Author Topic: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon  (Read 2494 times)  

Offline markpauloleksiw

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And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
« on: November 25, 2020, 12:34:05 pm »
This was in the news today...a lot of trad publishing jobs will be lost. Another dinosaur...

Mark

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    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #1 on: November 25, 2020, 12:36:07 pm »
    Quote from NY TIMES article:

    "For literary agents and authors, the wave of consolidations has meant fewer potential buyers for books from authors without a proven track record.

    There are projects that would have sold for $150,000 years ago that might not sell at all now to the big five, whereas the book that would have sold for $500,000 might go for a million, said the literary agent David Kuhn. They would rather go in bigger for the thing that they have the most consensus on.

    Some industry analysts say the sale will accelerate a long-running trend that has taken hold over the last decade, as publishers have grown more dependent on blockbuster titles and backlist sales, resulting in fewer opportunities for new writers and midlist authors."

    Offline Becca Mills

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #2 on: November 25, 2020, 03:04:48 pm »
    I'm hoping the new company gets named Simon the Random Penguin.


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    Offline Bite the Dusty

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #3 on: November 25, 2020, 04:58:12 pm »
    I'm hoping the new company gets named Simon the Random Penguin.



    A ridiculous name is appropriate at this point.

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #4 on: November 25, 2020, 06:48:33 pm »
    I'm hoping the new company gets named Simon the Random Penguin.



    Hmm, Pixar may come knocking on your door to get rights to that title.   8)
    Jena

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #5 on: November 25, 2020, 06:50:45 pm »
    One wonders: is it the economy, the rise of independent publishing, or both that is driving this consolidation?

    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #6 on: November 25, 2020, 07:08:22 pm »
    The Authors Guild is one of many "associations" going bananas over this merger.  Many traditionally published authors are about to be tossed into the pool with the rest of us.

    Mark

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #7 on: November 25, 2020, 09:24:15 pm »
    I also read a story speculating that publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is going to sell off it's "trade" publishing sector, which I think includes fiction books. Not sure how that is playing out, though, and I'm not sure how big they are in fiction publishing compared to the others.

    https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/financial-reporting/article/84804-hmh-trade-group-for-sale-archer-departs.html

    Offline chrisstevenson

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #8 on: November 26, 2020, 06:03:51 pm »
    Oh dread. I saw it coming but not this soon. I still, and will always call these legacy monsters ambulance chasers. It's platform, reader base, name brand and celebrity and topical grandstanding (not to forget notoriety), that trumps story, which are crafted by debut and mid-list authors. All of our eggs in one basket for the massive blockbuster, says they. Fine, you go ahead then. Pretty soon, there will be no such thing as a "breakout." In that I mean a relatively new author that sets the world on fire. If they're not going to take a chance on it, they'll never find it. I'm nervously thinking about calling my agent, to hear if she knows anymore skuttlebutt. I'm in small press limbo right now, but I know I'm headed for the axe next. I think Indie publishing will eventually be in an all-out war with what's left of the Big-5, or...I assume now, Big-4.
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    Offline jb1111

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #9 on: November 27, 2020, 03:42:03 am »
    Corona will undoubtedly accelerate the consolidation process. Perhaps there may be just the big two. I mean, it's conceivable. In one of the articles linked, the company in question had revenues decline by 46% over the past year (with sales declining around 38% during the same period).

    Over the next year or two I'm sure that we shall see a lot more indie authors, and they won't be the typical newbies who are just starting in the writing game. That's my guess, anyway.

    I think the main factor that's scary is that this isn't happening during an economic boom, when readers are flush with money, and where it's merely a reorganization of the entire industry. It's happening during a downturn, when many people are scraping to get by.

    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #10 on: November 27, 2020, 06:29:40 am »
    Before writing, I spent years working in Finance.  Companies sadly take advantage of rough times to make decisions to consolidate and downsize that they were planning to make anyway. Things like pandemic gives them a reason so they feel or seem less "dirty"...but truth is this has been coming for a while.

    I checked out sales numbers in the Teen and Young adult category for 2020 (they were listed on Publishers Weekly)...the top novel had more sales than the 2nd novel on the list by a factor of 10! Pure insanity...it is either going to be celebrity/famous people or established money makers who get the deals.

    The trads will be pumping out the same stuff now over and over again...until people stop buying.

    Mark

    Offline Corvid

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #11 on: November 27, 2020, 08:06:01 am »
    Before writing, I spent years working in Finance.  Companies sadly take advantage of rough times to make decisions to consolidate and downsize that they were planning to make anyway. Things like pandemic gives them a reason so they feel or seem less "dirty"...but truth is this has been coming for a while.

    I checked out sales numbers in the Teen and Young adult category for 2020 (they were listed on Publishers Weekly)...the top novel had more sales than the 2nd novel on the list by a factor of 10! Pure insanity...it is either going to be celebrity/famous people or established money makers who get the deals.

    The trads will be pumping out the same stuff now over and over again...until people stop buying.

    Mark

    Yes, it's definitely a 'rich get richer' situation. Before too long, Brandon Sanderson will be a publishing house unto himself. I suppose, effectively, he already is. He's definitely prolific enough.


    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #12 on: November 27, 2020, 08:24:29 am »
    Authors are becoming "Brands" and actually Amazon now refers to them the same way.

    BRands in that the authors "subcontract" out the work and put their name on it. Most traditional readers are only shown or put in front of their faces a smaller and smaller selection of "authors".

    Recent examples are Tolkien, where they are putting together scraps of paper together into "works". Michael Crichton died years ago...and there are "writers" finishing off incomplete manuscripts...etc...

    Mark

    Offline autor

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #13 on: November 27, 2020, 10:44:17 am »
    One wonders: is it the economy, the rise of independent publishing, or both that is driving this consolidation?

    This article claims the merger is a competitive response to Amazon's market dominance -- https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/penguin-random-house-simon-schuster-monster-about-amazon/617209/.

    The article states that Amazon publishes 49% of all new books, while the newly merged company would account for about 33% of them. (Unfortunately the article doesn't precisely define what it means by "new books".)

    What ever happened to the days when the US enforced its anti-trust laws?

    Offline Flying Pizza Pie

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #14 on: November 27, 2020, 04:29:41 pm »
    Could be sour grapes on my part, but I've been disappointed by the content of at least half of the print books I've read in the past couple years, from The Girl on the Train, to Grisham's Grey Mountain, Camino Island, and The Whistler, to the last few Stephen King issues. At least "Girl" was from a newer author, but releases from older authors like King, Grisham, Robin Cook (the list goes on) pale in comparison to their earlier novels.

    Unfortunately, because many publishers have been reluctant to sign new (yes, especially mid-list) authors, they have become overly reliant on old favorites, and those aging authors can't produce what they used to. So, HMH, PP, S&S, you reap what you sow. Fail to plant, you got no crops to harvest. Serves them right.


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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #15 on: November 27, 2020, 05:29:51 pm »
    Could be sour grapes on my part, but I've been disappointed by the content of at least half of the print books I've read in the past couple years, from The Girl on the Train, to Grisham's Grey Mountain, Camino Island, and The Whistler, to the last few Stephen King issues. At least "Girl" was from a newer author, but releases from older authors like King, Grisham, Robin Cook (the list goes on) pale in comparison to their earlier novels.

    Unfortunately, because many publishers have been reluctant to sign new (yes, especially mid-list) authors, they have become overly reliant on old favorites, and those aging authors can't produce what they used to. So, HMH, PP, S&S, you reap what you sow. Fail to plant, you got no crops to harvest. Serves them right.

    I think these mega-publishers offer a lot leniency to their famous stable authors in that those authors don't really have to come up with something new, fresh or really different, but rather just come up with something. Could be a rehash of something done before, covering old ground or just some plot-less dribble. It's the name game and nothing says that better that the giant font size of the author's name over that of the title of the book. They take it for granted that these fans will buy the next big one from that big author. It's an auto-buy. The Land of the Painted Caves comes to mind--what a crippling blow to the serious fans of that multi-book legacy. Redundancy ad nauseum. If complacency is allowed to rule, we won't get anything new because it won't be encouraged. Editors will look the other way--their jobs might even get a lot easier.
     
    From the Italie/Jordans article Seattle Times:

    "Under the new company, authors would range from John Grisham and Stephen King to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Every living former or current American president, from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump, will have published a book with the new company. So will first ladies such as Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama."

    From the perspective of a fiction writer, I didn't need to read an author lineup like that one. 
    « Last Edit: November 27, 2020, 05:31:44 pm by chrisstevenson »
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    Offline NikOK

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #16 on: November 27, 2020, 06:32:53 pm »

    From the Italie/Jordans article Seattle Times:

    "Under the new company, authors would range from John Grisham and Stephen King to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Every living former or current American president, from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump, will have published a book with the new company. So will first ladies such as Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama."

    From the perspective of a fiction writer, I didn't need to read an author lineup like that one.

    Ah, so they are going for the market of books that people feel like they are supposed to read.  Stephen King aside.  He's cool.  Maybe I just don't get who is buying these presidential/first lady books.  They feel like pure vanity.  Like, what can you really get from reading a lopsided, semi-fictitious glimpse into a real person's life?  The story either won't be true or won't be explained.  The ending is public knowledge.  The lessons will be whatever they think you want to hear.  And the entire thing will come from somebody who just realized one day, words+pages=easy money.

    Heh, I get that these books aren't for me, but I guess I just don't understand it.  Seems kinda like reading a long boujee commercial.

    Offline autor

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #17 on: November 27, 2020, 10:11:40 pm »
    More and more, the big publishers only seem to sign "names" -- celebrities, well-known politicians, talking heads from cable TV, and the like. Or the "factory" book producers like Patterson or Grisham.

    Permitting a publishing oligopoly benefits a few big corporations at the expense of both readers and authors.

    Offline Simon Haynes

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #18 on: November 27, 2020, 10:45:59 pm »
    Long may the big publisher(s) reign. If all those huge names started paying editors and cover designers and releasing their work as 4.99 ebooks, it would completely disrupt the market. Imagine competing with Big Name backlist titles on every single promo site, for a start.

    Now, while they're busy swimming in one pool, indies get the other pretty much to themselves.
     

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #19 on: November 28, 2020, 06:26:42 am »
    I've read so many paperbacks written by big names lately that just don't cut the mustard. They were million sellers. No1 in their categories and in the bestsellers list in certain publications. But there's a silver lining. While they're all there, it gives us a chance to shine as readers will look elsewhere to read something different.



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    Offline Arches

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #20 on: November 28, 2020, 07:23:23 am »

    The article states that Amazon publishes 49% of all new books, while the newly merged company would account for about 33% of them. (Unfortunately the article doesn't precisely define what it means by "new books".)

    What ever happened to the days when the US enforced its anti-trust laws?

    Actually, I think there's a good chance this takeover won't survive antitrust review by the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission. The combined company would control about a third of the US book market. And Biden's new team is likely to be more skeptical of mega-mergers than the outgoing administration. The effect on the book-buying public, smaller publishers, and independent bookstores could be dramatic.

    Offline markpauloleksiw

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #21 on: November 28, 2020, 09:54:02 am »
    The merger will go through...too much big money and campaign financing behind the players. Politicians don't care about authors/readers. Too many other mergers were let through which more reprehensible over past ten years.

