Friday, October 04, 2002

Bad news for Boston-based publisher Beacon Press. According to Steve Zeitchik at Publisher's Weekly, Vivendi's woes have put the little publisher in limbo:

All the press about the Vivendi divestiture has focused on various European divisions and, to some extent, on Houghton. But one of the American companies put in the oddest positions by the impending sale is the Cambridge, Mass., indie publisher Beacon Press.

The house, along with the Old Farmer's Almanac, is among the two distributed by Houghton. Beacon associate publisher Tom Hallock says that he'd love for that to continue. But a sale could lead to the breaking up of the Houghton sales force, which means Beacon has to
start thinking about its future. "We read the papers like everyone else and we know what could happen, so we're having a number of conversations."

Among the options being explored are joining up with a large New York house or signing with a distributor of niche houses like PGW or Consortium. But Hallock said the house is also seriously considering joining a UP alliance, a la the one run by Harvard and Yale. "Because of our size and sensibility we need to think about the best way to
reach our market," he says.

That's not an easy as it sounds. As a kind of distribution tweener - Beacon publishes serious fiction and non-fiction that sell in trade as well as college stores—Hallock worries a new agreement will force a tradeoff. "As with a trade publisher, the fear with [a UP outfit] is
that they'll miss part of the market."

The fanfare around the Vivendi sale has put Beacon in a kind of limbo. Given how little has happened, it's not in a position to switch—and given how much it likes Houghton it doesn't necessarily want to—and yet it knows it can't sit still. Says Hallock: "A distribution client can be a very small cork bobbing on the sea of all these changes, and we can't afford to have a bad nine months."

No comments: