Publishing News: Issue 20
By Katie Gough, Molly Anna Chell and Lucy Downer
Penguin Random House Merger Investigated
The UK’s competition watchdog, the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority), launched an investigation into the $2.2 billion merger between Penguin Random House (PRH) and Simon & Schuster last week as the combined company is expected to hold a third of the US market.
The proposed acquisition came less than a year after Pearson sold its remaining 25% stake in PRH in 2019, making Bertelsmann the full owner of the world’s biggest publishing house. Markus Dohle, CEO of PRH, believes their market share to be around 14.2% in the US, with Simon & Schuster’s sitting at 4.2% with revenues. In terms of numbers, PRH publishes approximately 15,000 titles a year with a revenue exceeding $3.3 billion, while Simon & Schuster publishes 2,000 titles and reports a revenue of $814 million. PRH boasts 10,000 employees worldwide and Simon & Schuster has 1,500 employees worldwide.
Bringing together the ninth largest (according to Nielsen BookScan) and the largest sales of 2019 has resulted in the CMA examining whether the deal fell under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and whether it “may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.” Their deadline for deciding whether the merger needs to undergo Phase 2 investigations is 19 May 2021. The Department of Justice - The US watchdog - has also stepped up its investigation, requesting more information since "a transaction might raise competitive problems and more information is required to evaluate it." The “second request” involves issuing a Civil Investigative Demand to see market share information and the competition implications of the transaction. Both the acquisition of Random House by Bertelsmann in 1988 and the merger with Penguin in 2013 were issued with “second requests’’ and both were approved.
It is not only authoratative bodies questioning the merger: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp called the combined company a “behemoth of books” and Nicola Solomon, the chief executive of the Society of Authors, has even used the dreaded ‘m’ word:
“The deal will make PRH the biggest publisher by quite a long way … There is that potential for market dominance. Our concern is just that it isn’t in anyone’s interest to have someone in a monopoly position.”
The merger that reduces ‘The Big Five’ down to a mighty four would have a direct effect on authors, who will have fewer imprints to pitch to, and will give the newly merged company an advantage when bidding for book deals. Small publishers may find themselves grappling for space in bookshops and fighting for publicity in mainstream publications as Simon’s Random House of Penguins (name still TBC) holds more power.
Bernadine Evaristo’s Three-Book Deal
Since winning the 2019 Booker Prize with her novel Girl, Woman, Other, and making history as the first black woman to do so, Bernadine Evaristo has become one of the key faces in the effort to ensure black voices receive greater recognition within the industry. Now, her first non-fiction book Manifesto is set to be published with Hamish Hamilton on 7 October 2021. The book is her personal account of how after a career spanning three decades, she earned widespread attention and acclaim for her writing. News of the release has been met with excitement across the industry and on social media
The publishing director at Hamish Hamilton said the book “charts her creative rebellion against the mainstream and her life-long commitment to the imaginative exploration of ‘untold’ stories. And drawing deeply on her own experiences, she offers a vital contribution to current conversations around social issues such as race, class, feminism, sexuality and aging. This is a unique book about staying true to yourself and to your vision. It’s about how to be unstoppable - in your craft, your work, your life. It is Bernardine Evaristo’s manifesto for never giving up.”
Over the last couple of years Bernadine Evaristo has campaigned passionately for greater representation in fiction, pointing towards the lack of black people winning literary awards. In 2020 she wrote the foreword for the first academic study into issues around diversity in UK trade publishing, writing that the report proved that the industry wasn’t changing quickly enough to become more inclusive. And recently, she has addressed the issue around a lack of representation for older women, both in terms of the support older female writers are given in their careers and the number of older women we see as protagonists in books. Since winning the Booker, she has used her Twitter account as an effective platform to campaign for all voices to be heard and as a result has been fulfilling a much-needed role in the industry. See tweet from 23 March 2021 below.
Undoubtedly, with Manifesto, Bernadine Evaristo will become an even greater role model for under-represented writers, encouraging them to never give up and potentially follow in her footsteps. And considering the continued popularity of inspirational non-fiction, I expect Manifesto will be one of the biggest bestsellers of the year.
CEO Arnaud Nourry Leaves Hachette Livre
Arnaud Nourry has been the head of Hachette Livre since 2003, but on Monday 29 March it was announced that he is to step down from his role as Chairman and CEO of the company.
