Big Publishing

Elsevier’s Presence on Campuses Spans More Than Journals. That Has Some Scholars Worried.

13 April 2019
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From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

On a recent panel on challenges to the future of teaching and research, Colleen Lyon outlined what was, to her, a “dangerous” dynamic in the world of academic publishing.

Lyon, a librarian of scholarly communications at the University of Texas at Austin, listed scholarly-publishing tools that had been acquired by the journal publishing giant Elsevier. In 2013, the company bought Mendeley, a free reference manager. It acquired the Social Science Research Network, an e-library with more than 850,000 papers, in 2016. And it acquired the online tools Pure and Bepress — which visualize research — in 2012 and 2017, respectively.

Lyon said she started considering institutions’ dependence on Elsevier when the company acquired Bepress two years ago. She was shocked, she recalled in a recent interview.

“It just got me thinking,” she said. Elsevier had it all: Institutional repositories, preprints of journal articles, and analytics. “Elsevier, Elsevier, Elsevier, Elsevier, Elsevier.”

Scholars are beginning to discuss the idea of Elsevier-as-monolith at conferences and in their research. Not only are librarians and researchers speaking openly about the hefty costs of bulk subscriptions to the company’s premier journals, but they’re also paying attention to the products that Elsevier has acquired, several of which allow its customers to store data and share their work.

. . . .

First, institutions fear having less leverage in negotiations, believing that it would be more challenging to move to a different provider if Elsevier’s products were adopted en masse. But, she said, they are also worried about one company’s controlling so many tools that analyze not only the reach and performance of research but also the professors and institutions that produce it.

The skepticism could complicate the relationship between universities and Elsevier just as, on some campuses, it’s showing new strain. Academic libraries have begun to muse publicly about the future of their relationship with the company as their budgets are strained by bulk journal contracts. The University of California system’s high-profile decision to cease negotiations with Elsevier this year has raised the stakes.

. . . .

In a recent paper, Alejandro Posada and George Chen, of the University of Toronto, found that “increased control of scholarly infrastructure … could further entrench publishers’ power and exacerbate the vulnerability of already marginalized researchers and institutions.”

. . . .

Also among Posada and Chen’s findings was that Elsevier’s broad acquisition of tools and services along the research pipeline makes it harder for professors and institutions to cut ties with the company.

“The integration of the data that they control, not only in terms of content but in terms of all the other data they use, makes it a lot harder to function outside the system,” Posada, a research associate at Toronto, said in an interview.

Link to the rest at The Chronicle of Higher Education

As PG has mentioned before, in a former life, he worked in a large subsidiary of Reed Elsevier and had contact with top European executives of the parent company from time to time.

The RE executives all seemed to have the same go-to strategy to increase revenues – raise prices. PG suspects the fears about Elsevier’s motives and future plans reflected in the OP are based upon a rational examination of the company’s past pricing strategies.

The Book Industry Isn’t Dead. That’s Just an Excuse to Keep Salaries Low

3 April 2019

From The Guardian:

Book editors love their jobs, perhaps more than the average worker. We work diligently with motivated and inspiring peers on projects we are proud of. You may not realise that every great book you’ve read has been through a rigorous editing process. If an editor’s job is done well, you won’t notice their hand in the final product – this is the invisible work behind each brilliant author, even (or perhaps especially) your favourites.

However, book lovers might be surprised to learn that the working conditions for many of those behind the scenes of book publishing are lagging behind other industries.

In 2018, trade outfit Books+Publishing surveyed 349 Australian book publishing employees about their work. Their findings reveal some telling statistics: the publishing workforce is highly qualified (83%), mostly female (93%) and predominantly unpaid for overtime. Only 6% are people of colour and 3% identify as living with a disability.

These dispiriting figures are perhaps a consequence of the job being poorly paid more generally and applicants’ success highly reliant on previous (unpaid) experience: as an editor, your yearly wage starts as low as $45,000 and is unlikely to increase much as you progress, sometimes sitting at only $68,600 for up to 35 years’ experience. Compare this to the average full-time Australian salary of about $80,000 and it starts to look like a pretty depressing career prospect.

. . . .

In 2018 female publishing employees earned at least 10% less than their male counterparts in almost all departments, according to Books+Publishing. Full-time female editors, on average, earn 89% of their male colleagues’ salaries. Women are also less likely to ask for pay rises and more likely to accept a lower starting wage than men, and historically aren’t paid superannuation for their time on parental leave.

