Every so often, one of the Big Five publishers goes all in with the promotion of a new title, and the book industry’s 99 percent can do little more than step back and marvel. Such was the case with the Rupert Murdoch / News Corp.-owned HarperCollins release of Go Set a Watchman.
The initial salvo was fired when the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal played loose with the facts—according to the New York Times—in concocting a story about how the old Harper Lee manuscript was discovered. Next, various Murdoch-owned Fox News programs ran with the long-lost-manuscript angle, as well as general-interest Lee-Mockingbird teasers. Then came a first-chapter excerpt in the WSJ on the Friday before the release date. Mind you, HC publicity operatives were also working overtime with their string pulling and cajoling, just as they do with any big book.
To be honest, HC deserves credit for a successful Watchman launch and the seven-figure number of units sold. But the display of wealth and power is unseemly in the same fashion as campaign finance and Super Pacs because it so perfectly captures the weak hand held by small independent publishers and university presses—and no amount of bluffing will even the odds.
Rest assured, such a spectacle only serves to strengthen our indie-only resolve to help those publishers who don’t own international newspapers and television stations.
In the Fall Issue we’re reviewing 165 titles—another expanded issue which we can credit to fantastic ad support. We’re continuing to invest in editorial and design, as well as circulation initiatives and surveys to better understand what our readers want. Those of you who attend book events around the world may have also noticed that we’ve increased our presence in places like Frankfurt, Bologna, Beijing, Shanghai, BEA, and ALA. In other words, we’re having a ball.
Have a great autumn.