An article in today’s Wall Street Journal describes how a new imprint being started by Harper Colins publishing, responding to the profit crunch affecting trade publishers, will eliminate the traditional advance paid to authors at the start of a book project. In addition, bookstores will not be able to return unsold copies to the publisher for credit.
Although the new imprint is only expected to publish 25 titles the first year, it is a sign that trade publishing is continuously changing. Although not likely to affect “mega-authors,” like the 1.5 million dollar publishing advance Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick is supposedly receiving for his book, the trend is a disquieting one for authors. The lack of any advance, whatsoever, may prevent some authors from being able to devote the time to writing a book to promote their expertise.
Likewise, the “no returns” policy may indicate the publisher’s reduced dependence on book sales through traditional retail, “bricks and mortar” channels. Many online book sellers do not stock every title they sell, and have the titles drop-shipped by others.
What’s your perspective on this issue? Do you see the HarperCollins announcement as a major problem or simply an example of changing times? How will this trend, if it spreads, effect you–or won’t it?