I think many publishing workers have also accepted that the Australian publishing industry is low-paying as a result of low profit margin and growth. That our jobs are highly sought after and competitive positions, with a yearly influx of new, willing publishing graduates ready to work harder for less. In publishing circles, you often hear the phrase “I put up with it because I love my job so much” – we accept the shortcomings and remind ourselves to be grateful for the privilege of working in an industry so seemingly fragile.

However, contrary to popular belief, the industry is not at risk of dying – far from it. In fact, the industry has seen growth in the last few years, with book sales increasing in value by 1.4% in 2018 (according to Nielsen BookScan) – small growth, but growth nonetheless.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

PG is not familiar with the inside story of the Australian book business, but suspects supply and demand may have something to do with the salaries.

If lots of people want to be editors and if, in the eyes of the publisher, there is not an effective difference in product quality between an experienced editor and a newbie, then, just like when you hire someone to mow your lawn, the lowest-priced laborer is likely to get the job.

PG will also note that “book sales increasing in value by 1.4% in 2018” does not necessarily indicate a healthy industry. Additionally, PG checked the Australian inflation rate and it has been 1.9% per year for the last two years.

Frankfurt’s Juergen Boos on the International Perspective: ‘It’s Always Changing’

28 March 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

As world book publishing’s 2019 conference and trade show season moves into high gear, the international industry’s players are traveling to and from the key events in a pattern that becomes familiar. With the London Book Fair as the first major anchor of the year–and the Frankfurter Buchmesse as the annual primary cultminating event–many this week are preparing for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (April 1 to 4), and others have just returned from the Leipzig Book Fair.

Trade visitors at these international and regional events can number in the tens of thousands. In cases of public-facing events, hundreds of thousands may be in attendance.

And yet a far smaller group of directors are behind the most stable of the world’s great book industry events. You see them at each other’s venues regularly. For example, India’s Jaipur Festival featured a first visit from the Frankfurter Buchmesse’s Juergen Boos. And the London Book Fair’s Jacks Thomas is a regular guest at the United Arab Emirates’ Sharjah International Book Fair.

When Publishing Perspectives spoke with Thomas earlier this month ahead of this year’s trade show at Olympia London, one of the key points she made about the position of a major fair director had to do with the strain of Brexit and its deep uncertainties on the UK and European publishing industries. A trade show’s director, she said, of course cannot take a political position. “What you can do,” however, Thomas said, “is be very cognizant of the context in which we’re operating.” And to that end, the fair this year had plenty of cross-cultural programming, reflecting, as she put it, “what books do.”

. . . .

In a conversation with Publishing Perspectives during the London Book Fair about the view from his vantage point as one of the handful of major show directors in the world, however, one of the most interesting points Boos makes is that he and his colleagues who direct the international industry’s major fairs and festivals “do meet every second year, maybe 20 of us,” and of course they see each other in transit on planes, trains, and on the exhibition floors of the world.

. . . .

“If you look at Buenos Aires, for example,” Boos says, “there are hundreds of thousands of people coming” to the Feria del Libro. “It’s such an unstable country economically but the fair is so successful. We all have our different challenges.

“Frankfurt might be a bit different, in that we have so many tasks at the same time,” he says. “We run the show, we promote German culture abroad. Like the French, who have the book fair but have to reach out to the world at the same time.” This year, that meant back-to-back fairs in England, Livre Paris opening the day after the London Book Fair closed:  the ambassadorial element of the fairs’ activities can be among the most intensive parts of the directors’ work.

. . . .

Listening for a moment to the conversations passing the stand, Boos delivers one of his best lines in characteristic deadpan: “In the world’s book fairs, everybody has his own crisis.”

. . . .

“A literary publisher in the UK,” for example, will see something quite different from what a fair director based in Germany is tracking, where “We want to export our titles, and yet we do see a lot of reading English in Germany.”

“And our LitAg,” the international rights center at the Frankfurter Buchmesse, the heart of the world’s transactional licensing business, “is already booked out for this year,” Boos says, with Böhne’s confirmation–a complete sellout almost eight months before the fair and with a move this year to the Festhalle from Hall 6.3 as part of the renovation program “to give our agents and scouts the best possible infrastructure and experience.”

. . . .

