From Publishing Perspectives:
Some eyebrows were raised in the spring of 2016 when Macmillan bought Pronoun. And today (November 6), the trade publisher has announced that it’s closing the self-publishing platform.
“We are proud of the product we built,” the publishing house says in an “Epilogue” posted on the home page of the Pronoun.com site, “but even more so, we’re grateful for the community of authors that made it grow. Your feedback shaped Pronoun’s development, and together we changed the way authors connect with readers.”
The statement doesn’t elaborate on how Pronoun is deemed to have “changed the way authors connect with readers.” And its message is sobering: “Unfortunately, Pronoun’s story ends here.”
The statement avoids any clear explanation of why the Pronoun is being shut down.
. . . .
Pronoun was assessed by many in the self-publishing community (as by Doppler in an earlier ALLi review) as a fairly simple interface for ebook creation by comparison to the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system.
And yet, there was at times a community-wide hesitation around the platform because it charged nothing. Authors retained their rights and 100 percent of a retailer’s net payment–no cut to Pronoun. Doppler wrote in that earlier review that Pronoun’s services were free to authors because the company had $3.5 million in venture capital funding from Avalon Ventures and revenue from “its not-insubstantial legacy business.” Future revenue, he wrote, would come from “voluntary partnerships with high-performing authors. These authors may be invited to publish through Pronoun’s traditional imprints, giving up a share of royalties for enhanced services.”
. . . .
Pronoun spokeswoman Allison Horton was quoted by Doppler last year saying an ambitious thing for a company about to be bought by a Big Five trade publisher: “Pronoun’s goal is to make indie publishing so successful that it becomes the predominant way great books are published.”
Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives and thanks to Andrew for the tip.
PG says large and established corporations sometimes purchase tech startups to move into new markets and inject new thinking and dynamism into the parent organization.
It never works.
The employees in the mothership sense an alien presence and organizational antibodies attack. Various and sundry corporate practices are imposed on the acquisition and its people. The startup (now a “division” or “department”) must adopt corporate budgeting processes and conduct quarterly performance reviews for all its employees. Company-wide “best practices” will, of course, be best practices for the new acquisition.
Within a couple of months, the most talented of the startup employees who have not been required to sign employment agreements start thinking about new jobs.
Headhunters swarm to any new source for good tech/internet marketing/programming/etc. talent. People who are valuable to the acquired startup are also valuable to other innovative companies who aren’t under attack from corporate antibodies and where nobody has to sit through mandatory lectures from HR.
The people who have signed employment agreements suffer from constantly declining morale as the most talented members of their team leave for greener pastures. They discover that attracting equivalent talent from outside the mothership is almost impossible and have no choice but to use not-so-talented tech people from elsewhere in the larger organization.
Development of the product slows down, then it slows down some more. Product release schedules are revised. Planned new features are dropped because they’re taking too long to develop. Upper management requires much more frequent updates on progress and hard commitments for new product releases. The new product features list is cut down even further. People start talking about how to get the minimum acceptable product out the door by the scheduled deadline. Nobody even remembers why the new product seemed like a good idea several months ago.
The during his/her regular meetings with the big boss and the quarterly meetings of the board, the CFO of the mothership brings more and more discouraging reports about the acquired company. Nobody can project when it might become profitable.
Managers in other parts of the company that are profitable increase the intensity of their criticisms of the CEO’s formerly pet project.
The OP indicates that it took about 18 months for Pronoun to morph from a sexy investment in Macmillan’s future to an unacceptable boat anchor that was never going to meet revenue and profit standards for the company.