Thursday, October 27, 2005

Indiscretion? No, she'll probably get a promotion.

In the NYT today, Jennifer Bergstrom, publisher of Simon Spotlight Entertainment, had this to say in praise of her staff: "The thing that impresses me most about our editors is that they understand that it's not all about the book. It's about the money you can make from that book."

10 comments:

Elizabeth Law said...

Yes, making money is the point of that imprint, actually. It's the reason most book publishers are in business. The Horn Book stays afloat, I assume, not just from its circulation but from the ads that publishers buy to help sell more books.

What's wrong with saying we're in business to make money?

Signed,

Elizabeth Law
VP, Associate Publisher
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Roger Sutton said...

Elaw:

Are book publishers in business to make money, or are they in business to make money publishing books? That's not a facile distinction, as Bergstrom's initial comment proves: she's saying it's not about the books, it's about the money. She could be selling widgets. She's saying making money is more important to her imprint than publishing books. Is that your publishing philosophy?

Elizabeth said...

It's tempting to say "I don't have a publishing philosophy, I have a sales target to meet--and a mortgage." But my philosophy is basically "Do I like this book? Would I have liked it as a kid? And can we make money on it?"

Tangentially, I've seen three cases where a publisher acquired a book they didn't like, but thought would sell. Each one bombed.

Roger Sutton said...

That's interesting about the three flops--I guess the good thing about having a book you published because you liked it flop is that at least your self-respect is intact ;-)

Your philosophy sounds on the button to me.

Rand said...

And what about the flip side? Are there ever books that publishers see that are good books, would be good for kids to read, but probably wouldn't be a commercial blockbuster that are still given the go ahead? I just sometime wonder with all the books that DO get published, how many good books never make it cause they won't bring in the awards and benjamins. Or do you use Cameron Mackintosh's model of keeping CATS afloat to pay for all your personal projects?

Elizabeth Law said...

I'd be careful about mentioning CATS, since I've seen postings from McCavity and Shimbleshanks on this blog. Anyway, we hardly think every book will be a commercial blockbuster, and occasionally we take on a book that we think there won't be much of an audience for just because we love it so. I did that when I reissued Flambards at
Puffin(and I was right, we lost money), and Ursula Nordstrom printed 500 copies of The Giving Tree and figured she could just buy them up herself over time. She THOUGHT that maybe no one but herself would like it...

Mr. Sidetable said...

Roger,

You do Ms. Bergstrom a disservice by writing "... it's about the money. She could be selling widgets. She's saying making money is more important to her imprint than publishing books."

She explicitly said: "It's about the money you can make from that book." She doesn't say "It's about the money you can make from that widget." She's in the business of putting out books that will sell. Which, strangely enough, has been the goal of publishers since the invention of movable type.

The "facile distinction" you highlight is no distinction at all. She specifies that books are her business. So why is it so bad that they are just that--a business?

Roger Sutton said...

Of course Bergstrom is in the business of publishing books that sell--anyone who was in the business of publishing books that did NOT sell would not be in business. Mr. Sidetable's point only makes sense if you ignore, as he does, the first half of the statement Bergstrom made. She said "it's not all about the book. It's about the money you can make from that book." This is why I suggested she go into the widget business.

Anonymous said...

What people are "tempted to say" is usually what they really mean.

which means we are, indeed, talking widgets and sales goals.

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