Hachette Memo Taken Apart by Barry and Joe

Folks, a few days back one of the major officers in Hatchette let leak an internal memo about how they will stay in the publishing game and remain important.

I can tell you, I read the memo and just shook my head at the stupidity of it. Just another sign of how really, really lost traditional publishers are in the face of the new reality.

But Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler decided to just take the memo apart, stupid phrase by stupid phrase.  A must read blog, folks, if you really want to understand what you are facing in traditional publishing. And a fun read.


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16 Responses to Hachette Memo Taken Apart by Barry and Joe

  1. They weren’t very nice, but I enjoyed it. The simple language/logic they used was excellent as they showed how silly it all was.

  2. camille says:

    It’s not the sheer obtuseness of the memo which scares me, it’s the thought that they think THIS is their plan.

    (Although if they realize that if they do actually START respecting and nurturing talent for real, it might be the foundation of a plan after all….)

  3. Cyn Bagley says:

    I already saw the post by Joe and Barry –

    Have you looked at the comment section? Mr./Ms. Anon is really trying to support the legacy position. Joe is creaming him/her.

    ;-) Cyn

  4. Ramon Terrell says:

    I can’t lie. I spent the whole time laughing. Its so ridiculous that one could think it was a parody of an actual business.

  5. David Barron says:

    I think every memo spawned of a corporation should receive this same treatment.

  6. Camille wrote: “It’s not the sheer obtuseness of the memo which scares me, it’s the thought that they think THIS is their plan.”


    I read the Memo thinking, hey, this is interesting, looky there! A major house is recognizing that it’s no longer Yahweh (“I Am That I Am” and that’s all you need to know, kids), but that times have changed and now it has to create a persuasive strategy for recruiting content providers (i.e. writers) who have many more options now than we used to have.

    Then I read Camille’s comment and thought: “Oh. Well. Yes. If we’re going to talk about REALITY already…” (wg)

  7. It’s a little scary to see Hachette try to encourage its staff that ‘business as usual’ is the best response to the huge changes happening all around them. Insights from Joe and Barry were razor sharp, as usual.

  8. Randy says:

    That memo strikes me more as a PR move than anything else. Designed to make writers think twice about going the indie route. Leaked on purpose?

  9. I spent the whole time scratching my head … what was that about? Why would Joe and Barry spend a copious amount of time ‘fisking’ a typically banal internal document from a publishing house? I worked in the corporate world … we got stuff like that all time … it’s just what they do … I would spend all of three nano seconds looking at it. Must be an inside joke.

  10. Too funny…I had to laugh, too. I think this quote from Orwell (stolen from Barry and Joe’s blog post) says it all:

    “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

    I’ve had the misfortune of working for a number of “dinosaur” corporate industries, and I’m embarrassed to admit, I was suckered into writing memos of this kind, and not only once, but over and over again. I won’t name names, but it’s totally business as usual to harbor insincerity and fake ‘rah-rah’ about the relevancy of your position and even your entire company in industries of this kind, especially when they’re in crisis.

    It also breeds pathological liars…not only to one another and their employees but to themselves. I would seriously listen with dropped jaw at times as high-ranking executives explained to me the importance of their jobs/projects/company/divisions. It alternately angered, frustrated, amused and disgusted me…and ultimately was why I could no longer tolerate that kind of work. The only way to survive in environments of that kind is to be a liar. It’s easier if you just drink the kool-aid and convince yourself it’s true. I still remember a conversation with a newer project manager, where she explained in frustration that the company execs kept saying they wanted change and innovation and yet kept shooting down all of their ideas that weren’t essentially rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I had to explain to her, as patiently as I could, that they didn’t really want change…that her mistake was believing them when they said they did. In my observation, very few corporate execs who verbally (or in the written word) pride themselves as innovators want any kind of change whatsoever. Usually this is a major red flag that they are going to guard the status quo…likely with an uzi, or maybe mustard gas.

