Putting Off the Ritz

For decades the New York publishing world promised a romantic life of fancy lunches, sparkling parties, sophisticated banter and trips to spots like the Caribbean to pitch books to sales representatives. If the salaries were not exactly Wall Street caliber, well, they came with a milieu that mixed cultural swagger with pure Manhattan high life.

But that cushy schmooze fest seems to be winding down.

Just two weeks before announcing staff cuts and a substantial corporate restructuring in December, the publishing giant Macmillan gathered its sales and marketing staff at the historic Hotel del Coronado in San Diego — where Billy Wilder filmed Tony Curtis wooing Marilyn Monroe in “Some Like It Hot” — to talk about titles on the spring lists.

Amid a relentless string of layoffs and pay-freeze announcements, book publishers are clamping down on some of the business’s most glittery and cozy traditions. Austerity measures are rippling throughout the industry as it confronts the worst retailing landscape in memory.

“This business was never meant to sustain limousines,” said Amanda Urban, a literary agent who represents Cormac McCarthy and Toni Morrison, among other authors. Ms. Urban said she believed Bennett Cerf, a founder of Random House, once said something to that very effect. “At best, you can get a Town Car now and then,” she said. “It’s gotten out of scale, like a lot of businesses in this country.”

NY Times



~ by eaesthete on 01/06/09.

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