Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by KatG, Jan 22, 2007.
Well done! We're going to send you over to Alison's thread and make you compete with her in verse.
LOL you know HE can never resist a challenge
Charlie Huston has gotten Already Dead optioned for film and in development. While I'm thrilled for Huston, I do wonder how many of the supernatural mystery series can really get made in film/t.v. at once. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files is already on t.v. -- and it's a fun series, if not yet groundbreaking and somewhat cleaned up from the books. Charlaine Harris' vampire Southern mysteries are getting done on HBO, and so on. Then again, we have both Medium and Ghost Whisperer on U.S. t.v., so what do I know.
Entertainment Weekly in the States is clearly trying to do a little more book coverage on their online site. Mostly things like which acclaimed novel did you not read, but hey, it's a start.
Jonathan Lethem's earlier category sf novels have now been exorcised and are now described as just a part of his body of "trippy" fiction. Still, the fact that they bother to mention Gun With Occasional Music at all is pretty good.
The new system in the U.S. of airing new episodes of shows, then yanking them off the air for several weeks, then bringing them back at unpredictable times is really, really annoying.
Especially when you develop a fascination for a character, say House or Bones, and you must wait for interminably long periods for a new episode because of some idiotic thing called American Idol. I understand this latter show is all Juzzza's fault. It started over there and he must have convinced them to export it to us. He has this nasty vicious streak, you know.
The timing of Battlestar Galatitca episodes seems similarly chaotic. It seems hard to know exactly when to expect it, when it's going on a "mid-season" hiatus, and when it will be back. And it doesn't help the DVR recording when they also run the original Battlestar series at the same time, so you end up with boatloads of the young Richard Hatch instead of the old Richard Hatch...
Who developed this new system of episode spurts ??
Cool that entertainment weekly is evolving to include books. (Propably because all those show watchers need to read something while waiting for the new episodes to show up!)
It was the aftermath of the lets debut different series all year round strategy, followed by the lets do several weeks of reruns, then new episodes at the sweeps periods strategy. People didn't like that one much, especially for serial plot shows, so they switched to this yank and dump approach. They like it better because they can put in other shows or specials during the hiatuses, move around Idol, and concentrate all the episodes of the hotest shows around sweep months. So instead of one season, you have three mini-seasons.
It's partly the cable channels' fault because they would put on shows all different times of the year, they had fewer episodes per season, could do more than one season per year, and sometimes had big gaps between groups of episodes. So the networks cut back the number of episodes per season, and then had to deal with how to make it to May. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with shows this way. I try not to get involved in too many shows, though my husband has finally dragged me fully into Lost. (I gave up on Battlestar Galactica when I realized I didn't like any of the characters and wanted the Cylons to win, kill all the humans and end the misery.)
I suspect it is all a plot to get people to buy the season DVD's so that they can finally see all the episodes.
An aspect of the current publishing/distribution system that intrigues me. When I was a boy, drugstores used to have the standing, circular displays of paperback books. Book stores didn't carry paperback books and used book stores hadn't been invented. That's where I found the new stuff, in drug stores.
In the libraries - including the Phoenix Public Library - for some reason, there was an sff section but all of the books were hard cover and several years old. You could check out early and earlier decade stuff but not the latest and greatest. My family did not have the budget to permit my perusing the genuine bookstores.
But, what intrigues me now is that drug stores still have a book and magazine section as do grocery stores but you never see the latest and greatest sff there; you only find the second tier and re-prints. Why is that?
Actually, I don't notice much sff in those venues at all - mostly just the books by those-authors-whose-names-shall-always-be-larger-than-the-title. I consider those commodity books, since people buy them strictly based on the author name alone regardless of what the book may be about. The only sff I usually see might be some mass media flavor of the moment, like Eragon or Potter or Narnia.
Any book that was put in paperback was and still is not considered literature because it is in mass market paperback. Therefore the libraries would not stock them. This meant all the "genre" works from specialty markets that would put most of their stock in mass market paperback so fans could afford it, could not get most of their lists into libraries. (The bulk of the prejudice against category sff has little to do with the actual titles and a great deal to do with their being a paperback market that was first mostly sold in places like drugstores, as I keep trying to explain.)
Also, it's just plain hard for libraries to keep track of mass market paperbacks, they fall apart a lot faster, they are easy to steal, etc. So public libraries keep some mm paperbacks around, but they don't worry if they lose them as inventory and they don't bother to keep up with paperback offerings. MM paperbacks in libraries are mostly donations from patrons.