“In Brazil, there’s the bankruptcy protection filings by two [bookselling] chains, but you see the independent bookstores doing  well. And look at Indonesia,” the London Book Fair’s Market Focus, “and at Vietnam. And at growth in the Middle East, just talk to Bodour” Al Qasimi, the Emirates Publishers Association president who has become vice-president of the International Publishers Association.

. . . .

“Our task,” Katja Böhne says, “is to combine these inputs from these markets to tell them all …”

Juergen Boos picks up her thought, “To tell them all there is hope.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

How Printers Can Capitalize on Book Publishing Trends in 2019

20 March 2019

From Printing Impressions:

As technology continues to disrupt and transform the book market, publishers are responding by changing business models that affect how media is produced, distributed and consumed in the book publishing industry. As dramatic technology shifts continue, book publishers, authors and printers need to adapt to benefit from new opportunities.

With the start of another year, book publishers and manufacturers are evaluating what the future might hold.

. . . .

For those in the printing industry, Walter highlighted that there was modest growth in print book sales in 2018 with volume climbing 1.3% — in a year where there were no major blockbuster bestsellers like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Harry Potter.” Walter expects the market to remain relatively flat but stable. The key is the migration to more and more digitally printed books.

. . . .

The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) is a leading book industry trade association that offers standardized industry best practices, research and information. O’Leary said one of the biggest issues facing the book market is the management of the supply chain and shared results of BISG’s year-end “State of the Supply Chain” survey. O’Leary highlighted that the three top priorities respondents were focused on in 2019 when it came to supply chain management were:

  1. Making data-driven decisions
  2. Timely, high-quality metadata to improve discovery and sales (At its most basic level, metadata is how people find your book. This includes the ISBN, keywords, the author name, pub date, BISAC code, reviews, author bios and more. )
  3. Keeping up with new technologies to improve workflow and supply chain management

. . . .

IBPA CEO Angela Bole explained that three publishing models continue to exist: traditional publishing; self-publishing, where authors can be assisted or unassisted by vanity press organizations; and hybrid or partner publishing.

Bole says that in 2019, the industry will experience the rise in hybrid publishing — a gray zone between traditional publishing and self-publishing that is still being defined. Bole described hybrid publishing as publishing companies behaving like traditional publishing companies in all respects, except that they publish books using an author-subsidized business model, as opposed to financing all costs themselves, and in exchange return, a higher-than-standard share of sales proceeds to the author. In other words, a hybrid publisher makes income from a combination of publishing services and book sales. Hybrid publishers provide a range of services for the author such as:

  • Vet submissions.
  • Publish under its own imprint(s) and ISBN(s).
  • Publish to industry standards.
  • Ensure editorial, design and production quality.
  • Pursue and manage a range of publishing rights.
  • Provide distribution services.
  • Demonstrate respectable sales.
  • Pay authors

Link to the rest at Printing Impressions

PG won’t spend time venting, but he will suggest that traditional publishing is already author-subsidized in that authors receive only a small percentage of the money generated by their books while publishers receive a significantly larger share.

Adult Trade Sales down in January, Kids Up

14 March 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

Sales of adult trade books fell 7.3% in January compared to the first month of 2018, according to the AAP’s StatShot program. Sales in the children’s/young adult category rose 4.3%

The decline in adult sales was due largely to a 19.5% drop in hardcover sales compared to last January, when Fire & Fury was a huge hardcover hit. Mass market paperback also had a weak start to 2019, with sales down 26.6%. Digital audiobook sales showed no signs of slowing in the month, up 37.5% over last January. E-book sales fell 4.1%, according to a composite of data from the 1,374 publishers who report to the AAP.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Amazon Share Grows and Big Publishers Make More Money

1 March 2019

From veteran publishing consultant, Mike Shatzkin:

The financial reports of the major publishers have been following a pattern for some years now. Sales are about flat but profits have been steadily rising. One explanation for that fact is that the management of the major houses have been diligent about adapting their businesses to the new marketplace configurations or, as the saying goes, “squeezing costs out” of their operations.

But it could be more than that. In a piece published here well over two years ago, I said it was an “old joke” of mine that “Amazon is every publisher’s most profitable account” which, I observed, was not their objective! That has seemed apparent for well over a decade.

