The UK Bookseller has made great play of the launch of HarperCollins 360 in the UK, which, it declares, is a “new venture” that “aims to publish in the UK HC titles that were previously only available abroad.” And following the exact wording of The Bookseller article, you could be forgiven for thinking that HarperCollins 360 was seeing the light of day for the first time.
So I’m not wasting my digital breath by reminding everyone that HarperCollins 360 was first announced in the U.S. two years ago. And it’s taken this long for it to catch a flight at JFK and red-eye it across the Herring Pond, to the waiting arms of an (ostensibly) totally surprised Bookseller.
So, what exactly is HarperCollins 360 about? Well, dear reader (and equally dear Bookseller journalist), HarperCollins originally launched HarperCollins 360 in the U.S. in June 2012 as “a global publishing program for its authors. The goal of the initiative is to ensure that all books published by any division of HarperCollins around the world are available in print or digital format in all English-language markets … When the program is fully implemented, the HarperCollins global catalog – 50,000 print books and 40,000 e-books – will be available, limited only by the rights held, not by technology or geography.” It even has its own Twitter account, for the “Global publishing program of HarperCollins Publishers and its affiliates in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India.”
In fact, HarperCollins 360 has apparently taken all this time getting UK, Australian, Canadian, and other HarperCollins properties from non-American English-speaking markets out to U.S. audiences. And now it’s going to reverse the flow by launching American, Australian, and other HarperCollins local acquisitions in the UK, simultaneously – in principle – with their launch in their home markets.
Way back in June 2012, Publishing Perspectives writer Edward Nawotka kindly delineated, in great detail, “3 Reasons HarperCollins 360 Took So Long to Start.” He put it down to the three Ms: Money, Marketing, and Management. Money, because publishers had to work through the situations where their different local units had paid out multiple times for different local rights for the same property. Marketing, because publishers had to work past the intrinsic advantages of local marketing campaigns to a more global approach. And management, because big publishing conglomerates are often balkanized into warring constituencies who need to be brought together round wider initiatives like this. And that just about the U.S. version, never mind the other units outside the American home ground.
Customers kept waiting for months while the latest U.S. bestseller goes viral amid a storm of hype Stateside have obviously been awarding no brownie points to HarperCollins about this. But since when did the customer matter when there are corporate constituencies and internal interest groups to keep sweet?
Yes, in these digitally disrupted times, when it takes just seconds do access and download an ebook published anywhere on the planet, to anywhere on the planet, publishers still take this long, and move this ponderously, in linking up two of the most closely interconnected and interdependent book markets in the world. So remember, dear reader, if you’re also a dear writer moved to sign up with HarperCollins, their global sales and marketing operation is only just, reluctantly, getting its shit together to even this limited degree. Or, you can self-publish and potentially reach every audience on the planet, instantly. Now which looks like the better option to you?