Here's a mountain being made out of a mole hill. Yesterday Chris Meadows of Teleread picked up a story about Brad Martin, the president and CEO of Penguin Random House Canada.
Martin gave an interview several weeks back to The Globe and Mail’s Mark Medley, talking about how the newly merged company was coming together. What caught Chris's eye was this seemingly controversial statement:
“I’m not interested in a book that is going to generate less than $100,000 in revenue unless the editor or publisher has a compelling vision for the book and/or the author.” Brad Martin, sitting in one of the small meeting rooms scattered throughout the new office, taps the table with almost every word. “If the person that’s championing that book in the acquisitions meeting doesn’t have a compelling view of it, it’s just trying to fill a slot, then I’m not interested in doing it.
I don't find it nearly as controversial as others make it sound, and from the lack of shock and outrage I don't think very many other people were surprised, either. I only just heard about this three-week-old interview, which means it wasn't interesting enough to catch the attention of Twitter. Furthermore, pundits predicted this belt-tightening move when the merger was first announced several years ago.
Yes, some have expressed concern that PRH will publish fewer titles than its two parts did before the merger, but Martin defended the move by pointing out that there's less shelf space than before, and more competition, adding that "... if you can’t get merchandising space for your books in the retail stores, you can’t sell them. So I would rather publish two books instead of three, and give both of those books a chance to win, than publish all three of them. Because it’s a numbers game."
So PRH Canada is going to focus on pushing best sellers? Cool. That frees up more of the midlist for indies and smaller (and more nimble) publishers.
According to Martin, the newly merged company claims 32% of the Canadian book market. Given the ease with which Canadians can buy books and ebooks from the US, I'm not sure that's accurate, but in any case the Canadian book market would be well served if more of those sales shifted to other publishers.
And indie authors.