To get around this and to get more book reviews, since reviewers also won't usually cover paperbacks, publishers in the 1990's started doing limited small hardcover print runs not only of the top sellers but of other authors as well, including newbies. This ensured that the books would be more likely stocked in libraries where they might gain a readership. It's the mystery novel model and it worked brilliantly.
Non-bookstore vendors such as drugstores and WalMart, who were serviced by jobbers, decided to severely cut down or eliminate altogether their paperback racks in the 1990's. This caused a steep decline in the paperback market that escalated within the decade into a full collapse from which publishers still haven't recovered. Category romance, which made up about 50% of the paperback market but which was beginning to see its fanbase shrink, had to shift huge blocks of authors into the mainstream and cut back all their lines. Westerns, which had been struggling, died completely as a category market. Horror went under yet again, with the number of titles severely cut. SFF was hard hit, but the success of epic fantasy at the time kept it going until the juggernaut of Harry Potter and the LOTR movies. General fiction from Updike to Krantz went through what you could call a recession. And category mystery crashed and burned -- mid-listers were dumped, lists were cut -- it got nasty.
The specialty mystery and sff bookstores, which were already struggling against the chain superstores, couldn't survive with all the publishers cutting out their mid-lists, and decreased to only a handful, although recently there's been signs of renewed life there. The online stores did take up a lot of the slack, but they are still only a small percentage of the total market, as most people still won't shop online. I'm not sure at this point whether the total number of sales outlets for books has increased or decreased to concentrate on the bookstores, but I do know that the loss of drugstores and grocery store business is still really hurting things. Unfortunately, books don't sell as well as cookware and hair products do.
And libraries are steadily losing their funding, often times being closed down.
On the end of the Potter franchise, and now the sky is falling:
It's not exactly as if they didn't know the series was going to end someday... Why do business people sometimes act like such dolts? They land a cash cow and seem to think it will always be there, allowing them to rake in the dough...
The other thing this highlights is the pitfalls from having such a single massive hit (if we lump the whole Potter phenom into one big bucket). So much gets geared to supporting the monster, to the point where your entire corporate bottom line depends on one author's output. I remember when Scholastic, the U.S. Potter publisher, took a massive stock price hit on just *rumours* of a delay in one of the books. Pretty scary when your book value (so to speak) is so tied up in a single property.
HE's 1st Law of Business Management: Find a crisis and manage it.
The better business schools make an art of denying the obvious by refusing to admit the strength of the US and Euro business system is crisis management. We do it better than anyone in the world. The weakness of these systems is long range planning precisely because there are no immediate results to point to as accomplishments, and without accomplishments there can be no flurry on the stock markets. All energy gets devoted to today's crisis - e.g., promoting today's phenom. When today's crisis passes, as with the Harry Potter books, THEN and only then energy gets devoted to resurrecting the company because NOW that is today's crisis.
You guys have it backwards. I am continually impressed by how well the book publishing industry manages to market itself as a big, monied, glamorous industry to people. In reality, it is tiny, backward and poor compared to any other entertainment and information industry. And the children's portion of the industry is even tinnier and poorer, and up until the last decade or so, was actually in a massive slump.
So Bloomsbury didn't put all its eggs in one basket and have no strategy beyond trying to milk its cash cow. Bloomsbury was just publishing its books, and Harry Potter turned out to be not only the phenomena writer who pops up every half-decade or so, but the series that broke every record ever held in book publishing and revitalized the entire children's publishing industry -- something no one could predict. Bloomsbury could find, publish and promote numerous titles from here to kingdom come and still not manage what Harry Potter produced.
But business people and investors have no clue how book publishing works and no interest in investing long term in book publishing. They rushed in with money when Harry Potter hit and they'll rush out again when it's gone. Bloomsbury or Scholastic can no more manage such short term enthusiasm from the business community than they could the tides of the oceans.
Scholastic will be fine, probably, because it has most of the other hit-makers in children's publishing and a vast educational operation. Bloomsbury is perhaps in a less envious position, and in the much smaller market of Britain, but it clearly has some cash that it's trying to use to build up the company's operations.
On the one hand, I'm elated to hear that they are launching this site. It's what authors desperately trying to publicize on the Web have been waiting for and it could have an enormous impact, helping book publishing to finally get a foothold in the goodie pile that the other media have had all to themselves.
