Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When The Money Runs Out

Publishers are struggling to sell books to a public that isn't buying much of anything any more.

The business model is in need of revamping, but who will be the first to jump? Hundreds and thousands of copies of a new title are printed, packed and shipped, a quantity that's meant to fill shelves and display space. With the hope that those copies will be purchased.

What never sells or ends up in the remainders pile gets shipped back and pulped, recycled into clean paper that can be bought to print up copies of the next book.

It all costs money that the publisher can't afford to lose, but it's the way books are sold and it's the way that a publisher can run itself into the ground.

Phoenix Books was surviving until owner Michael Viner died. Dwight Opperman jumped in and bought up the small publishing house, his dreams of publishing glory shining brightly.

He bought up manuscripts from debut authors like a regular, old-fashioned sort of publisher who nurtured careers and would go down in literary history as a mentor and key player in the game. He opened up a line for children's books, which are hot since the Harry Potter craze swept the land.

Mr. Opperman gambled, but unfortunately for everyone caught up in the wreck of Phoenix Books, he lost.

The place is closed. Phoenix Books, Inc. is no more.

For those authors who were on the verge of breaking out with their debut novel, there's no more lay-down date. Non-fiction writers who thought they'd be getting paid for their latest release are left to wonder how they'll pay bills when there's no royalties coming in as planned.

The doors are locked, gone out of business, and the people who worked there will have no other option than to sign on at the unemployment office.

The authors, as usual, are left in limbo, not knowing what will happen to rights or royalties or manuscripts sitting on the desk of the acquisition editor.

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