    So yeah, I would guess that some people in the company see through this spew of nonsense, but a good majority of the higher ups smiled proudly when they read it and patted themselves on the backs for reaffirming their importance and worth. The higher up on the food chain you live in those environments, at least in my experience, the more deeply deluded you have to be to peddle this sh** to everyone below you on the food chain.

    Sad, but not particularly surprising, from what I’ve learned about publishing so far. I’ve never worked in the publishing industry itself, but the industries where I have worked mirrored the same mentality, by and large.

  11. Bartholomew Thockmorton says:

    Above all, it must be remembered that at the upper echelons of any corporation–all corporations–exists a management layer having no real grasp of the product, or how it is crafted. Instead we find the corporate heartbeat of those who only understand money, and how to make more of it.
    This is the true heart and evil of raw capitalism…in the end, we all ultimately work for, or under the influence, of those whose love extends no further than their wallet and their golden parachutes.

  12. Wayne Borean says:

    And this is why I think that we are going to see casualties among the publishers Dean. Yes, I know you say that they’ve been working on ebooks for ages, and that there are huge additional profits for them.

    The problem is that there are huge additional profits for writers. Yes, there are some writers who haven’t gotten it, and are hanging onto the traditional publishers desperately. But they are noticing the writers who are abandoning ship. And they are reading your blog, and Konrath’s blog, and adding up the information.

    At some point, the exodus will hit massive proportions, and the publishers won’t have anyone to publish. At least that is my guess.

    Oh, people like Perseid will (Disclosure – I work with Janet and Chris Morris on some projects). People like myself will. But the so called mainstream publishers will be on big trouble.


    • dwsmith says:

      Wayne, I do think a few publishers won’t make the transition. This first quarter of 2012 is going to be a boon for those who have already made the transition and a horrid loss for those companies behind and still playing only to paper books. And we will lose some bookstores this spring as well, but if the trend sticks, more will open than we will lose. Healthy bookstores instead of older ones stuck in bad management and a sick dependence on the returns system.

      Wayne and others who think traditional publishing is going to go down and run out of writers, I stand by the belief that 95% of all writers will never try to indie publish and will still seek out agents. Traditional publishers will continue on with more than enough product. And indie publishers will continue on with more than enough product. And small press publishers will continue on with more than enough product.

      Remember that blogs like this one attract a certain type of writer, one who thinks in business, one who looks ahead and one who is trying to learn. I’m afraid that is not most writers, older or newer. Most writers believe in the agent myth, most writers won’t feel validated until an editor in some tiny office in New York says, “Your book is good enough, here is a small contract.” You know why New York editors won’t let writers back into their offices when you are in New York? Why they meet you in the lobby or in a restaurant? Because their offices are not like they are on television. They are tiny, one chair, a paper-covered desk, a computer, and books and manuscripts stacked everywhere. When an author sees those tiny, cluttered offices, it breaks the illusion of traditional publishing.

      Traditional publishing is not going anywhere. Just watch the stock prices of the different companies. And the quarterly profit reports. And quarterly income reports. Those showing huge losses for the first two quarters of this next year are behind and might fail or be shut down. But those breaking even or showing profits in the next two quarters are doing fine and will be in huge profit mode shortly, again thanks to the stupidity of the writers and their agents. We gave them the huge profits that will allow them to cruise through this transition and make money like oil companies. Only without having to drill anything but writers.

  13. I will resist sending Barry and Joe corporate emails from work. I will resist sending Barry and Joe corporate emails from work. I will resist…

  14. Ramon Terrell says:

    One of the comments in that discussion by a person who works in trad publishing was talking about how the big 6 love indie publishing because it is a self slush pile of crap that sits there and takes the burden from them having to deal with it.

    It amazes me that there are still so many that think that inde=crap. Like there are not a multitude of trad published books that are substandard. smh.

    On another note, I saw in starbucks today a card with the photo of a musician on it stating for patrons to take one and have a free music track download. It was the exact same thing you’ve been talking about, Dean! We need to jump on that!

  15. D.S. says:

    You made me laugh with that last line, Dean: “Only without having to drill anything but writers.” Heh-heh!

    Nice to see the regulars chiming in as well. This is a great blog.

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