This week we learned that Penguin Random House, the world’s largest traditional publisher, has officially withdrawn from the self-publishing business by selling off its self-publishing arm, Author Solutions. Some might say, and the Financial Times is one of them, that this move has effectively admitted defeat in the race to compete with Amazon’s self-publishing platform, especially while self-publishing is still in a great period of growth.
Financial analysts estimated that the sale price of Author Solutions, for which Penguin paid $116 million in 2012, is likely to be a fraction of that original sale price. So does this mean that Amazon has won? Or is the game simply shifting focus?
Well, one might wonder if it really is a game, or if there are any real players. Some might say that it’s simply business, and deals come and go, fail and succeed, whereas others might argue that there is no point in taking on Amazon, the giant company which is now one of the biggest in the world and has been helping authors, traditionally published and self-published alike, to get their books out into the public for decades.
However, the purchaser of Author Solutions doesn’t seem to think that this is the last we’ll hear from the indie publishing company which helped more than 200,000 authors to self-published more than 250,000 works up until now. A US private equity firm, Najafi Companies, which is based in Phoenix, is headed by Jahm Najafi who told the Wall Street Journal that he sees space for growth both domestically and internationally with the company.
“It’s consistent with our philosophy of trying to connect content owners with consumers,” said the head of the company which also tried to acquire the bookstore chain Borders when it went bankrupt in 2011. The chief executive of Author Solutions, Andrew Phillips, will stay in place and will remain in charge of other imprints including AuthorHouse, iUniverse and Trafford Publishing.
Meanwhile, the CEO of Penguin Random House told employees that the sale of the company “reaffirms our focus on consumer book publishing through our 250 imprints worldwide.”
So Penguin Random House, the group of two former traditional publishing houses which merged in 2013, is focussing on the traditional method of getting books onto the shelves and trying to reaffirm themselves as the publisher that you want to get their hands on your manuscript. Is it all a game? Have they simply given up?
Well, one might say that there are publishers, and there are self-publishers, and one business cannot be both. So perhaps this is for the best. Let us know what you think!