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Inside Random House

12 June 2012

29 Comments to “Inside Random House”

  1. So. Much. Paper.

    That’s all I could think about as I watched the video. Paper, paper, paper. Where were the computers?

    • I saw computers — almost always in the background. I saw editors’ desks littered with paper and then I saw one editor with a clean desk (no paper) as he worked in front of his desktop.

  2. I’m sure plenty of people will deride this promotional video. In-depth consultations with authors re book jackets? Authors getting every page of a WIP read and critiqued by an editor, so they “can move forward” with their writing? Surely that kind of individual attention is increasingly rare and was never all that common.

    But I have to say, it does make me a bit sad for the traditional publishing industry. These are people who majored in English, even though their parents probably told them it was impractical, and then got what must’ve seemed like dream jobs, prestigious jobs they felt good about. I hope they land on their feet when places like Random House either go under or radically downsize.

    Indie authors can and should recognize that building and relying on networks of “indie professionals” — designers, editors, and formatters who’ve gotten out or never got into the traditional industry — in no way diminishes their indie status.

  3. Inside Random House: Why Your Royalty is So Small and Agency is Awesome … for Us!

  4. 9:26 minutes promoting Random House; 5 seconds of a shot of their SF/F website. All they were talking about may be true for the high-end literary authors and children’s authors and projects; but I’ve never seen any of it down in the genre trenches. Exactly Twice in my career did they ask about a cover illo before they commissioned it. Once it happened because I was in NYC and in my editor’s office when the decision had to be made. The other time my advice, which they solicited, was ignored. 🙂

    Great production values on the video, however. Happy to have helped underwrite it.

  5. I watched the whole video, they never said what percentage of their authors actually get this full service treatment with all the publicity and advertising. On the Random House website, there is a link titled ‘books published this week’. There are 250 titles on that page (those books have sale dates of June 11th, 12th, and 13th). Did each one of these author’s get individualized personal service? Did the art director really confer with each of them on the cover design? Will they each get blog tours, printed books reviews, and interviews with members of the media? If they can bring out 250 books in three days, how many do they produce over the course of a year? Call me naive, but I’m thinking the video may be a bit misleading in what the average Random House author can expect. This is probably more like what they do for their top 5%, and everyone else is on the budget plan.

    Source: http://www.randomhouse.com/category/this_week/
    (Speaking of the cutting edge of technology, the website appears to have gone down when I was visiting the page. And now is slower than molasses.)

    • From what I’ve learned over the years, less than 10% of authors under contract recieve this sort of support and most of those are the A-list authors that sell hundreds of thousands of copies for each book they write.

      We know a Random House author. Well, she was a Random House author. Random House even sent her on a book tour with her first book. However, the book flopped (sold only a few hundred copies) and Random House dropped her as if she were a red-hot coal from a pot-belly cast-iron stove.

  6. I haven’t watched it yet. Did we actually get to see the Jeff Bezos voodoo doll, or was it only alluded to?

    • Don’t bother, unless you like to watch frightened people. The fact that they’ve spent so much money compiling this is revealing about the state of mind of Random House High Command … “panic” is probably the word 🙂

  7. Patricia Sierra

    Apparently all this TLC for authors and books went into effect right after they published my books.

  8. Michael Matewauk

    I missed the part where the accountant pipes in. Or maybe he/she was locked up in the broom closet during production.

  9. A very slick and well produced video, but to what end? It seems like a sales piece, but at whom is it directed? I’m sure they don’t need to sell top tier authors who already benefit from this sterling service. Or do they?

    Are they trying to entice mid-list authors who have jumped ship back into the fold, or dissuade those on the verge of doing so? I doubt the video can trump reality, and the reality as I understand it is that the level of support offered to the typical author is far below that presented.

    So it is aimed at the great previously unpublished masses, meant to counter the siren song of self-publishing? I think that ship has sailed as well.

    I can’t think of a single person or group that this (probably expensive) video would convince, and that speaks volumes about marketing acumen right there. These are undoubtedly some very bright folks, but they’re talking to themselves because no one else is listening now.

    • My gut feeling is that this is aimed at the punters. Only the general reading public, which at present has no dog in the trad-vs.-indie fight, could be either informed or misled by such a puff piece. This is Random House posing with a white hat on, in the hope that people will think it is one of the Good Guys.

  10. This video is all about the trade division. There’s nothing about the mass market imprints, which also produce hardcovers and the two paperback formats.

