Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Harlequin Sale To Lead To Changes

News Corporation announced it is buying the erotic and romance publisher, 65-year-old Harlequin, for $415 million. This furthers the consolidation of publishing and leaves the Big 5 that much bigger and stronger.

News Corp, which owns HarperCollins and Thomas Nelson Publishers, now will add the sometimes x-rated publisher to its stable. With all of these publishers under one big roof, it leaves us with four other giants – Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, and Macmillan Publishers – as well as Amazon’s fast-growing publishing division and several otherr strong independents.

So what does this mean for the industry and consumers? Take a look:

Authors – They are in a weaker position because there is now less competition for publishers to buy manuscripts.

Literary Agents – See above.

Publishing Employees – With mergers come layoffs -- usually, as jobs that overlap are cut. Further, with one big competitor off the market, salaries for workers may not grow as fast.

Book Prices – The bigger HarperCollins has one less competitor and can be in a stronger position to raise prices.

Editorial – It remains to be seen if Harlequin remains distinct and unique in its brand, voice, and style. If it’s left alone, it will flourish.

Bookstores – Consolidating accounts and returns to one single publisher/location may make things a little easier and more efficient.

Consumer – The danger with the consolidation of publishing is that prices could rise but more importantly, the editorial voice could become limited if just five key companies rule over the vast majority of which traditionally published books are green-lighted.

Independent Publishers – With a big player now part of an even bigger player, there’s more room for alternate voices to emerge. On the other hand, it’s very difficult for small presses to compete with the big boys and their deep pockets.

Will we see HarperCollins’ newest imprints influence one another? Could we start seeing erotic church-based thrillers with Thomas Nelson and Harlequin now under one entity? Will News Corp’s Wall Street Journal start reviewing more books about love triangles and escorts? Will the NY Post, also owned by the same company, feature a sharply dressed reverend on Page Six instead of the usual gratuitous skin pic?

Could more mergers and acquisitions in publishing be on the way? Could, within the next five years, Amazon buy one of the big five? Apple would follow suit. Then Netflix. Everything is merging into one giant, infotainment-tech company. But if publishing wants to grow and stay independent, it will need new start-ups to launch and flourish. Harlequin was once such a company and it grew successfully. Who will take its place?

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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