There’s been a bunch of comments on yesterday’s Marias thread, so just to clear things up—
This is going to be news to some people, but the only way a press like New Directions can survive to publish books that they lose money on every year is by having one the the most enviable backlists in all of publishing that (thank God) for the most part can’t be stolen out from under them.
To be sure, a writer has every right to maximize his/her earnings as he/she sees fit—and no, I’m not calling Penguin evil, or even wrong for pursuing their business interests. But there’s something seriously wrong when a press with a bank account so large that New Directions has no hope of ever outbidding can just come in and grab a property that they took a real risk on and spent over a decade building up. In what other industry is it acceptable to steal a property that another company made popular? From a strictly economic perspective this is screwy . . . where’s the monetary incentive for presses like ND to find authors like Marias if this is the inevitable result of their hard work?
More importantly, how are presses like ND to survive if they can’t hold on to a backlist that they spent all their resources building up? Not to mention, Marias’ earning potential is in direct proportion of how big a name he has in English. He’s currently in some 50 languages worldwide, and you can bet that the lion’s share of those came on after he got noticed in English (and many are translations from the English versions of his books).
And yes, this is standard industry practice. This is one of the reasons that mid-level presses have such a hard time surviving.
And again, ND is losing Marias. The deal wasn’t just UK.