As first reported by Publishers Lunch, an industry newsletter, Hachette is giving bonuses equal to one week’s salary to every employee in the company, in addition to the regular bonuses for which staff members are eligible. Just last month Reagan Arthur, a star editor at Little, Brown, signed a deal for a reported $6 million with the actress and writer Tina Fey to write a book of humorous essays.
On the surface these twin pieces of news would seem to suggest that success in the book industry, as with other forms of entertainment, is increasingly dependent on the production of major hits, works that are so successful that they can support a family of less successful siblings. David Young, chairman and chief executive of Hachette Book Group, said that the company had racked up 104 New York Times best sellers this year.
Once upon a time, some publishers suggested, they could cultivate under-the-radar authors and slowly build an audience for them over several books. Now, with few exceptions, books tend to come out of the gate at the top of the best-seller list or be deemed failures.