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Thursday, July 13, 2006


The Unresolved Rumor & Why

The rumor and buzz was rampant on the floor of the Christian Booksellers trade show—now called International Christian Retail Show.  If you read any of the trade email publications you’ve already seen this news. Multnomah Books has been sold. They produce about 100 titles a year and have over 600 books on their backlist. Ironically on the front of their website the book they are promoting is Communicating for a Change, Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones.  No one seemed to know the answer who purchased Multnomah. I’m sure someone knows the answer but most of those people are legally bound not to release the buyer’s name.

How in the world do these things get leaked out into the publishing community without specifics? While at the show, I heard from a literary agent that some journalist in Sisters, Oregon (where Multnomah is located) got wind of the sale and began asking questions.  Prior to the show, several agents were called and told about the pending sale (but not the buyer) because of this leak. It only fueled the speculation and talk. Authors and agents are rightfully concerned when such a sale transpires.  Several years ago I was a part of a company that purchased over 300 titles from another publishing house.  As the de-facto leader of the editorial area at the time, I fielded numerous questions from concerned authors and agents. There were many changes resulting from such an acquisition and I expect many changes and unplanned things to happen with this change as well.

Why don’t we have an answer about the buyer? These types of major publishing transactions happen with a limited number of top executives involved in the negotiations.  Someone did get the nod to become the buyer but the agreement isn’t totally secured.  I’d compare it to a real estate transaction. You’ve made an offer on a house and your offer has been accepted. Yeah! Yet in the real estate agreement, nothing is finalized. There are still various junctures where the transaction can completely fall apart.  In the house example, if I’m the buyer, I get to inspect the house. Maybe it’s got a cracked foundation and the current owner refuses to fix it. Then as the buyer, I’m able to walk away from it and the house returns to the market.  At a variety of points in a real estate deal, the deal isn’t firmly a deal until you go to the closing and sign the final paperwork. It’s the same with a major publishing transaction.  Here’s just one thing that has to be investigated: all of the Multnomah publishing contracts. The new buyer wants to go through each of these contracts and see what is in that legal paperwork. Which books are forthcoming and when are they scheduled? What are the special terms that Multnomah agreed to fulfill and are they terms the new buyer can agree to fulfill? These questions are one of thousands that need to be answered—before the deal is firm and announced to the community. In the meantime, everyone wants to know—and a few people do know the answers—yet the deal needs to proceed with due diligence.

While we wait for the news about Multnomah, last week another publishing transaction happened in the Christian arena—and almost no one was talking about it. For many months, Standard Publishing has been up for sale from their parent company, Standex.   Standard Publishing was sold to The Wick Group. You can follow this link to learn more but it’s not a rumor. It’s a fact.

7 Comment:

At 8:48 AM, Blogger Daniel Darling Left a note...

Terry,

What do you think the sale of Multnomah means for the Christian publishing industry? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Dan

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger Richard Mabry Left a note...

Terry,
This was also the source of some major buzz on the ACFW loop. It really is big, because it not only affects authors under contract to Multnomah, and those of us with manuscripts under consideration, but people with works in progress who fear that a potential door is shutting. The times indeed are a'changin'
It reminds me of Jim Bell's story of the matador who was asked why he chose that profession. He replied that he took it up because writing was so uncertain.
Thanks for your insight.

 
At 11:29 AM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...

Hello Daniel and Richard,

Welcome to our world because the publishing community is always changing. As to what it will mean and whether it is good or bad, I have no idea. I've seen these changes handled poorly and I've seen them handled well. It's possible, the new owner could keep Multnomah editorial team together and simply infuse them with new financial resources and keep everything the same. Or they could radically shift everything. At this point in time, it is impossible and unwise to predict.

 
At 1:55 PM, Blogger Ernie W. Left a note...

I'm new to the writing arena, yet I've been the business world for over twenty years. I only write to point out that Publishing is a buisness, and like any other business two things could happen with a sale. One, the new owners could keep the current management in place and continue to run business as usual. Second, the new company could make some major changes and go in a whole difference direction. But, none of this happens as Terry states until the dotted line is signed.

 
At 3:58 PM, Blogger Cindy Thomson Left a note...

We are certainly seeing a trend lately of smaller CBA publishers being bought by larger mainstream houses. We don't know in this case who the buyer is, but it seems to me that independent publishers and sometimes retailers as well are being snatched up in the CBA. What that will mean in the future, who knows?

Terry's right. Change is inevitable.

By the way, welcome back Terry.

 
At 7:38 PM, Blogger Trish Berg Left a note...

Terry,

Your explanation helps clear some of this rumor stuff up for me.

I am one the many Multnomah authors who has a book scheduled for a March 2007 release, and two more for the coming years.

Well, after the dust settles, maybe not.

But a writer friend told me that we have to keep in mind that this transaction did not surprise God, and as believers, we have to have faith in His plan here.

As crazy as the business side of writing is, God is still in control. And all we can do is take the next step He has lit for us.

Blessings,

Trish

 
At 6:45 PM, Blogger Anna Left a note...

Terry,

According to Christianity Today's blog, there's a rumor Random House is picking up Multnomah. Supposedly, there are plans to absorb it's backlist and close down operations.

Anna

 

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