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Publisher Hachette Announces Layoffs Amid Amazon Dispute

6 June 2014

From Mashable:

Publisher Hachette, which is embroiled in a dispute with Amazon, announced Thursday that it was laying off about 28 staffers.

. . . .

A Hachette rep offered the following statement on the issue:

Today, we had to make some difficult changes at HBG [Hachette Book Group] as part of a cost-savings initiative that will improve our company’s resilience to a changing marketplace and position HBG for future growth. Unfortunately, these changes mean that some of our colleagues will be leaving the company. These efforts will improve efficiency and balance throughout HBG. This is essential to our company’s continued growth, and our ability to carry out our primary goal: to publish our authors’ work with passion, originality, and impact.

The rep said the layoffs, which account for about 3% of the company, were unrelated to the Amazon conflict.

Link to the rest at Mashable and thanks to Tom for the tip.

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57 Comments to “Publisher Hachette Announces Layoffs Amid Amazon Dispute”

  1. Amazon should put out a press release inviting those staffers to apply.

    I know they wouldn’t do that…. I’m feeling snarky today after reading the other post about the high-discount royalty slashing BS……

    • And if they don’t like working for the ‘Zon, they can quit and maybe get paid for doing so! Win win?

      • Maybe they should just cut out the middle man and offer Hachette employees $5000 to quit Hachette.

        • At one point Borland compilers that blew away Microsoft’s offerings. There was simply no comparison when it came to speed.

          Microsoft started sending limos to take the Borland programmers to lunch and offering them $1 millon-plus signing bonuses, plus lengthy paid leaves (I’ve heard as much as one year).

          It worked.

          • So that’s what happened to Borland.

            • I had a couple of Borland products on 3.5″ microfloppies that ran on DOS. They were outstanding and light-years ahead of the competition. I was sad to see them go.

            • Well, that and the switch from Pascal to C and C++.

              Getting into spreadsheets and getting sued by Lotus wasn’t terribly good for their bottom line either. Nor buying ashton-Tate just as SQL databases were emerging and dBase fading.
              But if blaming MS makes the fall of Borland more palatable…
              (Shrug)

              Around that time, we actually got (engineering) summer interns who believed Pascal was going to take over the world and there was no need to learn Fortran. We took them to the technical library and showed them the millions upon millions of lines of fortran code in use and asked them if they thought their computer science pascal evangelists were going to convert those codes to pascal for us for free. The following summer the interns returned with actual F77 skills. Last we ever heard of Pascal.

    • Veroica, actually, that would be a brilliant PR strategy for Amazon, IMO.

  2. You can’t fool us, we know the truth.

    Amazon is holding these employees hostage as part of the negotiations, isn’t it?

    • In actuality, that’s a Red Herring “hidden truth” meant to throw off people who dig for the hidden truth.

      The real hidden truth is that Zon demanded a sacrificial tribute from Hatchette as punishment for their displayed insolence. Specifically, that 3% of its work force be bound and thrown from the top of Hatchette HQ into giant dumpsters lined with steel spikes and filled with burning fuel. Yes. Zon is that evil. Don’t act surprised.

      Hatchette, of course, is heroically, bravely and valiantly standing up to Zon’s terroristic bullying by refusing and in protest, will release the 3% instead of sacrificing them with enormously generous severance packages which will keep them living luxuriously for the rest of their days. Because nurturing BigPub, as you all know, value people above all other things.

      So, there. 😛

      • Chris Armstrong

        Perhaps they’ll invite a sufficient number of their authors to a “party” at HQ, hire them, and then push them into the dumpsters.

        • Along with copies of their remaindered and stripped books. Now THAT’S nuturing.

          • Well, in all fairness, if Amazon demanded that 3% of Hatchette authors be sacrificed the discussion probably would have been: “Wait, only 3%, are you serious? We can do 20 or 30%. Even more, if it will help negotiations. We have their rights after they’re dead anyway, plus all those successful indies we hear about are just amateurs who dream of being culled. Our publishing thought leaders told us so.”

  3. Record profits and yet, they layoff people. What a great company.

  4. Sarah,
    I think they’ve all been sealed in Carbonite pending the outcome of the negotiations.

  5. Patricia Sierra

    I have seen several articles about these layoffs and in every one of them the headline mentions that they come amid negotiations with Amazon. People reading just the headlines will naturally assume it’s Amazon’s fault. They may never get to Hachette’s statement saying it’s unconnected.

