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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Can The Book World Recover From PublishingGate?



In what is being billed as the biggest leak of hacked documents for the book publishing industry, news has spread that Penguin Random House’s merger was anything but pleasant, that Harper Collins tried and failed to finance a competitor to Amazon, that Hachette wanted to rip up its contract with one of its prized authors, and that a high-ranking executive at Simon & Schuster was having an affair – and exchanging trade secrets with someone at Macmillan’s inner circle.

Ok, so none of that may be true and there is no leak of documents – yet.  But if recent history serves as an example, look for a day to come when PublishingGate lands on the top page of social media sites.

You may have heard about a real leak recently, dubbed The Panama Papers.  On April 3 documents from a Panamanian law firm, Massack Fonseca, were exposed anonymously, shedding light on how the uber wealthy hide their money. Stretching back four decades, 214,000 off shore shell companies in 200 countries are tracked, showing where heads of state, celebrities and the powerful stash their money to evade public notice, taxes, and the law. Over 11 million documents show a slew of criminal actions and morally upsetting events.  The secret financial lives of the 1% of the 1% have been aired out. Couldn’t the same happen for the book world?

What could we learn if such records were hacked in the book industry?

·         Which authors got paid advances of certain sums, sparking angry discussions from literary agents.
·         Email exchanges from editors showing what they really think of their authors and books, sure to ignite outcry and backlash from the writers.
·         Embarrassing selfies and nude pictures that found their way through the digital transom.
·         Insensitive, racist, sexist comments shared by colleagues.
·         Exposure to lawsuits and sex harassment complaints.
·         Materials that reveal the strategies, insights and thinking of the inner circles at the elite houses.
·         Revelations of corner-office jealousies and plots to get people fired.

What if the documents show something we didn’t expect to see, something so shocking and enraging or disheartening that it would take years for the industry to recover?  Or, what if what’s revealed as really nothing exceptional and representative of what we’d expect? As more and more documents get released about the rich, famous and powerful do we become immune to what gets exposed?

Snowden and Wikileaks revealed political and military matters.  The Panama Papers show wealth and criminal activities.  PublishingGate, if and when it happens, may not be as sexy as one would expect – but no doubt a book will be written about it.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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