Relationship: Simon & Schuster/Penguin Random House
August 5, 2022 3:34 PM   Subscribe

The Department of Justice’s antitrust suit against Penguin Random House is underway. You can get your information about the trial from sources such as trade journal Publishers Weekly, industry expert Jane Friedman, a live-tweet series by John Maher, and snarky meme accounts xoxopublishinggg and publishersbrunch.

Or you can enjoy this collection of fanfics and poems from an anonymous author. Meet a little P&L sheet just doing its best, follow a day in the life of the CEO of Avian Arbitrary Abode, and witness the NSFW encounter between the CEO of Unnamed Publishing Company and a man-sized penguin with a strap-on made of solid gold.

Of Profit And Loss

"Get this one. The judge just said 'The P&L is really fake. Am I wrong?' And he laughed and said no!"

There's a kind of horror that can't be articulated, only experienced. An icing over of the soul, or the ones and zeros that made up an online entity. The sudden knowledge that, while you have always believed yourself to have an important role to play in the world, your life was, in fact, not at all important to anyone else but you.

The P&L sheet silently wept, feeling alone in the entire universe.


(Publishers use a P&L statement to decide if a book makes financial sense to publish. Constance Grady wrote for Vox that every time she put together a P&L, the editor she was working with would whisper, “What you have to remember is that the P&L is fictional.”)

Haha, So Random!

Arkusmay took the manuscript to an intern. "Put this in the publishing machine," he said.

The intern looked confused. "The publishing machine?"

"You know," Arkusmay said. "The one with the tube you stick a manuscript into, and then it goes through a series of other tubes and emerges as thousands of copies of a bound, edited book that we then throw into the world with no clue what we're doing."

"Sir," the intern said hesitantly, "I don't think-"

"Good," Arkusmay said. "I don't either." That was the safest way to be a CEO - know nothing, do nothing, and lie through his teeth to anyone who questioned his motives or knowledge of his own business.


(PRH CEO Markus Dohle: “Everything is random in publishing. Success is random. Bestsellers are random. So that is why we are the Random House!”)

A Random Penguin Acquires My Ass (NSFW)

“The government can try,” the Penguin said. “But in that case we’ll just go to trial and win. I mean, if you were called to the stand, you wouldn’t say anything silly like ‘we totally lie during contract negotiations’ or ‘we have no idea how to make a book a bestseller’ or ‘we do the same level of marketing for all our books regardless of advance, I swear’ or ‘we would totally bid higher with more competition and yes, we want to reduce the competition but it won’t affect author payments’ or ‘the indie houses combined are basically a Big Sixth house and totally capable of keeping up with us once we have forty percent of the book market’ or ‘all it takes to compete with the biggest houses is a publisher with a vision and a couple of good editors.’”

Also (presumably) from the same writer, Consummating The Merger: A Publishing Industry Sonnet (NSFW), The Urge to Merge: A Selection of Publishing Industry Limericks, and A Modest Proposal (For preventing the poor publishing interns in NYC from being a burden on their employer and for making them beneficial to the public).
posted by shirobara (16 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of my favorite authors just wrote what is probably his final book (unless he does some shorter projects), and it's the final book of a trilogy and I think it came in at over 1000 pages? And that's after he cut it down and his editor said "this is it, submit it". And then he had to BEG BEG BEG to get the book even read by the person who made the decisions, but she read it and decided to go ahead with publication at full length. I'm very very pleased because this is one of the best series he's written, and if he was denied the publication of the final part of the story, that would have been a crime. He's been around for nearly 50 years, and has solid kudos for his work.

Anyway, the whole publishing thing is sort of ridiculous. I don't know how we rework book publishing to be more like nearly everything else we have now... maybe simply using resources to put something down en masse on a physical medium requires gatekeepers, but then magazines....
posted by hippybear at 4:18 PM on August 5 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: A man-sized penguin with a strap-on made of solid gold.
posted by slater at 5:00 PM on August 5 [7 favorites]


"Nothing written for pay is worth printing. Only what has been written against the market”

-Ezra Pound
posted by clavdivs at 5:04 PM on August 5 [6 favorites]


hippybear, who's the author?
posted by kittensofthenight at 5:12 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Um... Stephen R Donaldson.
posted by hippybear at 5:41 PM on August 5 [4 favorites]


If you didn't know what the company Penguin Random House did ahead of time there is absolutely no way you could ever work it out from the name
- @qntm
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 5:47 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


hippybear, I met Donaldson. He seemed like a pretty nice guy. We talked a bit about his Thomas Covenant series and I asked him where he got the idea of having such an unhappy, bitter and cynical protagonist. He had obviously fielded this one before because he answered without any hesitation: "Nobody else was writing their protagonists like this and I thought I'd give it a try. I liked the way it was working out and kept with it."