The explanation is simple. Amazon is the account that sells the most units with the least returns. Because Amazon has contractual relationships with the biggest publishers rather than purchasing from their published discount schedules, there is no way for an outsider to know exactly what the sales terms are. But the discounts and marketing fees to Amazon would really have to soar from the standard terms they began with to claw back more than the excess margin they deliver compared to other accounts.

So as the business shifts to Amazon, and it certainly looks from the outside like they are half or more of many publishers’ business, it shifts from lower-margin accounts and publishers make more money.

And because the big publishers have the lion’s share of the high-profile books, they are effectively insulated from being cut off in a trading dispute. It is likely that there is a growing gap between what the larger publishers get as a percentage of the retail price of their books and what smaller publishers can get from Amazon. That drives another component of current publisher economics: the growing consolidation of distribution under the major houses and Ingram.

As the business moves to Amazon, the publishers need more of the “normal” print volume to maintain their sales-and-distribution structures, to pay for the sales reps and warehouses. But gently declining print units mean per-unit costs will rise unless they are augmented by other people’s books in distribution. So far, for the most part, they have been because the smaller publishers are also seeing the same trend and find it harder and harder to support their own sales and distribution structures.

. . . .

Even with their economic advantages and great internal marketing capabilities, Amazon is really not a threat to take the biggest authors away, either through their own publishing operations or through self-publishing. Big authors are already rich and publishers are willing to pay them advances that effectively amount to royalties much higher than the contractual standards. What the big authors are mostly interested in, beyond the money, is maximum exposure. They want to be on sale in the largest possible number of places and reach the biggest number of readers. That is the key to making more money through dramatic sales to Netflix or Amazon or, particularly in the case of non-fiction, doing even more lucrative speaking tours employing the celebrity their books deliver them.

. . . .

In addition to the margin growth that comes from business shifting from scattered retail locations with relatively higher returns to Amazon, publishers are seeing growth in export sales, backlist sales, and, perhaps most dramatically, in digital audio sales.

. . . .

And easier-to-make backlist sales are another source of extra margin for publishers. In the pre-Amazon, pre-digital age, only the books that were actually in stores had much of a chance to sell. Even for the most capable publishers, most of the backlist simply wasn’t ubiquitously available a few months past publication date. Now, with more than half the sales made online, that’s no longer an issue. If the book is in print, it can be purchased. Publishers are increasingly awake to the modern reality that any book can get hot at any time, and sales efforts don’t have to wait for books to be positioned at retail locations to be effective.

. . . .

So the bad news for publishers — a dramatically shrinking store network with its last big chain, Barnes & Noble, in a steady decline that shows no signs of stopping — has, so far, been more than compensated for (in profit margin if not in unit volume) by growth. Sales shifts to Amazon have improved margins and reduced costs. Growth in backlist sales and export sales and audiobook sales have, so far, compensated for the loss of print book units that previously would have sold through the bookstore network.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

PG was going to look for a prior post in which he opined that Amazon was the best thing to happen to large publishers in a long while, but he’s short on time.

He has long regarded the hostile attitude of major publishers toward Amazon to be one of the more prominent examples of what business mediocrities are in control of those publishers. Why anybody would not have almost immediately preferred doing business with Amazon to dealing Barnes & Noble is beyond comprehension.

Amazon has effectively dragged major publishers into the twenty-first century by forcing them to evolve the way they do business into a much more profitable model – selling bits instead of dead trees, not paying to ship boxes of books back and forth to physical retailers, selling to readers across the nation and around the world, instead of only those within a short distance from a physical bookstore.

 

KNV, Germany’s Largest Book Wholesaler, Files for Bankruptcy

14 February 2019

From Shelf Awareness:

KNV-Gruppe, Germany’s largest book wholesaler, filed for bankruptcy today, according to Börsenblatt. The filing does not involve the subsidiary LKG.

KNV said that a deal to sell the company, which was close to being finalized, suddenly collapsed, and that its creditors were no longer willing to provide necessary financing. It’s expected that KNV will continue to operate under court supervision. KNV’s customers include 5,600 bookstores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

. . . .

[L]ast year, while book sales as a whole were estimated to have risen just 0.1%, sales at indies and chain stores declined 0.6%.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions

4 February 2019

From The New Yorker:

Ian Mallory, a book editor turned novelist, is tall, good-looking, and clever. His novel, “The Woman in the Window,” which was published under a lightly worn pseudonym, A. J. Finn, was the hit psychological thriller of the past year. Like “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn (2012), and “The Girl on the Train,” by Paula Hawkins (2015), each of which has sold millions of copies, Mallory’s novel, published in January, 2018, features an unreliable first-person female narrator, an apparent murder, and a possible psychopath.

