Publishing: What Do Mergers and Acquisitions Mean for Writers?

The impact of publishing consolidation on writers and readers remains to be seen. (Maui Friends of the Library bookstore; Kahului, Maui; July 2014. Photo by Cindy Fazzi.)

The impact of publishing consolidation on writers and readers remains to be seen. (Maui Friends of the Library; Kahului, Maui; July 2014. Photo by Cindy Fazzi.)

A report by Publishers Weekly shows increased consolidation in the publishing industry, with 26 mergers and acquisitions occurring within the first six months of 2014. The report says improving economic conditions led to more deals. What does it mean for writers?

“Consolidation is key to survival for companies that want to remain in the trade book business,” according to Publishers Weekly. Publishers know they need more resources to compete in today’s market.

The acquisitions include deals made by big publishing companies such as HarperCollins, which bought Harlequin, and Macmillan, which acquired Cookstr.  Even Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, has jumped on the bandwagon. It recently bought Comixology, a digital comics marketplace.

Pros and Cons

When Penguin and Random House merged last year, it became one of the world’s biggest publisher of trade books, with combined employees of more than 10,000, 250 imprints, and about $3.9 billion in annual revenues, according to the New York Times.

Industry analysts weighed in on the pros and cons, saying Penguin Random House would have a huge leverage against Amazon.com. With their combined resources, they would be able to innovate more to the benefit of consumers. The flip side is that mergers like this typically lead to redundancies, which in turn could result in layoffs.

Putting Penguin Random House aside, what does increased consolidation of publishing companies mean? For writers, the biggest disadvantage is that it reduces the number of outlets for them. For readers, it means fewer choices. For the industry as a whole, it means less competition.

Kensington and Lyrical Press

As a first-time novelist, I find myself directly affected by consolidation. My first romance novella is going to be published by Lyrical Press, one of the companies included in the Publishers Weekly list.

Kensington Publishing Corp. bought Lyrical Press in January 2014. Lyrical, founded by Renee Rocco in 2007, is a successful ebook publisher with a backlist of about 250 titles. Kensington has announced that it will merge its own digital imprint with Lyrical into a unified entity under the banner of Lyrical. “By combining our two digital imprints, we’ve created a more robust brand that benefits from the focus of the entire company,” according to Kensington’s announcement.

Mergers and acquisitions show that companies are once again willing to take a risk, a sign of a healthy industry. I’m optimistic that these deals will lead to further growth. When my romance novella is released in April 2015, I will have the benefit of having the support of both Lyrical and Kensington. However, the overall impact of this wave of publishing consolidation on writers and readers remains to be seen.

Maui Waves photo by Nina Fazzi

Mergers and acquisitions in publishing come in waves. (Kamaole Beach, Maui, July 2014. Photo by Nina Fazzi.)

To view Publishers Weekly’s article and accompanying list of publishing acquisitions, click here.

To read more about Kensington’s consolidation of its digital imprints under the banner of Lyrical Press, click here.

To read the New York Times article about the pros and cons of the Penguin Random House merger, click here.

 

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