Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Selling of Soft Skull

Richard Nash, publisher of Soft Skull, transmitted an email today indicating that Soft Skull has been been acquired by Winton, Shoemaker LLC.

This is certainly a paragraph in a key chapter in the history of American publishing, a chapter prefigured by the sale of PGW to AMS in 2003, and one that begins with the sale of Consortium to Perseus in the summer of 2006. I do not believe this chapter is over--for reasons which have to do with a difference between how PGW and Perseus account for returns, the full cash flow impact of the AMS/PGW bankruptcy will not be felt until July.

There are any number of regrets--that I was not able to keep the staff is a big one, and there are others that shall remain private--but I beg the subscribers to this list not indulge in apocalyptic thinking about independent publishing. The process of consolidation is, yes, relentless, but it is not eternal.

True, it is hard, in some respect, not to feel elegiac. As I've been preparing materials for a process known to those who buy and sell companies as "due diligence," it became clear how many people have contributed to allowing Soft Skull to publish the truly important books it has published over the years--my thanks to you now, my thanks to you eternally.

Yet Soft Skull is not over. As our wonderful author Sparrow said when he heard the news: "Soft Skull is dead. Long live Soft Skull." Soft Skull continues as an imprint. Soft Skull is *not* no longer independent. Had I won the lottery and bought Counterpoint from Perseus, instead of Charlie Winton buying Counterpoint and then Soft Skull, we would not have ceased to be independent.

Especially given the recent announcement by Perseus that it was closing Carroll & Graf and Thunders Mouth, it seems to me quite culturally valuable for Shoemaker/Counterpoint/Soft Skull--a group clearly embracing the imprint idea, clearly also eclectic and idiosyncratic--to be operating from a more solid financial foundation that hitherto. Allowing Soft Skull at least, to be more reliable and consistent for our authors and for our readers, which are the two communities we serve.

One little bit of hell right now is that we are seriously b-r-o-k-e for the next 6 weeks because this deal is not scheduled to close until June 30th. So, as a result, 40% off virtually everything on the Soft Skull website www.softskull.com! Buy early, buy often! (Believe it or not, we need the ducats now far more than we did during the days of the PGW bankruptcy, this is one crazy-assed business...)

Personally, I think this might bode well for the imprint. It's going to be in good company, and if the new group operates in the spirit of its imprints, it could still be fiercely independent. Raise a toast to the old Soft Skull, and ring in the new Soft Skull. (Cheers, Richard.) If you want to take advantage of the discount, get thee to the Web site.

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