Tuesday, May 1, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: On Publishing Prognosticators

BoSacks Speaks Out: On Publishing Prognosticators

Perhaps I have finally been in the publishing business long enough (30 Years) to reach the state of sage-ability. At this time we are obviously experiencing a negative, if somewhat common, business trend. I say common because from a historical perspective it's clear this happens on a regular basis. It's not fun, it's hard on everyone, but it is an oft-repeated event. To deny its reoccurrence is ridiculous. We have had large downturns before and we will have them again. Unless you really believe that America is going out of business, there is nothing to fear but the fear of being laid off.

I have been laid off in other bad economic times and now I'm a self-appointed publishing sage. Bad times like this happen, in fact must happen, at least once in a while. It is hard on me and no doubt hard on you. But to think that we are going to just ride some alchemist's pipe dream of growth upon growth upon more extended growth is no less foolish than turning lead type into golden bestsellers.

The following article is gloomy in its truthfulness, but just a tad too short sighted for my tastes. As I've been saying, my experience has shown me that healthy business has an ebb and a flow, a pulse if you will, not unlike the story of Joseph and the dreams of a distant Pharaoh, the old story where a dream of seven years of feast was followed by a dream of seven years of famine.

Let me say here that I do not believe we are in for seven years or five years or even four of famine after the last amazing long bull market and it's effects on our industry and on others. But I do think we will be in for another 12-month period of belt tightening and business model deliberation. Here is where Goethe gets it right, at least in a business sense, "That which does not kill me makes me stronger."

Is it time to reassess our business plans? Yes. Is it time to develop new and creative sales programs? Yes. Is it time to seek new avenues of diversified distribution? Yes. Is it time to pack in the tent poles of publishing and become plumbers, carpenters and god forbid anything other than the fifth estate. Nah. Not at all.

All I see is that we are in a common economic trough and from deep in the trench it is very hard to see the way out. Now I am not crass enough to forget that there are people, humans, in this equation, real people with children, people with plans, people who need a comfortable retirement, that are going to get hurt. I am a father, a grandfather and a husband myself, who would shelter as best as I can/could the pain and angst that these cycles bring to my family and my publishing compatriots. I cannot succor you or predict the upswing other than it will happen. Oh yes, I can tell you that it will happen when the best of the prognosticators say it won't happen. That is the way of it all. Those who say they know really don't know at all, including me.

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