A Publishing Plum Sours

The latest standoff between big publisher and big author involving Janet Evanovich has provoked a flurry of speculation that Evanovich might publish her next few books directly, presumably using a publishing house as a distributor but not to finance the printing, production, or marketing.

In many ways, Evanovich would be an ideal candidate for this sort of experiment because her team—read: family—runs most of the effort already, with a strong connection to her powerful fan base. Entertainment news site Deadline.com started the speculation with its report that St. Martin’s Press had declined to meet Evanovich’s rumored $50m asking price for her next four books (a 25 percent increase from her last deal, according to Publishersmarketplace.com).

Michael Cader explains that there’s another way of looking at this if you take the self-publishing angle out of it:

What that means is if the Plum series is in play, there may not be too many publishers able or willing to meet Evanovich’s reported asking price. Of the Big Six, only Penguin and Random House have no prior business relationship with her.

Weakened by the rapid shift in retail sales and hampered by a declining market, publishers might have reached a crucial point where their weakness becomes a negotiating strength. Calling a big author’s bluff puts a brand-name author in a bind. Even with the tools available to a self-publisher, building a successful infrastructure will take time, talent, and tenacity on the author’s part. That daunting prospect may be the publisher’s last card to play. And Evanovich tells Publishersmarketplace.com that Deadline’s report was “inaccurate.”