He informed me that his group is in ‘super-duper danger’ (as opposed to the ‘super danger’ he told me about last year) with books and magazine sales way down year-over-year (a ‘reverse hockey stick’, I believe he said).
“If you aren’t on a plane, train or toilet, you aren’t reading a book, ” he said. “And it’s not just because of the recession – the full scale shift in how people consume media is nearly complete. And because of lower pricing and customer confusion, things really suck right now.”
Apparently, the increase in digital downloads and advertising from online publishing sites (including our own Mankazines and Manka Books websites) are not making up the difference. The only apparent bright spot was our MC Comics division which we continue to mine for feature film franchises (most of which fail at the box office… but I digress).
As we proceeded to eat our $200 steaks at Cut in Beverly Hills (which I certainly hope Cyrus will not attempt to put through on his fucking expense report!), I asked him what he thought, if anything, could turn things around.
He told me one word… “niche.”
He has developed a ‘long tail’ niche publishing strategy that will focus completely on his target audience – PEOPLE WHO BUY BOOKS (i.e., old people, gay people, lonely widows, etc.).
He punctuated his thought by telling me that Manka Iambic (our Poetry Publishing imprint – who knew?) had just signed gay Moroccan poet Ahmet Ghary Cool to a two book deal worth over $1 million dollars.
His first book for us will be called Awake In My Dreams and will come in a month or so.
“How many poetry books by this guy do you expect to sell?”, I asked.
As Cyrus drank from his glass of 1982 Mouton-Rothchild, he said… “Two to three thousand in the first year and then a few hundred every year after that – mostly to gay Moroccan college students. It’s not about sales. It’s about prestige.”
After a long pause and a couple of shots of Slivovitz, I asked him what else was on the drawing board.
“We have a terrific new cook book coming out called Great Recipes By Unknown Chefs and a user-generated travel book called Best Of The Internet Travel Blogs.”
For some reason, I thought I was on some sort of Gotcha/Punk’d television show where the host would come out and Cyrus would say it was all a joke.
But it wasn’t a joke.
This is the future of our Publishing Group and it seriously scares the shit out of me.
Cyrus Weinstein has been a trailblazing executive in the publishing world for over 40 years but I think his dinosaur bones are starting to show and it may be time to bury him so that future generations can dig him up and say “Oh, so this is what a publishing executive looked like.”
But… he has earned my respect over the years and he deserves the shot to make his new strategy work.
God help us all.