In a letter sent to agents and authors, Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch touched on a number of ongoing industry issues. Pietsch noted that, while sales in 2022 were down from 2021, they are still above where they were before the pandemic, and he expressed the hope that “the habit of reading and listening to books that many people developed during the pandemic will buoy us all in the years ahead.” And in a good news/bad news observation, Pietsch wrote that while printing schedules have returned to a more normal schedule, “the increased costs of printing and shipping books stay with us.”
On the copyright front, Pietsch pointed out that HBG is a named plaintiff in the lawsuit, filed in 2020, charging the Internet Archive with copyright infringement. The suit charges that the Internet Archive is using what Pietsch described as the “made-up framework” of controlled digital lending to engage in “wholesale piracy” of authors’ book. The case is still working its way through the courts, and a judge is expected to make a ruling on summary judgment motions later this year.
HBG has also been active in joining the fight against banned books, Pietsch said, citing the publisher’s support of efforts to fight for free expression conducted by such organizations as the Authors Guild’s Banned Books Club, the National Council Against Censorship’s Kids Right to Read program, the New York Public Library’s Books for All campaign, the American Library Association’s Unite Against Book Bans initiative, and PEN’s Countering Book Bans project.
HBG’s sales and marketing campaigns continue to evolve, and Pietsch pointed to several new initiatives in these areas, including a greater use of personal author videos to promote titles; a significant expansion of its email lists and consumer sites to, among other things, expand direct-to-consumer sales of print books from HBG’s website; and the growth of its speaker’s bureau. With the easing of the pandemic, HBG has resumed more in-person marketing events, Pietsch wrote.
HBG’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts included partnering with We Need Diverse Books, the Hurston/Wright Foundation, Lambda Literary, and City College of New York, sponsoring and co-hosting a Hurston/Wright Writers Week Workshop. And Pietsch correctly pointed out that HBG “is one of few publishers to publicly report our annual progress in these areas."
Finally, Pietsch noted that in the fall, HBG resumed in-person work, with teams together in the office two days a week. “I feel strongly that this hybrid approach enhances the collaboration that we’ve missed during nearly three years of remote work, while retaining the flexibility and focus that we learned is possible working from home,” he wrote. “Our goal, as always, is to provide the best possible partnership to all our authors and agents, and to publish your books with the passion, expertise, and creativity they deserve.”