Mallory sold the novel in a two-book, two-million-dollar deal. He dedicated it to a man he has described as an ex-boyfriend, and secured a blurb from Stephen King: “One of those rare books that really is unputdownable.” Mallory was profiled in the Times, and the novel was reviewed in this magazine. A Washington Post critic contended that Mallory’s prose “caresses us.” The novel entered the Times best-seller list at No. 1—the first time in twelve years that a début novel had done so. A film adaptation, starring Amy Adams and Gary Oldman, was shot in New York last year. Mallory has said that his second novel is likely to appear in early 2020—coinciding, he hopes, with the Oscar ceremony at which the film of “The Woman in the Window” will be honored. Translation rights have been acquired in more than forty foreign markets.

Mallory can be delightful company. Jonathan Karp, the publisher of Simon & Schuster, recently recalled that Mallory, as a junior colleague in the New York book world, had been “charming, brilliant,” and a “terrific writer of e-mail.” Tess Gerritsen, the crime writer, met Mallory more than a decade ago, when he was an editorial assistant; she remembers him as “a charming young man” who wrote deft jacket copy. Craig Raine, the British poet and academic, told me that Mallory had been a “charming and talented” graduate student at Oxford; there, Mallory had focussed his studies on Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley novels, which are about a charming, brilliant impostor.

. . . .

One evening in September, in Christchurch, New Zealand, Mallory sat down in the bar of the hotel where he and other guests of a literary festival were staying. Tom Scott, an editorial cartoonist and a screenwriter, was struck by Mallory’s self-assurance, which reminded him of Sam Shepard’s representation of Chuck Yeager, the test pilot, in the film “The Right Stuff.” “He came in wearing the same kind of bomber jacket,” Scott said recently, in a fondly teasing tone. “An incredibly good-looking guy. He sat down and plonked one leg over the arm of his chair, and swung that leg casually, and within two minutes he’d mentioned that he had the best-selling novel in the world this year.” Mallory also noted that he’d been paid a million dollars for the movie rights to “The Woman in the Window.” Scott said, “He was enjoying his success so much. It was almost like an outsider looking in on his own success.”

. . . .

Such storytelling is hardly scandalous. Mallory was taking his first steps as a public figure. Most people have jazzed up an anecdote, and it is a novelist’s job to manipulate an audience.

But in Colorado Mallory went further. He said that, while he was working at an imprint of the publisher Little, Brown, in London, between 2009 and 2012, “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” a thriller submitted pseudonymously by J. K. Rowling, had been published on his recommendation. He said that he had taught at Oxford University, where he had received a doctorate. “You got a problem with that?” he added, to laughter.

Mallory doesn’t have a doctorate from Oxford. Although he may have read Rowling’s manuscript, it was not published on his recommendation. (And he never “worked with” Tina Fey at Little, Brown, as an official biography of Mallory claimed; a representative for Fey recently said that “he was not an editor in any capacity on Tina’s book.”)

Moreover, according to many people who know him, Mallory has a history of imposture, and of duping people with false stories about disease and death. Long before he wrote fiction professionally, Mallory was experimenting with gothic personal fictions, apparently designed to get attention, bring him advancement, or to explain away failings. “Money and power were important to him,” a former publishing colleague told me. “But so was drama, and securing people’s sympathies.”

. . . .

Nobody has accused Dan Mallory of breaking the law, or of lying under oath, but his behavior has struck many as calculated and extreme. The former colleague said that Mallory was “clever and careful” in his “ruthless” deceptions: “If there was something that he wanted and there was a way he could position himself to get it, he would. If there was a story to tell that would help him, he would tell it.” This doesn’t look like poetic license, ordinary cockiness, or Nabokovian game-playing; nor is it behavior associated with bipolar II disorder.

In 2016, midway through the auction for “The Woman in the Window,” the author’s real name was revealed to bidders. At that point, most publishing houses dropped out. This move reflected an industry-wide unease with Mallory that never became public, and that did not stand in the way of his enrichment: William Morrow, Mallory’s employer at the time, kept bidding, and bought his book.

. . . .