On the other hand, it is all too reminiscient of the 1970's, 1980's rush of publishers to venture into multi-media, electronic industries they know squat about. This was because Wall Street suddenly decided that book publishers were a good investment, but having invested in them, they expected massive growth book publishers simply couldn't produce, especially with their returns system. There were two ways to get growth -- sales and publishing mergers, and acquiring other non-publishing companies. The acquiring approach proved fairly disasterous once we had the 1990's recession.
But now we have international publishing conglomerates as the result of all the mergers that control most of the book publishing and have many other types of companies besides -- Bertelsman from Germany, Penguin from the U.K., etc., so it might be a good time for this sort of thing. It certainly can't hurt publishing in general if someone gives it a try. So overall, it's good news.
It's a guy thing, you know? Genetics, predestination and all that!
Then again, show me where this is not crisis management:
Understand that I believe in crisis management; it's what business does best. But, it certainly does not reflect any long term historical analysis or long term strategic planning. In the publishing industry, I am not all certain what long term planning would look like, but I would certainly enjoy perusing Scribbner's strategic plan for educational purposes...
I'm not sure there is such a thing as long-term planning in book publishing. It's kind of hard -- they still don't know if they are going to exist in twenty years or not or what the electronic mediums are going to do to everything. And you can plan long-term, but then there's a merger and they dissolve the company. So yeah, crisis management. It is going to be very hard for these companies because of investment pressure that they keep producing Harry Potter numbers, which is impossible.
Worked for the now extinct Sperry Flight Systems which had a strategy to be in three distinct markets: commercial flight, commuter flight, and military flight systems. When one market was down, the other two tended to balance the scales.
For publishing, I would think the big guys would adopt a similar policy: general fiction, genre fiction, children's fiction, non-fiction, and textbooks with the latter forming the base. Particularly in the latter I can see a means for formulating short-term and strategic plans to keep the company viable in the textbook market.
For the former, I can see strategies: looking for one or more series in the fiction categories; a self-help phenomena such as "I'm Okay, You're Okay" "Megatrends" or a really good explainer series to take on the sciences as we know them today. The Jordans, Goodkinds, Anne Perrys, Karons, Hillermans, Clancys, et al, come along with a regularity that belies the gut feeling that no one succeeds anymore.
But, committing to these kinds of activities takes committing budgets; budgets for long term planning are difficult to come by when the company is struggling to make ends meet this year. It's always easier to jettison than to acquire.
They do. I'm not sure which mega-house Bloomsbury belongs to or has a distribution deal with, since it's the British market, but I would assume they have one. The large houses -- Bertlesman which has BDD and Random House, Time Warner, Penguin, etc. have general fiction, categories imprints, children's, non-fiction -- which is where they make most of their money -- and educational operations. However, in the 1990's, with the cutbacks, a lot of them spun off or dumped their educational arms, so that market is kind of separate now from trade. But Signet, for instance, as part of Penguin, still makes a lot of their money in schools and universities for Signet Editions of classic works, and there are Norton readers and such.
I think the problem was that it was easy to do both, especially with the mergers.
Okay, we're taking votes and propositions for the movie media theme of the summer!! Two years ago, of course, the theme was the death of the movie industry. Box office was down again, the tentpole movies were performing erratically, the media claimed that people were abandoning unpleasant and expensive theaters for DVD's and cable, the teenagers had supposedly staged a web revolt, the studios were firing people and toying with things like releasing a movie in theaters and DVD at the same time as the wave of the future. There were endless articles moaning about it all, many of which I foolishly read and then denounced as idiotic.
The next year, they shuffled their feet, said oops, we were wrong, and bombarded us with articles about how Hollywood was going political and serious with films about social issues and the fallout of post-9/11. Along with that went a side order about the return of the R-rated commedies. So the theme became Movies for Adults, especially movies with very adult titles like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin."
This year is clearly the year of the sequel, but what erroneous conclusions and predictions will they draw from that? Get your candidates in now or vote for your favorite hypotheses.*
*Okay, so this is mainly North America, but people from other countries can still play.
"Sequels" seems to be the theme of the decade, not the year. Wait, I'm thinking of re-makes. Here's a prediction: Sequels of Re-makes. Charlie's Angels pioneered. Starsky and Hutch 2. Miamy Vice 2. (I did hear a rumour about Coppola and Dracula 2 )
Separate names with a comma.