In a comment released by Hachette’s parent company Lagardère, it was announced that Nourry “has decided to part ways with the Group on an amicable basis."
The news comes after a controversial interview with French economic daily Les Echos earlier this month when Nourry warned he would not allow Hachette to be split by shareholders of Lagardère. Reports suggested that chief Arnaud Lagardère, along with several other key figures, were negotiating to break up the group.
In his strongly-worded interview Nourry said:
“I will not allow anyone to wreck Hachette Livre […] If it is necessary to invent a slightly different life for Hachette, I shall devote all my brainpower to it, and if there is a battle … I shall lead it and I shall win.”
Despite his defiant interview, it now appears Nourry and the management team at Lagardère have not been able to reconcile their differences, and have parted ways. The board of directors at Hachette Livre have appointed Pierre Leroy, co-managing partner of Lagardère, to take Nourry’s place as Chairman and CEO of Hachette.
Commenting on the announcement, Arnaud Lagardère stated: “I would like to thank Arnaud Nourry for his commitment and his remarkable work over all these years in developing Hachette Livre. He played a decisive role in establishing Hachette Livre as a world leader in publishing. I’m very pleased to see Pierre Leroy take the helm of Lagardère Publishing. With the support of Fabrice Bakhouche and Hachette Livre’s talented teams, I know that Pierre will successfully lead our ambitious plans to develop Hachette Livre. I’m also delighted to be able to continue to count on his support as co-managing partner and secretary general of Lagardère. His positioning at the apex of the Group’s executive management is extremely valuable.”
Nourry is one of Europe’s most respected and well-recognised publishing executives. Despite recent rumours of his dissatisfaction with the corporate shake-up at Hachette, his departure from the company after eighteen years in the role is still an abrupt one, and one that has been received with widespread shock in the publishing community.
It remains to be seen whether Nourry’s departure is a sign of further changes to come in Hachette Livre and Lagardère’s corporate structure.
Publishing Gets its Own Secret Keeper xoxo
Morning, Publishing Hopefuls: do I have a story for you!
Rumour has it there’s a new whistle-blower in town; dealing in the secrets of the exclusive publishing world. Specialising in exposés and revelations, this Twitter account spells trouble for job ads with undisclosed salaries, and meddlesome managers getting you down. XOXO
The responsible account, @publishingsecart, claims to be “sharing the publishing industry voices to open up discussions,” by opening their DMs to anonymous entries. At the time of writing, the account had already reached over 1,500 followers (all within its first month of activity).
Publishing Secrets’ debut made quite the impression, with fellow Twitter users making shameless comparisons to Gossip Girl and Lady Whistledown. @Katierpacker tweeted “‘I guess you can’t edit your life as easily as a book, xoxo gossip girl’” and @rochdowdenlord tweeted “Not Lady Whistledown coming for the book trade.”
A pinned tweet on the account explains how users can submit information to be posted. As true keepers of secrets, they promise both confidence and a safe space throughout the process. Your DM will be deleted after tweeting, ensuring your submission is not stored or remembered.
Within the same thread, the account tweeted:
“3/ So many have had terrible experiences in publishing, along with some that just make you laugh (and maybe cry later) Sharing these realities make for a better understanding within the industry. & if someone wants to share some drama along the way then...”
In other threads they discuss salary negotiations, and (in one of their most salacious) an interview gone awry:
“It was awful. The interview was with a senior member of staff who made me feel completely worthless... Basically sat there and berated me about how much I didn’t know. It all seemed so angry and unprovoked!”
“Safe to say that I have completely sworn off that company now, even if the perfect job comes up I will never apply there. Please don’t berate your potential future staff. And if you say you’re going to follow up with an email after interview, please do that (shock: they didn’t)”
I think we’re all wondering which company this could be.
Finally, echoing a familiar refrain by many a publishing hopeful: 'Publishing experience is not essential' That’s often listed on the job ads but then they say not enough experience when rejecting applications - what is the right amount of experience?!”
Whatever the answer, I will be monitoring my Twitter DMs for the clues to unmask our mysterious tweeter. Worry not my dear readers, I will keep you informed of the especially sordid details as and when they transpire. Indeed, my keyboard is positively primed to report on the scandalous transgressions of our very own publishing industry.
Yours truly, Katie Gough