Trollope's vertical progression

<p><a href=" Trollope's move from her hardback publisher, Bloomsbury, to Transworld</a>, which already publishes her in paperback, ends one of the last non-vertical relationships among bestselling authors. In this league, only Margaret Atwood and John Irving have novels with different hardback and paperback houses (Virago and Transworld respectively). They are also with Bloomsbury in hardback.</p>
<p>The question is not why has Trollope done it, but why has she waited so long? (That is not a dig at Bloomsbury: what I mean is, why has Trollope waited so long to choose one publisher or the other?)</p>
<p>Before the 1980s, when Penguin bought the Thomson book companies&nbsp; (including Hamish Hamilton and Michael Joseph) and made everyone realise that&nbsp; big publishers needed to publish in hardback and paperback, most paperback deals were subsidiary. Ian Fleming, say, signed his contracts with the independent hardback house Jonathan Cape, which sold his paperback rights to Penguin; Cape retained some 40% of the paperback royalties, passing on the remainder to the author. (I do not know if that is&nbsp; exactly how Fleming's contracts worked; but such arrangements were typical.)</p>
<p>The disadvantages of&nbsp; this way of doing business are obvious. Cape gets only the lower-selling, hardback edition. Penguin publishes only under a limited licence of seven or eight years. The author gets only a cut from paperback sales.</p>
<p>But the old way took a long time to die. When publishers including Reed (then led by Bloomsbury's Richard Charkin) began to claw back paperback rights in authors previously paperbacked elsewhere, but in whose works they held volume rights, there were loud squeals from authors and agents. Now, every conglomerate has completed the process of reclaiming for its paperback imprints all the authors it wants. The standard publishing deal is vertical.</p>
<p>Why would an author operate differently? In the&nbsp; cases of Trollope and Atwood (whose publishers simply split the&nbsp; advances and royalties, rather than holding volume and&nbsp; subsidiary rights), it is a matter, as so often in publishing, of&nbsp; relationships. Both of them have strong ties with their paperback houses, but also with the charismatic Liz Calder, their editor at Bloomsbury. (Calder is stepping down from the Bloomsbury board, but continuing to work with her list of authors.) They have also enjoyed a further benefit: that their publishers, tacitly hoping that they will eventually choose them alone, are particularly solicitous. But the trend towards verticality is inexorable. Eventually, Trollope has chosen&nbsp; Transworld.</p>
<p>The worrying aspect of this news for Bloomsbury is the implication that, as a mass market house, the company cannot match the clout of Transworld. It will need to emphasise counter examples such as Khaled Hosseini as it seeks to grow in the post-Harry Potter era.</p>