50 years, eh? Time flies.
posted by ashbury at 6:16 PM on August 5 [3 favorites]


Heh, I am a raging Stephen R Donaldson fan, I deeply love the first and particularly the second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, but man, did he lose me on the third. I noped out hard after The Runes of the Earth. I had no idea he'd been working on a new series since then, nor that, apparently, he'd turned it around again and was writing stuff worth reading. I should check this Great God's War series out sometime, I guess.

Tangential story- at the 1996 World Fantasy Convention, I was playing a part in an organized Lovecraft live action murder mystery being run as part of the convention entertainment. I got to "kill" Katherine Kurtz, although I was being mind controlled at the time, so maybe it doesn't count? Also I turned into an avatar of Hastur at the end, but I got banished so it was okay. Anyway, in some downtime between scenes, I got White Gold Wielder signed by Donaldson, but he signed it to my character's name, Avon Marsh. I treasure it nevertheless.
posted by notoriety public at 6:36 PM on August 5 [6 favorites]


had no idea he'd been working on a new series since then

I guess you haven't kept up with Donaldson outside of his Convenant books. Well, Mordant's Need is two volumes that are well written. The Gap Series is a serious SF series that is pretty brutal but is well executed across 5 books. The Man Who.. are 5 detective novels written under a different name (Reed Stevens). This current series is The Great God's War which may IMO (as someone who has been reading him since the 70s) might be his best constructed work so far. He's always worked within really difficult strictures for himself, and I eagerly await his next (probably final) book.

I've gone through The Gap Series something like 10 times since it was released, in print and audiobook. It's horrific, but it is so... so.. great.
posted by hippybear at 7:05 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Mordant's Need is what I read first, actually. Love them too, but I appreciate the philosophy of the Covenant series more. I didn't ever read the Gap books though.
posted by notoriety public at 7:09 PM on August 5


I still think they should have named it Random Penguin.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:47 PM on August 5 [5 favorites]


I've been writing on the old roguelike game Omega lately, and it has Thomas Covenant references in it!
posted by JHarris at 9:31 PM on August 5


I need to get thru these links because no one i tangentially follow who's part of book twitter is saying anything directly. Just bitter jokes and memes.
posted by cendawanita at 9:42 PM on August 5


According to the industry expert link this merger only mostly affects the amount of the advances passed out to already successful best-seller authors (will it be 10x my pension or 20x ?) who but rarely 'earn it out'. I have never read Stephen King and don't intend to start now - I'm still quietly munching through the long tail of books which haven't been gate-keepered by the risk-averse patriarchy. I AM the patriarchy ffs, I know all about that. And talking of me, last year I read and reviewed No One Round Here Reads Tolstoy: Memoirs of a Working-Class Reader by Mark Hodkinson who wrote some books about punk and soccer and founded Pomona Press to give voice to The Others.
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:39 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


I am the author of a Digital Asset Management textbook, one that includes a chapter on copyright, as well as formulas for cost per circ.

After it had been out for about a year, my own math showed me I had made back my advance from aPress.

The publisher argued with me for the next two years. The royalties weren't enough money to even cover a lawyer's retainer, so Iet it go.

Eventually aPress was bought by Springer. Springer's legally required internal audit at time of acquisition showed (surprize, surprize) that I was owed royalties. Not a lot, it's a niche textbook after all, but it was good to get what I was owed.

When it was time for a second edition, Springer offered to pay me in Springer bucks. I SHIT YOU NOT. Essentially, gift cards for heir online catalog would be my reward.

I heard the whole "Spinger Bucks" thing had been legally challenged and shut down. But whooo boy. My only brush with publishing outside of articles was not great.

I self published the second edition. It looks like shit, but I at least can do my own profit and loss calculations. I've made tens of dollars!!
posted by EinAtlanta at 12:07 AM on August 6 [21 favorites]




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