I recently called a senior editor at a New York publishing company to discuss the experience of working with Mallory. “My God,” the editor said, with a laugh. “I knew I’d get this call. I didn’t know if it would be you or the F.B.I.”

. . . .

Craig Raine taught English literature at New College, Oxford, for twenty years, until his retirement, in 2010. Every spring, he read applications from students who, having been accepted by Oxford to pursue a doctorate in English, hoped to be attached to New College during their studies. A decade or so ago, Raine read an application from Dan Mallory, which described a proposed thesis on homoeroticism in Patricia Highsmith’s fiction. Unusually, the application included an extended personal statement.

Raine, telling me about the essay during a phone conversation a few months ago, called it an astonishing piece of writing that described almost unbearable family suffering. The essay sought to explain why Mallory’s performance as a master’s student at Oxford, a few years earlier, had been good but not brilliant. Mallory said that his studies had been disrupted by visits to America, to nurse his mother, who had breast cancer. Raine recalled, “He had a brother, who was mentally disadvantaged, and also had cystic fibrosis. The brother died while being nursed by him. And Dan was supporting the family as well. And the mother gradually died.” According to Raine, Mallory had described how his mother rejected the idea of suffering without complaint. Mallory often read aloud to her the passage in “Little Women” in which Beth dies, with meek, tidy stoicism, so that his mother “could sneer at it, basically.”

Raine went on, “At some point, when Dan was nursing her, he got a brain tumor, which he didn’t tell her about, because he thought it would be upsetting to her. And, evidently, that sort of cleared up. And then she died. The brother had already died.”

Raine admired the essay because it “knew it was moving but didn’t exaggerate—it was written calmly.” Raine is the longtime editor of Areté, a literary magazine, and he not only helped Mallory secure a place at New College; he invited him to expand the essay for publication. “He worked at it for a couple of months,” Raine said. “Then he said that, after all, he didn’t think he could do it.” Mallory explained that his mother, a private person, might have preferred that he not publish. Instead, he reviewed a collection of essays by the poet Geoffrey Hill.

Pamela Mallory, Dan’s mother, does seem to be a private person: her Instagram account is locked. When I briefly met her, some weeks after I’d spoken to Raine, she declined to be interviewed. She lives for at least part of the year in a large house in Amagansett, near the Devon Yacht Club, where a celebratory lunch was held for Mallory last year. (On Instagram, he once posted a video clip of the club’s exterior, captioned, “The first rule of yacht club is: you do not talk about yacht club.”) In 2013, at a country club in Charlotte, North Carolina, Pamela Mallory attended the wedding reception of her younger son, John, who goes by Jake, and who was then working at Wells Fargo. At the wedding, she and Dan danced. This year, Pamela and other family members were photographed at a talk that Dan gave at Queens University of Charlotte. Dan has described travelling with his mother on a publicity trip to New Zealand. “Only one of us will make it back alive,” he joked to a reporter. “She’s quite spirited.”

I told Raine that Mallory’s mother was not dead. There was a pause, and then he said, “If she’s alive, he lied.” Raine underscored that he had taken Mallory’s essay to be factual. Raine underscored that he had taken Mallory’s essay to be factual. He asked me, “Is the father alive? In the account I read, I’m almost a hundred per cent certain that the father is dead.” The senior John Mallory, once an executive at the Bank of America in Charlotte, also attended the event at Queens University. He and Pamela have been married for more than forty years.

. . . .

Dan Mallory, who turned down requests to be interviewed for this article, was born in 1979, into a family that he has called “very, very Waspy,” even though his parents both had a Catholic education and he has described himself as having been a “precocious Catholic” in childhood.

. . . .

His mother, he wrote, urged him “to write to your colleges and tell them your mother has cancer.” Mallory said that he complied, adding, “I hardly feel I capitalized on tragedy—rather, I merely squeezed lemonade from the proverbial lemons.” In college applications, he noted, “I lamented, in the sweeping, tragic prose of a Brontë sister, the unsettling darkness of the master bedroom, where my mother, reeling from bombardments of chemotherapy, lay for days huddled in a fetal position.”

This strategy apparently failed with Princeton. In the article, Mallory recalled writing to Fred Hargadon, then Princeton’s dean of admissions. “You heartless bastard,” the letter supposedly began. “What kind of latter-day Stalin refuses admission to someone in my plight? Not that I ever seriously considered gracing your godforsaken institution with my presence—you should be so lucky—but I’m nonetheless relieved to know that I won’t be attending a university whose administrators opt to ignore oncological afflictions; perhaps if I’d followed the example of your prized student Lyle Menendez and killed my mother, things would have turned out differently.”

