What a day. What a week! What a month! And it's only the 4th!
It's been an interesting year and the onslaught of layoff news yesterday, that caused more than one normally balanced writer to use the phrase "Black Wednesday", was the icing on the cake. Remember when Borders decided to turn more books face out on the shelves last spring? That meant publishers got a deluge of returns: less space, fewer books. Then the credit crunch. Then the automakers took a nose dive, then the retail season reflected all that.
Yup, publishing responded by cutting the quickest thing to affect cash flow: jobs, salaries, expense accounts.
It's not been fun. Friends are losing their jobs, authors are getting orphaned (the acquiring editor leaving the company), all of us are standing around thinking "what the hell is going on here, and more important, when is it going to end."
I've been in publishing a long time. I've never seen anything like this. But that's mostly a reflection of the new instant news cycle. News that would have taken days if not weeks to filter out and get passed around (telephone calls, lunches, party gossip) is now instantly circulated to everyone in the industry.
The Random House reorganization memo was released this morning. Within ten minutes it was emailed to everyone, literally everyone, on the Random House data base. Ten minutes after that it was on Twitter, ten minutes after that it was on blogs, ten minutes after that it was on PW and Pub Lunch, and ten minutes after that every single client emailed or phoned their agent, even as the agents were phoning editors at S&S to see who was still employed.
Ten years ago, HarperCollins did a MASSIVE reconfiguration and cancelled more than 100 contracts and laid off 420 people. It was a real bloodbath. It took hours if not days for people to hear about it outside of the immediate circle of those affected.
This instant news cycle intensifies everything: the speed we hear about stuff, the sense that the sky is falling.
Well, the sky isn't falling. Calm analysis just takes longer than three minutes. In the days and weeks to come we'll get a sense of what all this means. Some of it won't be good, of course, but we're at the start of the worst economic downturn in 80 years. Of course there was going to be something like this. Random House has a new guy in charge. Of course there was going to be something like this.
So, don't panic.
And try not to worry any more than you have to.