    On a side note, a common complaint I am reading both from my readers and others is there is a growing disdain for the trad publisher mega blockbuster garbage being peddled...Okay, garbage is a strong word but, readers are catching on some brand name authors are mailing it in with the same story over and over again.  The good news for the newbies is that people are hungry for something new and different. The older population is becoming for intune with social media and the "online" as opposed to bookstore experience.

    The meteor hit the world of planet TRADS a while ago...now they are left to eat each other.

    Mark


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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #22 on: November 28, 2020, 11:05:38 am »
    Personally, I read a few big name authors and more often, new authors on KU, trying to give an Indie at least one read up.  :)

    Lately, the big name authors seem more like robots hitting a keyboard. It's pretty easy to figure out the end once you read the beginning. The Big Five/Four may soon figure out it must cultivate younger emerging writers, or the well may run dry.  What happens when King or Grisham, Child, Sanford quit writing, or even approving and signing off on compositions an in-house stable writes.  First, readers will know it soon enough, second, one big-name author cannot write or sign off forever. 

    My personal take, Indies market will improve for skilled writers, and tank for less skilled. Eventually, the Big Five/Four will begin recruiting from successful Indies if we let them. The shoe may someday fit a different foot. :) 
    « Last Edit: November 28, 2020, 11:07:13 am by boxer44 »

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #23 on: November 29, 2020, 02:57:13 am »
    My guess is that the Big four aren't thinking that far ahead. The publishing business is in such flux that they probably are milking the Patterson / Grisham / Roberts / Child well for all they've got, and there are enough mid-listers below them (Ben Coes and other similar writers) to milk after that. Then they sell what's left of it to one of the large entertainment conglomerates and the problem of publishing will be out of their hands. Or, maybe the Zon may buy one of them. Who knows?

    Either way, as long as there is independent publishing, it will be a definite part of the game from here on out.

    Offline Corvid

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    Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
    « Reply #24 on: November 30, 2020, 08:07:18 am »
    At least "Girl" was from a newer author, but releases from older authors like King, Grisham, Robin Cook (the list goes on) pale in comparison to their earlier novels.

    Probably because they're no longer writing them.


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      Offline markpauloleksiw

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      Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
      « Reply #25 on: November 30, 2020, 08:36:04 am »
      In my local Montreal paper, they ran a review of a collection of Atwood poems published by MacMillan. Let's just say the review was not glowing. Like the old music album where there was chart topper and a bunch of fillers.

      If you came from another planet and landed in Canada, you would think there was only one author who ever existed...Such is the power of the soon to be extinct trad publishers.

      BTW. The sad part is a lot of very reputable small Canadian presses that are about or have gone under.

      Mark

      Offline Louise Bates

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      Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
      « Reply #26 on: November 30, 2020, 09:00:24 am »
      If this merger goes through, I suspect the immediate result will be that it becomes that much harder to get a traditional publishing contract. My hope is that that very difficulty will lead to a better market, as more small presses open up in defiance and more agents start working with said small presses and more bookstores start carrying their books.

      I'm aware that's a naive hope--but the alternative is too grim to contemplate.
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      Offline ShayneRutherford

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      Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
      « Reply #27 on: November 30, 2020, 10:52:53 am »
      If this merger goes through, I suspect the immediate result will be that it becomes that much harder to get a traditional publishing contract. My hope is that that very difficulty will lead to a better market, as more small presses open up in defiance and more agents start working with said small presses and more bookstores start carrying their books.

      I'm aware that's a naive hope--but the alternative is too grim to contemplate.

      There's no reason that some small presses couldn't start up. But they would have to be real businesses with real business plans and proper budgets if they wanted to succeed. They would need to advertise, and they would need to have good covers and decent editing, which seems to be more than a lot of small presses have. That said, it's really hard for small presses to get their books on store shelves, because most stores want the books to be returnable, and to have a 55% discount. And if the press does manage to get some books on the shelves, if they don't sell in the first month or two, the stores will return them to clear that shelf space for new books.
               

