Wednesday News: RIP Berkley/NAL?, coloring books stage a coup?, and love on reality tv
More Berkley/NAL Staffers Are Laid Off – So things are starting to look pretty grim over at Berkley Publishing Group. An unspecified number of staff have been laid off, Berkley President Leslie Gelbman has left, and Locus Magazine reports that layoffs include staff at SFF imprints Ace and Roc. In the midst of all this, Nora Roberts has defected to St. Martin’s Press for a deal that includes her JD Robb books. Gelbman was Roberts’s longtime editor at Berkley. And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, they actually released this statement (because NOTHING says commitment to mass market paperback than gutting its publication base):
When the dissolution of Berkley/NAL as a separate division was announced by Penguin adult publishing president Madeline McIntosh, she wrote to employees at the time, “Berkley will remain committed to publishing in mass market paperback, as well as in other formats, while continuing to refine the size of the list in order to ensure optimum results per title.” – Publishers Lunch/Publishers Weekly
The big business behind the adult coloring-book craze – Never fear, though. Instead of buying mass market paperback books, you can stock up on adult coloring books, which appear to have taken over traditional publishing and bookselling. I actually love coloring books, and I’ve picked up a few really neat volumes lately, but I kind of feel like we’re spiraling down the rabbit hole without anything to break the inevitable fall. Into what, who knows?
It’s not clear whether the rise of adult coloring books has come at the expense of sales in other categories, but the impact of the craze can be seen in various corners of the retail industry: Barnes & Noble has said that strong demand for adult coloring books and artist supplies provided a tail wind to the chain’s total sales in the last three quarters.Wal-Mart, meanwhile, moved in November to add a dedicated 4-foot section for adult coloring books in 2,000 of its stores. And Target started carrying adult coloring books in 1,300 stores in August and within months rolled them out to the rest of the chain. Initially, the big-box retailer was carrying only four titles in stores; this month, it’ll be up to 40.
“I’ve been in this business for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Kathleen Schmidt, vice president at Running Press, which hurried to publish four adult coloring books last year when it saw the category gathering momentum. – Seattle Times
Why people lose their minds on ‘The Bachelor’ – Speaking of falling down the rabbit hole (and what an awful title for this Washington Post article), Helen Fisher, the biological anthropologist from the Kinsey Institute who has written that Anatomy of Love book, talks about how romantic love on reality television is a decent illustration of how the brain can ‘fall in love’ in a mere moment. She talks about romantic love as a “drive” more than anything, which distinguishes it from a relationship. In fact, Fisher claims that “full-blown romantic love” is “focused on one individual,” making it difficult to be truly in love with more than one person at a time (once the brain hones in on the true object of its desire, that is). Whether or not you believe all that, the kind of distinctions Fisher is drawing do play into what Romance fiction often recognizes as the difference between desire and love, and the ongoing active choices involved in sustaining a romantic relationship over a long period of time. Fisher also talks about the was in which some cultures don’t trust romantic love, precisely because it is so “mercurial,” as she puts it.
The basic brain circuitry for romantic love lies way below the cortex with which we do our thinking, way below the limbic system with which we do our feeling, although they’re all connected. It lies in brain systems linked with drive, focus, motivation, energy, optimism. In fact, one of the main factories that makes dopamine and starts the whole system of romantic love lies way down in the base of the brain, next to brain regions that orchestrate thirst and hunger. This animal attraction, what we call romantic love, can be triggered instantly. And it’s most likely to be triggered under experiences of novelty and excitement. . . .
On “The Bachelor,” these people haven’t really had much of a relationship with this man before they get rejected. So they might not be suffering from romantic rejection. But they could be suffering from social rejection, which triggers many of the same brain systems of wanting, craving, obsessive thinking and despair. We’re a social animal, and any kind of rejection is painful for the human being. Not only that, but the whole world is watching them get dumped. So there’s a sense of embarrassment, probably. – Washington Post
I think the mass market decline has been written on the wall for several years but I don’t think Berkley/NAL (which probably put out close to 500 titles a year or more) is going to be eliminated. I’ve seen comments like that around the internet (and in my inbox). This isn’t Samhain or some smaller publisher. it’s a giant conglomerate that is looking at numbers and making corporate-type decisions. Most romance readers seem to have moved on to the digital space.
A book seller who has “never seen anything like” the rush on coloring books was apparently not in the industry for 50 Shades or Twilight.
I want to see how they’ll make a movie out of this phenomenon — no, wait, I don’t want to see that.
There’s an interesting comment from Trident Media Group Chairman Robert Gottlieb in the comments section on this Publishers Weekly post. He calls this “the end of a great publishing house as we have known it.”
@Steph from fangswandsandfairydust.com: I read her comment as referring specifically to the publication of coloring books, but I could be wrong.
@jane: I saw that in Hachette’s recent acquisition of Perseus that they were getting a lot of academic and non-fiction titles and figured that in part we’re seeing the focus of traditional publish shift, which makes sense given your point about a lot of Romance moving into digital. Romance folks, in particular, have gotten used to thinking of ourselves as keeper of the cash cow that keeps publishing going (whether or not that was ever even true), and with the acquisition of Harlequin by HC, the closing of a couple of digital pubs, and this news all coming in succession, I understand some of the nervousness. There just seem to be SO MANY authors self-publishing these days that the market feels both glutted and indistinct in many ways. And it’s interesting to me that we’re not so much seeing the “DIE, TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING, DIE” message I would have expected even a year ago. If the initial self-publishing gold rush is over, what’s the Romance market going to look like next year, especially with the decline of the MMPB?
@Janine: Check out the spelling of Trident Media Group next to his name.
@Janet: I had not noticed that but I noticed that he calls Penguin Random House PHR instead of PRH. It could be a keyboard issue, or dyslexia.
@Janine: I wouldn’t have noticed it except I clicked on the link to check out the website for the company, and it took me to a Facebook page with the misspelled name. Maybe it’s a problem with PW.
Both Berkeley and NAL have published authors that I absolutely LOVE and I generally think that most Berkeley books are well-written (and edited), but their ebooks almost never go on sale.
@Courtney: excellent point Courtney! I look for Berkley/NAL books at my library because I’m not going to pay upwards of $7 for a digital book (except for something by Diana Gabaldon, and then I’m more likely to buy the paperback anyway to have on my shelf).