    My guess is that Hachette has timed these layoffs to deliver some bad PR to Amazon.

    • How many employees does Hachette have? 46 and this is 2/3 of their work force? Somehow I doubt that. It all smacks of bad PR BS. I hope the “staffers” (that word bugs me too) get better jobs quickly!

      I’m too grumpy for the Internet today…..

      EDIT: If I hadn’t been eye rolling so hard I would have see that the article says it’s 3% of their workforce. What company announces a 3% layoff?

      • Actually it says it’s 3%, not 2/3. What do you want to bet these jobs weren’t high-paying management positions, but low-level grunt positions? Because editors don’t have enough to do, so they obviously need less support staff.

        • I just was editing my comment as I finally managed to read the entire thing…… I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s low-level staffers.

          As I mentioned in my edit, is it normal for a company to ANNOUNCE a 3% reduction in staff? It seems truly weird to me. Unless, it’s all about timing….

    • I was thinking the same thing. Call me cynical but this is too convenient.

    • And they’ve managed to keep themselves from looking like the bad guy, laying people off while recording higher profits. Guess Colbert and Patterson aren’t outraged for those people who are losing their jobs.

      • It’s the rich like Colbert and Patterson who are truly suffering, clearly.

        • Poor things, any day now they might have to sell a kidney or something.

          I think I have to stop reading these articles- it’s making me lose respect for people. Either they’re being deliberately misleading or they’re dumb as a bag of hair. Who could be this naive?

          • I tend to think they’re more selfish than dumb…but that’s just me. I wouldn’t be surprised if Patterson’s sales are dipping because his books haven’t been that great lately and he’s losing fans (again, I’m sure he’ll never hurt for money again so what does it *really* matter)?

            I’m wayyy more disappointed in Colbert. I don’t think he’s a dumb guy at all. I think this is just an issue that affects his wallet so he is acting in his own self interest. He’s really no better than the people he criticizes.

            • I agree. There’s no way I believe he buys into the Evil Amazon thing.

            • When I saw the Colbert Report the other night — with one of my favorite authors — I lost a little respect for the both of them. Both intelligent guys, too.

              I think this will be the last article/blog/snarky tweet I’ll read concerning this issue.

    • This is what Hachette is banking on, definitely. They lay off employees they were planning on getting rid of anyway, now they use that as press collateral in their Amazon dispute.

      Atrocious. Hachette just crossed the moral event horizon. What starts with “e” and rhymes with weevil?

  6. I believe it is absolutely impossible for corporate reps to issue a statement on anything without using extraordinarily vague and unhelpful language. I was actually expecting to see the word “synergy” at some point.

    Perhaps the first draft was actually

    –“All work and no synergy makes Jack a dull boy.” —

    typed over and over again in some snow-bound and deserted Colorado hotel.

  7. Ridiculously misleading headline that will cause people to blame Amazon even though Hachette says they are unrelated.

  8. And so it begins…

  9. I wonder how the Hatchet employees feel, the ones that are still left, that is. I wouldn’t feel too confident working there, how about you?

    I’ve worked for some good companies that started to go bad, and it’s not pleasant. Finger pointing develops, the blame games begin, and productivity pretty much comes to a halt. It’s a real mess.

    So…anyone know how I can submit my book to Hatchet for consideration?

    • I realize you’re probably joking, but it seems like a great opportunity to highlight:

      Publishers in the Hachette Book Group (including Grand Central Publishing, Business Plus, FaithWords, Center Street, Mystery, Orbit, Little, Brown and Company, Back Bay Books, Bulfinch, Springboard Press, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) are not able to consider unsolicited manuscript submissions and unsolicited queries. Many major publishers have a similar policy. Unsolicited manuscripts, submissions and queries will not be answered and the publisher will have the right to destroy any unsolicited material or mail without returning to the sender.

      If you are interested in having a manuscript considered for publication, we recommend that you first enlist the services of an established literary agent. Many literary agencies can be located in Bowker’s Literary MarketPlace (commonly known as the “LMP”), an annual reference publication which can be found in most major libraries. These literary agencies, in turn, have guidelines for submitting manuscripts. You can find out more about the LMP at Literary MarketPlace.

      Source: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/customer-faqs/

      It’s not the only problem with corporate publishing, but I think it’s a big one.