      Offline markpauloleksiw

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      Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
      « Reply #28 on: November 30, 2020, 01:53:24 pm »
      In Canada it is almost impossible for a small press to get their books in retailers. Simply because the largest retailer is run by what really is a monopoly out of Toronto (indigo)...that is close to the large publishers.

      Mark

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      Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
      « Reply #29 on: November 30, 2020, 02:50:41 pm »
      To be fair, if you asked most Americans to name a Canadian author, they would either say Atwood or stare blankly.

      I'm sure you have a lot of great authors in Canada, but I certainly can't name any of them (not counting the many Canadian indie authors I know personally).

      Offline Indy Strange

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      Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
      « Reply #30 on: November 30, 2020, 03:38:22 pm »
      There's no reason that some small presses couldn't start up. But they would have to be real businesses with real business plans and proper budgets if they wanted to succeed. They would need to advertise, and they would need to have good covers and decent editing, which seems to be more than a lot of small presses have. That said, it's really hard for small presses to get their books on store shelves, because most stores want the books to be returnable, and to have a 55% discount. And if the press does manage to get some books on the shelves, if they don't sell in the first month or two, the stores will return them to clear that shelf space for new books.
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      Offline chrisstevenson

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      Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
      « Reply #31 on: November 30, 2020, 03:39:11 pm »
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      Offline Simon Haynes

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      Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
      « Reply #32 on: November 30, 2020, 05:58:59 pm »
      Apparently bookstores get paid for the better placements too, such as big displays on tables up front and the like. (And the big promos with huge piles of books and posters all over the place - paid for by the publisher.)

      Small press can't match that, so it's two copies on the shelves down the back somewhere, and here, you can have them back at the end of the month.

      Now imagine were we'd be without the internet and online retailers. I still remember those days with total despair, and will take the current situation with ebooks + AMS ads any day. To be able to publish from my house in the suburbs of Perth, Western Australia, and reach readers all over the world - that's just awesome. 20 years ago it was a futuristic dream.

       

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      Offline jb1111

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      Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
      « Reply #33 on: November 30, 2020, 06:05:23 pm »
      This article claims the merger is a competitive response to Amazon's market dominance -- https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/penguin-random-house-simon-schuster-monster-about-amazon/617209/.

      The article states that Amazon publishes 49% of all new books, while the newly merged company would account for about 33% of them. (Unfortunately the article doesn't precisely define what it means by "new books".)

      What ever happened to the days when the US enforced its anti-trust laws?

      The linked article says that Amazon sells 49% of books, not that it publishes 49% of them. So its dominance is mainly over book retail. I'm not sure if a 50 percent chunk of a particular retail sector (like book sales) is a monopoly deserving of anti-trust investigations. Apple had a huge chunk of music sales for a decade, and they were left alone. So, I'll leave it to government agencies or other people to decide that issue -- it's past my pay grade.

      As for the impetus behind the consolidation? I think it's obviously money. And maybe the drop in sales and fiction book revenues has led some to sell to the highest bidder, as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt may be doing, according to the article I found in a publishing periodical. Consolidation has been going on in other industries, particularly the entertainment industry. I suppose the book publishing industry couldn't be immune to it.

      I can see why some big pubbers are wary of Amazon. When a company has half the retail in your industry, that's indeed a lot of leverage. But on the other hand it seems the big pubbers have been able to deal with Amazon OK. And I also don't see them setting up their own retail alternatives, when you'd think they'd have thought of that option. Maybe they have, and figured that it wouldn't work.

      Offline Corvid

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      Re: And then there were 4...Penguin buying Simon
      « Reply #34 on: December 01, 2020, 03:06:29 pm »
      In Canada it is almost impossible for a small press to get their books in retailers. Simply because the largest retailer is run by what really is a monopoly out of Toronto (indigo)...that is close to the large publishers.

      Mark

      Yep, Canada's a racket, and always has been. Publishing very much included.


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