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Writer Wednesday: The Simon & Schuster Slide

Well, well, well, here we are again authors. It's a dreary day outside, but a sticky humid one as summer clings like a hungry raccoon to the scraps of summer. It's also another #writerwednesday, where we talk shop, industry, and more. Let's dig in, shall we?

The Simon & Schuster Slide

Simon & Schuster. Yes, we are there again. After the Department of Justice blocked the sale of Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for the hefty price tag of 2.2 billion, we all knew it was a matter of time before the publishing house weaseled its way into another sale and another sale it did. Earlier this month, Simon & Schuster sold to a private investment firm, KKR, for a steal. Only a mere 1.62 billion. Not as sweet as the blocked PRH deal, but enough to line some pockets.

There are many mixed sentiments concerning the acquisition of Simon & Schuster by such a firm, and the fact that KKR plans to turn Simon & Schuster into a "standalone private company and will continue to be led by Jonathan Karp, President and CEO and Dennis Eulau, COO and CFO of Simon & Schuster". So, despite changing hands, the heads at the top will remain the same, with the goal to make the publishing house self sufficient.

For the health of the company, this could be a good thing, but when it comes to publishing and art, the bottom line is not kind. There are many considerations here as the shake up of acquisition rumbles through the house. How many editors and designers will be shuffled out in the mix while the heads keep their coveted placement at the top? How many books that were slated for development are now axed because of market expectations? The changing of hands rarely happens without significant internal shifts.

A positive aspect of this acquisition, is that by working to establish Simon & Schuster to be a viable and sustainable publishing house, this keeps the market varied, eschewing the continuous cannibalization of the big publishing houses that brought us to the 'Big 5'. However, on the flip side of that reasoning, Simon & Schuster is likely to adopt the same ruthlessness as Netflix when it comes to creative properties. If an author or series can't prove its wham bam market potential out the gate, how supportive will the newly acquired Simon & Schuster be to nurturing those investments. The ever shifting trends and tastes of the book world are fickle and many authors who don't hit with their first book may find themselves without a second chance. Though cutting authors loose without the chance to grow is frankly a stupid move. A house may make decent bank in bestsellers and new releases, but sustainability comes from a solid midlist. Not to mention, how this may once again stifle and stall the push for diversity. Or the burgeoning issues with AI. There is a lot to unpack with the implications at play and only so many hours in the day.

It will be interesting to see how this firm handles a publishing house or if they are handling over the reins to the current heads of the house to make sure things continue to run smoothly. Would the firm recognize the importance of a midlist set, or authors who don't always hit the New York Times list, but are sure and steady sales, or would they bank all import on big flashy titles and names? Time will tell, but the worry is warranted. Publishing has forced art to become a business, and the iron fist of the big houses still grips the majority of the market.

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