Thursday, April 24, 2008

More News From Thomas Nelson

As I explained in yesterday’s blog, I got up early Tuesday morning to watch the videos of Mike Hyatt’s presentation to his bookselling partners at the recent Thomas Nelson Open House.

When I’d finished watching the videos, I wrote Mike an email, asking for permission to quote him heavily in yesterday’s blog. I got back an auto-reply, saying he was in meetings all day and to contact his assistant.

I picked up the phone and called his assistant in Nashville, but didn’t reach her either. I left a message and then followed up with an email. I did later receive an email, granting the permission.

Yesterday’s Tennessean answered the question of what kind of meetings Mike was involved in:

Religious publisher Thomas Nelson Inc. on Tuesday gave layoff notices to about 60 of its employees, a move official attributed to an earlier decision to reduce the number of titles that the company publishes by half.

The cuts represent less than 10 percent of the Nashville-based company’s work force of more than 600 people, a spokeswoman said. She added that more than 10 percent of the positions being cut were at the vice-president level or above.

Mike’s blog for Wednesday addressed the layoff here:

Albeit difficult, we believe these changes will put us in a better position to deliver on our promise to inspire the world with inspiring products. With a 50% cut in our new title output and a slight reduction in our workforce, we believe we will be able to allocate even more resources to each title. This is our goal.

Both Wednesday’s Publishers Lunch and Publishers Weekly also addressed the layoff. PW said:

Hyatt explained that the layoffs were a result of Nelson’s recently announced plans to reduce title output by 50% in order to focus its resources on fewer, better-selling books. “When you do that, it doesn’t require the same infrastructure,” he said. “Each title, whether big or small, requires about the same level of effort.”

Yesterday, friend of this blog Stephen Parrish and I had a discussion in the comment thread about Nelson’s decision to cut their number of titles from 700 to 350. Stephen made the comment, “That only works if you know which new titles to cut, i.e., the losers. And if you know they're going to be losers, why have you been publishing them in the first place?”

I responded, “In bad times, companies become less likely to take chances. It is probable that Nelson will be inclined to publish the ‘known’ quantities--the best-selling writers rather than ‘unknowns’ like newbie authors who have not yet built an audience.”

The most current Tennessean reports:

Publishers of Christian and general interest books are reducing their number of titles as sales are being more concentrated in fewer, best-selling books, industry observers said . . . “If you trim your output, you don’t need as many editors and sales reps and production people,” said Al Greco, a marketing professor with Fordham University in New York.

Mike's blog acknowledged the pain of overseeing a layoff. These experiences are painful for all concerned and never pleasant.

At the same time, my years in the corporate world taught me that it is far better to acknowledge reality and deal with it on your timetable than to take refuge in denial until reality knocks you upside the head.

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