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'Too big, too costly'

1 December 2008

'The very cost of some of the superstructures necessary for global giants may be one of the causes of increasingly homogenous publishing. If publishers have to deliver a profit margin sufficient to pay for it all, they may be driven to produce certain types of books that seem to promise large rewards when they succeed, but which also involve huge advances and, usually, huge risk of failure too - for evidence see the current outpouring of celebrity books for Christmas.

When these big international groups were formed, there were obvious synergies to be found. But once you have centralised the accounting function, closed a few warehouses and built a newer, bigger and more modern one and amalgamated sales forces, is there much more cost cutting that can be done?

The mood of the times is changing. There is a return to be made from publishing good books but perhaps not sufficient to pay for atriums and limousines. Could it be that some conglomerates are just too big, too costly and no longer offer value for money?'

Clare Alexander, agent at Aitken Alexander AssociatesAccepts fiction and non-fiction. No plays or scripts., in the Bookseller