    Trade imprints don’t have “mid-list” authors. They don’t contract series. They don’t sell the same, either (trade books aren’t remaindered). They don’t print the same qty of copies per run, and thereby have different sell thru expectations.

    It’s not surprising they made this slick video–trying to convince themselves, their authors and their employees that what they do is “necessary”.

    It’s even worse down in the mm “ghetto” where there’s more work and even less return.

  11. Nice digs, y’all.

    If all of those people were involved in the production of my book I’d be surprised if I could buy lunch with the advance.

  12. Golly! What a magical world.

    Where everyone seems to be a VP…

    Did they lock up the minions before they brought in the cameras or are they really that top heavy? What really surprised me was that their offices look so high end. Do you really need expensive, downtown NYC real estate to read manuscripts or is the management just emotionally attached to their prestigious digs?

    What I saw in this video just didn’t make a lot of business sense. I worked for a forty Billion a year company and their offices were on the outskirts, not downtown.

  13. They said an awful lot about their books but very little about the author themselves. Very clear that the publisher perspective is product- not author-centric.

  14. Lol da da da. Editors supporting rewriting: No surprise. I’ve published 100s of times now. I can write a book. I know that. These guys just don’t have anything to offer.

    By the way, they let a intern speak. He accidentally called himself as an editor when he talked about the slush pile.

    3:00 minutes in I vomited. Maybe RH will be moving into pay to publish soon. This sounds like a poor justification of their existence. I have people who will do all of what they suggest for free.

    (I’m so hard anti-publishing today… 😉

  15. “Thou shalt not get pissed at Traditional Publishers’s lies.” This sounds like the bestsellers program. Midlist authors have long reported not seeing this sort of love. I bet you if I got a contract, I wouldn’t see any of this. I want to vomit again, but there’s nothing left in my stomach.

  16. The marketing lady scares me.

  17. Who are these authors of which they speak? Marketing campaigns? Author input on cover design? Page-by-page editorial and author-centric hand-holding?

    Somehow I get the feeling I’ve just watched someone wrap a big pile of bullsh*t with bright, shiny paper and a pretty bow.

    I had to laugh at all the VPs being interviewed. If Random House runs it like a lot of other corporations, VPs giving the pep talks are sure bets that everything you’re being told is a lie.

  18. An important part of an editor’s job is “promoting a book in-house”?!

    Doesn’t she realize she’s admitting, “Even though my title is VP, nobody trusts me and I have no power, because I have to sell all my book projects to my bosses instead of just sending them out”?

    • Not to mention that nothing says dysfunctional corporation like “I have to suck up to marketing and to the book reps to get them to do their actual jobs.”

      Sigh. One would normally assume that internal departments would just talk to each other as part of their assigned workloads, and every book would get good care. And if you didn’t deliver good work on every assignment, you’d either have to shape up or ship out. That’s the way it works in rational industries.

  19. They sure have a lot of Vice Presidents.

  20. Nice little soft ad/employee training vid, though I found it peculiar that they completely side-stepped the agenting process despite the fact that Random House only deals with an exclusive network of lit agents and does not accept unsolicited submissions.

  21. A full-blown city-to-city book tour costs at least a $1,000 a day with meals, drivers, hotel rooms, airfare, etc. The average traditionally published book sells about 250 copies in its printed life. That means below average sells less—much less, while a few authors such as Steven King and Rowling dominate the above average with tens of millions of sales.

    This is what it takes to be considered a success.

    A successful fiction book sells 5,000 copies.
    –Authors Guild. http://www.authorsguild.org/

    A successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies.
    –Authors Guild. http://www.authorsguild.org/

    2004. “Of the 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies.”
    — Publisher’s Weekly, July 17, 2006

    Note: I would like to see the 2011 numbers for the last statistic. I have read that the average book in America today sells about 250 copies down from that 500 figure reported in 2004.

    Wiki says Random House has 5,343 employees and publishes thousands of new titles annually through all of its different imprints.

    If every author received the royal treatment with a multi-city tour, imagine the promotional costs. The reality from these numbers tells us there is no way Random House or any other traditional publisher can treat all of its authors equally when it comes to promoting books. Even a fiction author that is considered successful with 5,000 sales will never earn back the money it would take to send him or her on a dozen-city book tour in the United States.

    • The average traditionally published book sells 250 copies??? Holy cow! I knew the number was depressingly small, but I had no idea it was *that* small. I’m truly shocked.

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