The atmosphere in some large publishing houses is "toxic" as imprints are forced to compete against each other for big titles, Profile Books' owner Andrew Franklin has said.
Speaking yesterday (15th October) about the merits of being an independent publisher in the "CEO Talk" at Frankfurt Book Fair, along with Marcos Pereira, founder and c.e.o of Editora Sextante, Franklin said camaraderie in smaller houses could be better than larger ones.
"If you don't work at a big group like Penguin Random House, you are spared from competing against other publishers and imprints in your own house," he said. "There can be horrible and toxic competition between editors and publishers within the same company for the same book and they do not have the sense of working for one company."
Large publishers also "miss" good books because they are "impatient" to hit sales targets, Franklin added, giving the example of Karen Joy Fowler's Man Booker Prize shortlisted We Are All Completely Besides Ourselves (Serpent's Tail), which sold 750,000 copies.
"Both her previous books were published by Penguin in the UK but they turned her third book down," Franklin said. "They gave up on this author. The big groups are quite impatient because they have these big targets to hit."
Franklin also criticised high-earning publishing chief executives who did not pay their staff the Living Wage, which is £9.15 an hour inside London to £7.85 an hour outside London.
"We are the only publisher which has signed the Living Wage in the UK," Franklin said. "It is easier to pay the Living Wage if you are profitable. I think it is disgusting that c.e.o.s are paying themselves £1m or more a year and say they are not happy to pay their own members of staff £9 an hour. I think it is immoral and they should be ashamed."
Franklin also added that in the future, independent publishers faced the same challenges as larger ones. "I think the long term challenge for us all is how we engage with other younger readers. There is a long term question about the future of reading, if young people will want to read and have the attention span and aren't distracted by other things. I think ultimately that comes down to publishing the best books we can."