. . . .

In the summer of 1999, Mallory interned at New Line Cinema, in New York. He later claimed, in the Duke Chronicle, that he “whiled away” the summer “polishing” the horror film “Final Destination,” directed by James Wong. “We need a young person like you to sex it up,” Mallory recalled being told. Wong told me that Mallory did not work on the script.

. . . .

A few months later, after Mallory had moved to Oxford, his former employers noticed unexplained spending, at Amazon.co.uk, on a corporate American Express card. When confronted, Mallory acknowledged that he had used the card, but insisted that it was in error. He added that he was experiencing a recurrence of cancer.

. . . .

In the summer of 2010, Mallory told Little, Brown about a job offer from a London competitor. He was promised a raise and a promotion. A press release announcing Mallory’s elevation described him as “entrepreneurial and a true team player.”

. . . .

Sources told me that, a few months later, Ursula Mackenzie, then Little, Brown’s C.E.O., attended a dinner where she sat next to the C.E.O. of the publishing house whose job offer had led to Mallory’s promotion. The rival C.E.O. told Mackenzie that there had been no such offer. (Mackenzie declined to comment. The rival C.E.O. did not reply to requests for comment.) When challenged at Little, Brown, Mallory claimed that the rival C.E.O. was lying, in reprisal for Mallory’s having once rejected a sexual proposition.

In August, 2012, Mallory left Little, Brown. The terms of his departure are covered by a nondisclosure agreement. But it’s clear that Little, Brown did not find Mallory’s response about the job offer convincing. “And, once that fell away, then you obviously think, Is he really ill?” the once supportive colleague said. Everything now looked doubtful, “even to the extent of ‘Does his family exist?’ and ‘Is he even called Dan Mallory?’ ”

Mallory was not fired. This fact points to the strength of employee protections in the U.K.—it’s hard to prove the absence of a job offer—but also, perhaps, to a sense of embarrassment and dread. The prospect of Mallory’s public antagonism was evidently alarming: Little, Brown was conscious of the risks of “a fantasist walking around telling lies,” an employee at the company told me. Another source made a joking reference to “The Talented Mr. Ripley”: “He could come at me with an axe. Or an oar.”

. . . .

Whereas in London Mallory had sometimes seemed like a British satire of American bluster, in New York he came off as British. He spoke with an English accent and said “brilliant,” “bloody,” and “Where’s the loo?”—as one colleague put it, he was “a grown man walking around with a fake accent that everyone knows is fake.” The habit lasted for years, and one can find a postman, not a mailman, in “The Woman in the Window.”

. . . .

Mallory clearly has experienced mental distress. At Mallory’s request, his psychiatrist confirmed to me that Mallory was given a diagnosis of bipolar II. The psychiatrist said that Mallory, because of his mother’s illness, sometimes had “somatic complaints, fears, and preoccupations,” including about cancer. But a bipolar II diagnosis does not easily explain organized untruths, maintained over time. Nigel Blackwood, a forensic psychiatrist at King’s College London, told me that patients with the condition may experience “periods of inflated self-esteem,” but he emphasized that hypomanic episodes “cannot account for sustained arrogant and deceptive interpersonal behaviors.”

Chris Parris-Lamb, the agent, who has a very close family member who is bipolar, said, “I’ve seen the ravages, the suffering that the disease can cause.” He went on, “If Mallory’s deceit is the product of bipolar episodes, then they have been singularly advantageous to his career, and that is unlike any bipolar person I’ve ever encountered. And if he is one of the lucky ones who has managed to get his disease under control and produce a best-selling novel—if he is stable and lucid enough to do that—then he is stable and lucid enough to apologize to the people he lied to and the people he hurt.”

Carrie Bearden, a professor of psychiatry at U.C.L.A., who has not met Mallory, said that a patient with bipolar II disorder cannot attribute to that diagnosis delusions, amnesia, or “chronic lying for secondary gain, or to get attention.” To do so is “very irresponsible,” she said, and could add to the “already huge stigma associated with these disorders.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

If the excerpts interest you at all, PG suggests you read the much more complex story told in the OP.

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