago, UK Justice Edwin Johnson found in favor of Prescott on all of the major claims.
Oliver Rhodes Launches Storm Publishing
Bookouture founder and former CEO Oliver Rhodes has launched Storm Publishing, a new digital publishing company that will “publish adult commercial fiction in ebook, audio and print-on-demand paperback globally,” looking to buy world English rights at a minimum. It plans to pay “an author royalty of 50% of net receipts on both ebook and audio formats,” though they do not pay advances. Their standard contract term is 10 years. Hachette UK acquired Bookouture in 2017.
Rhodes said, “My reason for starting Storm is that I believe it’s possible to take digital publishing to another level. The current rate of technological change offers so many more opportunities for publishers to add value to authors and readers. It is vital to keep learning and innovating at speed, which is key to the vision at Storm.”
The traditional publishing model assumes no financial risk for the author. The publisher pays an advance to the author to publish their work, then proceeds to prepare that work for publishing. The publisher pays for all the editorial including the authors advance, production, marketing, sales, distribution, and wholesale costs and does not begin to recoup their investment in the book until the book is on the market and begins to sell.
The hybrid publisher follows this same model except the author is the one to assume the financial risk for their book. Rather than paying an author an advance, the hybrid publisher charges the author a fee for their publishing services. The author stills receives royalties on their book sales, as with the traditional method, but they must pay the fee for publishers services to get their book to market. Another qualification of the hybrid model is that the royalties for authors who elect to publish with the hybrid method should be higher than with the traditional publishing standard. In some cases the publisher also bears a portion of the cost for production, printing, or other publishing-related services—such as marketing or sales, since both the author and publisher share in the profits.
All the functions of a traditional press including evaluating submissions, editorial reviews (including substantive, developmental and stylistic editing), copywriting, design, proofreading, and print production are all part of the services that a hybrid publisher must also offer.
As hybrid publishing has become more popular over the years, the definition has become more clear, especially with standards put forward by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) in 2018 for hybrid publishers to follow. The IBPA lists the following nine standards that should be followed by hybrid publishers:
- Hybrid publishers must set forth a vision to follow for their company.
- Submissions must be reviewed and vetted to not be classified as a vanity press.
- The publisher must publish as its own defined imprint and request its own ISBNs.
- Hybrid publishers must meet the standards and best practices set out by the publishing industry.
- The quality of the production (design and printing) and editorial services must be up to industry standards.
- The hybrid publisher must manage the rights of the works they publish as well as any subsequent rights that are acquired and work to find additional rights to sell for their authors.
- Hybrid publishers must manage distribution services or hire a distributor for their authors' works.
- Hybrid publishers need to report reputable sales on the titles they publish.
- Authors who sign with hybrid publishers must be paid a higher royalty than that of standard traditional publisher rates (see Royalty payment).
Hybrid publishers often have their own specialties, such as Page Two Strategies, which is a publisher that primarily focuses on non-fiction books in the business category.[6
] Hybrid publishers also often find success working with authors who have established audience bases such as an author who has become an expert in their field and wants to publish a book about their practice, garnering them more credibility.
Five new publishers have signed on for sales and distribution through Consortium. Beginning immediately are the National Council of Teachers of English and Do Book Company, beginning November 1 is Pinter & Martin, and beginning January 3 are the Association of Talent Development and Skinner House Books.
DOJ v. Penguin Random House Antitrust Trial
If you want to watch the roundtable discussion with Jane Friedman and others about this case, click on the link below:
This case is also offered in digital/ebook format.
Beware of Disreputable Publishers
- Beware Disreputable Publishers (https://writerbeware.blog/category/small-press/)
- BBB Publishings - A paid anthology/boxed set publisher
- Parliament House Press
- Immortal Ink Publishing/Rebecca Hamilton/Shana Raywood
- Genius Media Inc/Kairos Phoenix Company/Wid Bastian a/k/a Widtsoe T Bastian (he has filed multiple bankruptcies then immediately opens up another publishing company)
- Eli Bear Company/Wid Bastian a/k/a Widtsoe T. Bastian
- Filles Vertes Publis
2. Scam Alert
- Scammers Impersonating Acorn TV via Twitter – Tom Handy/Kate Lyne/Deborah O’Tootle/Loujis McCall/Melissa Rea
- Scam Publishers & Editors
i. Author Solutions (vanity press)
ii. Page Publishing (vanity press)
iii. Called and Editor in Thief – individual poses as editor you pay for then publishes your book under their name on Amazon Kindle Unlimited so author loses money and their book rights
a. Parliament House Press – Old Parliament House has been dissolved along with all contracts dissolved – Under new management, new contacts will not be offered to all authors
b. Hallmark Publishing to Close
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