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Critics Oppose Penguin Random House Acquiring Simon & Schuster


It is the blockbuster that has the literary world talking - the potential merger of the huge Simon & Schuster with Penguin Random House, the largest publishing company in the country. But the Authors Guild, the world's largest organization for writers, have released a statement opposing the deal. Laura Zats is a literary agent and the host of the podcast "Print Run," and she joins us now to explain why the joining of these two companies might be a cause for concern. Hi there.

LAURA ZATS: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is a pleasure to have you. By some accounts, this resulting superpublisher - I think we could use that - could publish a third of all books in this country. Why do you feel that might be a problem?

ZATS: Well, I think the big thing to understand is that it's not just that they're going to have so much of a market share. But what happens when a single company has a market share is that there's less competition for who can publish the books, which is really bad for agents - which is what I am - and really bad for writers.


ZATS: There are a - as an agent, I submit to a lot of different imprints, a lot of different editors. And, currently, for example, when Penguin and Random House merged in 2013, you could go to auction with those. You could submit, and you could drive up advances, and you could get better terms and - for your writers.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So just so people understand this...

ZATS: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Basically, you take a manuscript, and you shop it around.

ZATS: Yeah.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And then if people want it and a lot of people want it, then that drives up the price, and that means more money for you and more money for your writers.

ZATS: Exactly. Exactly. And nobody gets into writing for the money, and this is the - kind of the only way that you can make it livable. And, currently, what I'm really worried about is that now with Penguin Random House, if it's merging with Simon & Schuster, that brings the number of large publishers down to four. And it means that there's just going to be less competition, and there's going to be fewer opportunities for writers, and those opportunities will have less favorable terms.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So as a reader, why should we care about this deal?

ZATS: (Laughter) Well, I think, you know, the big thing is that if you're a reader who really only reads 10 bucks a year, the really big...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Splashy stuff, the bestsellers.

ZATS: The really big splashy stuff - I think you're not really going to notice a huge difference. But if you are - like, if reading is your main hobby, if you read across genre, if you read really deep into particular genres, what you're going to see is you're going to see imprints that are closing because with a monopoly, there is consolidation. With a merger, there's consolidation. You're going to have maybe a slight decrease in the discoverable writers that you're hoping to find on a bookshelf just because there's going to be fewer imprints, fewer editors. And then midlist, which I love the most as a reader, is going to be shrinking.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lauren Zats is a literary agent. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF COOK AND STANS' "FINDING ATLANTIS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.