An oak and a reed were arguing about their strength. When a strong wind came up, the reed avoided being uprooted by bending and leaning with the gusts of wind.But the oak stood firm and was torn up by the roots. -- AesopIt goes without saying right now that it's a volatile time in publishing. With the news that Penguin and Random House are merging and the news that Harper and Simon & Schuster are in talks about merging, authors and illustrators are understandably nervous and apprehensive. The Big Six emerged as the largest leading publishing houses in the world, then there were five, now it looks like there will be four... and I can’t think it will stop there.
What I sincerely hope authors and illustrators will be willing and able to do during this uncomfortable time of wait-and-see is recognize and remember their value and worth as creative artists in this society—value and worth that exist independently of any publishing house; value and worth that will exist long after the large houses complete their awkward merger dances. To my mind, it's become a little too easy for publishing houses to convince authors and illustrators that their creative work is only worth something because the large publishing house is willing to publish it. The worth of creative work is far greater than that. And now may well be the time for authors and illustrators to take stock of what they do well, what they do best, and be open to all opportunities to share their work—be it through the new large houses or through the myriad of other avenues available these days for publishing our work, including smaller houses, independent houses, and more.
As mergers are rumored, speculated upon, and announced, it's critical to understand that it will be many months before things start to happen at these houses that will have a direct effect on authors and illustrators. And as we wait to see what happens, I hope people will take this time to gather information, ask questions, plan ahead, and remain flexible so they can bend as needed and be ready to readjust. However, once things DO start to happen, such as evaluating the number of imprints, the amount of staff, and the projected incomes of divisions the combined company has, then it's likely to assume some forms of consolidation and reorganization will take place—and that will absolutely affect authors and artists at differing levels depending upon where the changes take place in the companies. It's to be expected that the ride will get bumpier before it get smoother. And my advice right now to all the creative people potentially effected by these changes is to stay flexible, stay open minded, and continue paying attention to creating the best work you can. The playing field for authors and artists is actually widening, not shrinking, but it's going to require some new thinking and new approaches by authors, artists, agents, and publishers to see it that way. Fortitude and flexibility, my friends!
(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks LLC