lunes, 12 de enero de 2015

It's business

"A publishing company is not a charity. If they smell money they will publish your book. Business is tough."

John Cooper, at The Passive Voice.

The comment above was made by a writer at The Passive Voice, in a post regarding rejections.

I learned a certain kind of business behaviour on my father's knees. He'd been in the same enterprise as his father, and his grandfather. Started as travelling salesman during the late postwar recovery, ended up as manager (and managed the early 70s and early 90s crises). We spent a good deal of the 90s and the 00s discussing current corporations. He simply couldn't accept certain behaviours actually happened (managed to accept them as the economy nosedived; then, he died). He insisted that certain employee retention practices (or their lack) didn't work. That certain consumer relations were not healthy. That...

I did say that he managed to believe what I was saying as the economy nosedived, yes?

There's been a lot of ink on the way that current corporations manage their assets for good quarterly reports but can't manage much mid or long term. To the point where, when someone does invest mid or long term, it's seen as an aberration (Amazon, anyone?).

And it's dawning on me that the mechanism is basically the same. Focus on the short term (quarterly in stock corporations, preorders in publishing), no R+D, no understanding of customer & provider relationships (no matter if they are actually providers or customers of writers; they certainly are providers of bookshops), no understanding of the end customer (it's called a reader; weird critters), no understanding of distribution (Hachette delays some months ago; shipping PoD books overseas...), no understanding of their own portfolio (books as special snowflakes... unless they happen to be written by a media darling), no grasp of their inventory (*)...

Will they adapt? Sure. The corporation will. The current crop of editors, CEOs and such? I doubt it. But the corporation? Well, if Lagardere sold Hachette to a partnership of Konrath, Eisler, Howey and Rusch, the corporation would adapt. Would it still be the same? Well, technically. I think the adaptation process can fall short of that... but not really by much.

Take care.

(*) I know of a big-ish corporation whose Spanish section didn't know how many units of a given item (any item) it sold. They carrier over the prior year's predictions, then slashed the actual sales so that they could actually meet that prediction plus its growth. Unless you had access to the original data (meaning, you were in a specific off-way office) and you had kept that data privately, you couldn't know. Including department bosses, by their own orders. By the same token, publishers accept "returns" two-three-n years after shipping. And they often don't even know how much they have shipped on a given day.

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