Shakeup at Perseus

The Counterpoint news was just the tip of the iceberg. Publishers Weekly’s Jim Milliot reports: “As part of its integration of the Avalon Publishing Group, the Perseus Books Group has formed six publishing divisions, an action that will result in the elimination of at least 12 positions and the phasing out of the Carroll & Graf and Thunder’s Mouth imprints. As many as 33 other employees could lose their jobs if they are not willing to relocate or take on new roles. In addition, Perseus will sell its Counterpoint Press imprint to Charlie Winton (see related story). William Strachan, editor-in-chief of Thunder’s Mouth and Carroll & Graf, and C&G senior editor Don Weise are among the editors being let go.”

This is terrible news. I disagree with Perseus Books Group President David Steinberger’s pronouncement that these two imprints didn’t have interesting identities. Carroll & Graf published ambitious literary novels, such as Paul Anderson’s Hunger’s Brides. And Thunder’s Mouth was a dependable press for quirky collections of B-sides from the likes of Jonathan Ames and Rudy Rucker. The closing of these two imprints suggests that idiosyncratic distinctiveness along these lines isn’t part of the Perseus future. Sure, it’s possible that these sorts of titles might be part of other imprints. And okay, the books from these imprints may not have sold. Publishing is, after all, an industry.

But the question, and perhaps the dependable Milliott might investigate this for us, is whether Perseus gave Carroll & Graf and Thunder’s Mouth the kind of resources they devoted to their stronger-selling imprints.

[UPDATE: More from Jeremy Lassen, who calls this “sad, scary news for genre publishing,” including a link to this letter to Avalon employees. Sarah observes that this is bad news for mysteries too. More at Galleycat.]

[UPDATE 2: Levi Asher: “No distinct identity? Absolute bullshit. Thunder’s Mouth covered the counter-culture with both new publications and essential reprints, and in this capacity they represent no insignificant part of my book collection. It’s sad that the corporate parent is dissolving this great company, and it’s offensive that they’re pretending it’s no big deal. Apparently Thunder’s Mouth had no distinct profits, but that doesn’t mean they had no distinct identity. For readers like me, Thunder’s Mouth is — was — a trusted and beloved brand.”]

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5 Comments

  1. Melville House was distributed by Consortium, which Perseus bought, but that’s not part of this shake up. Melville House is still Melville House. Perseus just distributes their books.

  2. Neil Ortenberg is in the process of getting the Thunder’s Mouth name back. Mostly symbolically, I have no idea if he will return to publishing…he’s busy getting his doc film on Barney Rossett out there.

    Blue Moon, which has published 20 of my books, seems to be dead.

    Counterpoint just bought Soft Skull. I have one book with them. Last year Soft Skull tried to buy Blue Moon but that didn’t go down.

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