      I’ve heard a lot of people say it isn’t true, so send it anyway. Me, over the past several years I’ve started following submission guidelines–and so ignoring them altogether in favor of Kindle. I’m way happier.

      • I still think it’s a racket. The publisher won’t pay to have slush readers, so they force an author to give 15% to someone to act as representative/intermediary/slush reader/advocate. So the author gets pisspoor royalties, skanky stealth clauses, and just to get the book through the door, has to give up 15% of future earnings.

        Cuz publishers can’t be bothered to hire, you know, more staff to actually look for quality work to sell.

        • That policy of not accepting manuscripts explains in a nutshell why they are no longer needed anymore. They are overwhelmed with what they have and they can’t even deliver consistent results with those. Their time has come and gone.

        • They don’t hire the additional staff because they don’t need to. The supply of titles is so large, they can get all they need without reading any more. The need for agents is a indication that writers are competing with each other for publishers’ attention.

          Any change in the way publishers deal with writers will come because the supply of titles available to publishers decreases. Until that happens, I don’t expect to see much. They aren’t doing this for the future of literature or to discover quality. It’s a money game.

    • I wonder how they feel too. I’ve wondered how people working at the publishing companies have felt for a while (not the ones at the top who are no doubt brown-nosing like crazy to save their jobs). I’ve been trying to find blogs of possible employees who work in publishing doing the whole anonymous whistle blower thing. No luck though.

  10. I’m actually kind of impressed they didn’t try to pin this on Amazon. But I wonder, why layoffs? Aren’t they profitable?

    • If they explicitly named Amazon, Amazon could reasonably respond and demand a retraction. By merely linking the two, they avoid that.
      The guy who writes the contracts must be writing their press releases now.

  11. So far, I’ve run across only one article that literally says the layoffs are due to the Amazon/Hachette negotiations… but my impression is that that’s more likely due to a sloppy/fast copy/paste or bot construction of the article rather than any deliberate misinterpretation or misrepresentation. Tried to find it again, to send them a correction, but haven’t succeeded so far.

    I get the sense that there may be a slight growing awareness among those writing the knee-jerk coverage that there is an alternate interpretation/opinion of what is going on out there… but I’m not holding my breath that we’ll see many, if any, explicit on-the-record corrections/retractions/apologies

    But perhaps we’ll hear the scurrying sound of ever more authors voting with their feet 🙂

    P.S. If you are doing Google searches regarding this whole Amazon Hachette thing and want to filter the Stephen Colbert stunt out, the following search string works….
    “amazon hachette -colbert”

  12. Dear management team,

    As you know, we had record profits because authors are so stupid that they accept 25% net on e-books, which now make up the majority of our sales and profits. It turns out that e-books cost us zero to produce and distribute. This is something that the authors could do themselves in half a day, so in all external communications, make sure to keep emphasizing how difficult and costly it is to do.

    As long as our authors continue to believe that, this year’s management bonuses will be huge again.

    But there’s even more opportunity here.

    If we take this opportunity to dump some of our editors and outsource the editing to AuthorSolutions’ division in the Phillipines, we can add the savings to our management bonus pool.

    And the best part? We can say “Amazon Made Me Do It!” and watch our moron authors whip themselves into a frenzy defending us.

    – Hachette, playing: “Who Wants to Blame A Billionaire?”

  13. Patricia Sierra

    Bloomberg says “Layoffs make Hachette easier prey for Amazon”…

    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-06-06/layoffs-make-hachette-easier-prey-for-amazon

    • Lord. And here’s a completely different spin on Hachette’s economic health-

      http://www.thebookseller.com/news/solid-first-quarter-hachette-uk.html

      So either Amazon is stalking a wounded Gazelle, or the 6 percent downturn really has a perfectly reasonable explanation. Can’t have it both ways, Hachette.

      • Isn’t this the overall problem with the chain bookstores and the Big 5 in general – they had crummy business plans and now blame Amazon and other online markets for their downturns? I mean, Borders didn’t fail because of the internet, they failed because of crappy investment strategies. And indie bookstores and websites have done their chunk to hurt B&N more than the press will admit.

  14. James Patterson, who feels the hurt at Hachette so much that he writes and speaks about it, could hire them all and spare them the hurt of unemployment.

    Is that gonna happen?

    • I doubt Patterson even knows that this happened. It seems like many trad pub authors live in a bubble.

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