In 2014, media journalist Porter Anderson contacted me about Hachette’s proposed purchase of Perseus and a planned sale of its distribution arm to Ingram. I hesitated at first to comment.
In writing about publishing as an industry, I don’t chase news events very often. When I started this blog in 2009, I adopted three basic rules of thumb:
- Link out before you link in (a kind of “show your work”)
- Add value (don’t just report; put the story in context)
- Be constructive (criticism is okay, but snark is probably best left to others)
“The Perseus Sale: Too Early To Say”
Generally, I’ve found it hard to focus on breaking news and still do an effective job delivering on all three rules of thumb. But, with Perseus, a good deal of the early coverage focused on what this move will mean for Hachette or for Ingram. Relatively little media reporting addressed what the sale might mean for authors. Similarly, the consequences for presses whose distribution would move to Ingram was lightly covered.
I offered Porter Anderson a handful of thoughts, many of which he wove into a story, “What the Hachette-Perseus-Ingram pas de trois means: ‘Too early to say'”. Published on FutureBook, the digital blog of the U.K.-based publishing trade magazine, The Bookseller, it tackled the longer-term implications of a Perseus sale. Although I didn’t use this as a reason to start chasing the news, Anderson’s overview is a good one and worth reading.
No Longer “Too Early To Say”
Edited March 27, 2015 to add: Chasing the news has other risks. Sometimes the news isn’t so newsworthy, after all. After agreeing in principle to do a deal in 2014, Perseus, Ingram and Hachette were unable to come to terms, and the negotiations ended.
Then, new owners bought an interest in Perseus. The company was again put up for sale, culminating in a second version of the earlier deal. Hachette bought the publishing imprints, while Ingram picked up the distribution businesses.
It’s an unusual turn of events, but not so unusual. One lesson might be this: don’t jump too soon on the news. Another might be: whatever I said in 2014 still applies.