The sign of the “Apoca-lit”

Home of the Apocalit

What’s happening to the book?  This: Amphoto Books, Back Stage Books, Billboard Books, Broadway Books, Clarkson Potter, Crown Books, Harmony, Ten Speed Press, Three Rivers Press, Alfred Knopf, Anchor Books, Doubleday, Everyman’s Library, Nan Talese, Pantheon Books, Schocken Books, Vintage, Ballantine Books, Bantam, Delacorte, Dell, Del Rey, Dial Press, Presidio Press, Spectro, Spiegel  & Grau, Villard Books … and more, were almost all once independent publishing houses making independent editorial decisions. Now all of these are owned by one publisher — Random House. But then, Random House is itself no longer independent, it is owned by Bertelsmann Media, the massive German conglomerate, which ultimately decides what gets published and what does not, and that is entirely an economic-based decision.  Something more than 30 formerly independent publishers now answer to one German media conglomerate posing as Random House.  And that is the sign of the “Apoca-lit.”


10 replies »

  1. Isn’t it scary that one single German business enterprise is, in effect, deciding what will be available for you to read in book form? Rather than those 30+ independent publishers making editorial decisions based on their own literary sensibilities.

    I took the Feedjit down because I could not figure out how to tell it to ignore visits from my computer, and got tired of going back and having to delete all the hits from me when I went to the site to check comments or make new posts. I still have the old counter from my previous blog, which is why this new one shows more than 8,600 visits.

  2. Ha, yeah, you think we have to check in with our German overlords before buying any books, eh? This is straight-up FoxNews-style propaganda. Everyone flee in terror of the German censors and their unseen but assumed power! That’s an enormous threat but having the world’s largest book sales force and distribution chain and shared centralized resources are just meant to mask the true threat, right? Run for your lives!

    • This comment flagrantly misses the point.

      This is the point. One single gigantic media conglomerate (it is irrelevant that it’s German, it could be Proctor and Gamble, etc.) trickles down to the delegated decision-makers in its various arms, an overall operating policy, and I do not believe that you believe it is literary-based and not bottom line economic.

      Secondarily, you stated it fairly distinctly and accurately, apparently unwittingly. Yes, it is an enormous threat to have one company controlling “the world’s largest book sales force and distribution chain and shared centralized resources.” One single company. No, that does not mask the threat, that is the threat. It would be in any industry. Imagine that 90% of the major airlines in America were wholly-owned subsidiaries of United Airlines. Imagine that most of the beer breweries in America were owned by Budweiser. Might be good for the stock holders of United and Budweiser, but not all that good for flyers and beer drinkers.

      It is disappointing, but maybe not unexpected, for someone working for what was when I started out one of the finest and most respected literary publishers in the world, resorting to snide remarks about Fox style propaganda, which is silly on the face of it, instead of cogently and in good faith responding to the problem as stated here.

      By the way, your distribution chain is distributing (at least I hope it is) my last novel.

      • PS: I always have a hard time given credibility to people who hide behind fake email addresses and silly fake names.

        But I appreciate your visit and hope you return, there’s a lot here to read.

        • Obviously, I’m not authorized to speak on behalf of my company so I won’t use my name. I could tell you that our editorial meetings end at the publisher level. There are no editorial decisions coming from any level higher than that. I’m a decision-maker here and nothing German or otherwise has trickled down onto me. I don’t think that there’s anything that I can say that would satisfy you though. I’m a member of the scary cabal of New World Order book publishers so every answer I give is tainted. It’s insulting and uninformed, frankly.

          • Then I have no reason to believe you have any editorial decision-making power, except you tell me you do. Would it embarrass RH if you came onto a web site and defended them? You could be somebody’s secretary or a person in the mail room.

            The answer to that question is pretty obvious to me that yes, RH would be embarrassed by the tone you take here.

            You have such a angry, sarcastic tone here that I wonder if you aren’t by example illustrating the problem I have tried to describe?

            And who do you think is so naive to believe that a corporate owner does not instill the common business model that profits are the bottom line?

            You could satisfy me in any discussion if you presented any authority, any reason to believe what you post. Right now you are only popping off.

            “Uniformed” you do not prove. “Insulting” is a good description of the tone you take here. Referring to your Fox remark, don’t you recognize a little Bill O’reilly in your tone and style?

            Finally, resorting to sarcasm is always, always the last resort of the weak-minded.

            I stand by my contention here that having one single corporation “controlling the world’s largest book sales force and distribution chain and shared centralized resources,” or anything else, is not in the best interest of anyone beyond the corporation itself. I think my examples are clear.

            You haven’t done one single thing to refute this.

            • And I stand behind my earlier statement that nothing I could say would satisfy you. One of us sees the inner workings at RH and one doesn’t. I know the things you say aren’t true, you’re just speculating. If my tone sounds defensive, it’s because you’ve impugned the company I’ve worked very hard at making better for many years. What have you proved? Your assertion is that RH is beholden to special interests to the point that the published content is affected. What’s an example of this? You’ve succeeded only in pasting a list of imprints, implying a chilling connection with no evidence, and typing ad hominem attacks. You’ve said this list of imprints is a “sign of the Apoca-lit” but what’s happened? Bertlesmann bought RH 13 years ago and the sky hasn’t fallen yet.

  3. The reply thread is too skinny, although I suspect this exchange is likely to end soon.

    There is still no evidence to believe you have some special insider knowledge. Just saying it doesn’t work. You can say I am writing lies — anybody can say anything about anything. But clearly you intend to keep your special insider position secret, so I’ll move on and let my public credibility speak for itself.

    There is a lot about this sort of thing on this webblog, and a few thousand others, that even a cursory glance shows. The publishing world has buzzed about this very problem for quite a few years, intensifying lately. This is all the talk in the trade journals. You haven’t noticed all this print on what’s happening to the publishing business?

    I will move on by calling any reader’s attention to an earlier post: “Prose Fiction is Story-telling.” Halfway down that post, below a photo of Bob Gottlieb, is a quote by him that speaks directly to the topic on this post. So I will end by saying that I agree with Gottlieb. And you have done nothing at all to refute what either of us are claiming about a monolithic, single corporate owner, publishing business.

    It has not been pleasant conversing with you, but I am glad you came here to make a comment and hope you return when you have some time.

    • By the way, if you are a power-broker at RH, would you suggest that my agent not submit my next novel to any of those 35+ imprints you own? Narrows the field a little, doesn’t it? And you don’t notice the irony that one house controls so much of what may or may not see print?

      I understand. I have never had any illusions about the publishing business. Oh well, maybe in the beginning, 30 years ago, I had a few. None are left.

  4. Warning to the writers who read and comment here. In case “RH Worker Bee” happens to work at Random House in some capacity for influencing editorial decisions, do not post to this thread of comments under your name. It is not unlikely that you could end up on a Random House blacklist, which would knock some 35 imprints off your publishing options. It doesn’t matter to me. I have a publishing history and am anyway an old novelist. Don’t let one conglomerate blacklist cause problems for you. It’s really not worth it. My advice is stay away from this thread. Just in case.