Publishing News reports on Random House UK CEO Gail Rebuck‘s recent “state of the union” address to around 40 literary agents in the Random House boardroom last Friday, spelling out just how tough the market is for all publishers – and how her group is investing heavily in areas such as digitization to prepare itself for the future. “Her analysis of the state of the industry was very good, very cogent,” said one agent. For another, it was “brave and frank”. The message was clear: it’s not getting any easier out there. Publishers’ share of the trade is shrinking while at the same time discounts are rising. There has been conglomeration among retailers and wholesalers (EUK’s takeover of Bertrams was mentioned) and the pressure on all publishers remains intense. “They’re saying something has to give,” was one (somewhat obvious) assessment afterwards.
While Rebuck wouldn’t comment directly to PN about the meetings – which another agent felt might be a bid to “soften them up” for hard news about advances and royalties – she did offer this statement: “The pace of change is so fast in our industry that it is unlikely most publishers can truly say they are fully briefed on all the issues at any given time. It is even more difficult for agents who do not necessarily have the same flow of daily information. The Random House Group briefings are an opportunity for us to share our strategic aims with a most important constituency.”