South-Western - Management  
Michael Crichton? He's Just the Author
Topic Strategy, Leadership
Key Words Brand, leadership, innovation
News Story

Jane Friedman, President and CEO of HarperCollins Publishers has had an ambitious career in publishing. She is credited with inventing the author tour, of coming up with the idea for audio books, and for working her way up from a Dictaphone typist to the successful leader of Harper Collins, the third largest publisher in the country. Her latest passion is to make HarperCollins a tangibly identifiable brand, one that consumers automatically associate with quality and will loyally buy, even if they are not familiar with the author or the title.

The publishing business is slow-growing and is challenged with sustaining profits. The Purpose Driven Life, a religious best seller by Rick Warren sold 22 million copies in the last two years, a success that will be hard for the company to sustain. Most consumers go into a bookstore in search of a specific author, not publisher. Some imprints have had success with the branding concept like the "Dummies" books, which have easily recognizable covers and present content in a way that is similar from book to book. Another imprint that has had some success with branding is ReganBooks, a division of HarperCollins run by Judith Regan. Regan has published books like American Soldier by General Tommy Franks and books by Wally Lamb as well as a line of sexually graphic titles including How to Make Love Like A Porn Star by Jenna Jameson. Regan has tied film, TV, and other projects to the promotion of her books. She produced a Jenna Jameson special for VH1 and is working on a satellite radio show that will feature her books.

HarperCollins is beginning its branding efforts with the start up of Collins, a British imprint that will focus on lifestyle, reference, and business books, and will debut in the U.S. this year. Other lines are going to be redesigned to give a more uniform look and feel to the titles. The redesign will also include special material in the back of the books like author interviews and discussion guides.

Many publishers are adding value to their brand by reaching out to readers over the Internet, offering discussion guides for reading groups, and chances to have conversations with authors. HarperCollins hopes that elevating their brand profile will help to raise the value of its backlist (previously published books to which it owns the publishing rights). The company hopes that consumers will recognize and choose their brand over other published titles.

Some editors privately express dismay about a strategy they say chooses the consumer over the author. Friedman is quick to point out that she does not want the branding strategy to happen at the expense of the author. She hopes better branding will make good authors easier to find.

Those who know Ms. Friedman say that she is known for her ability to set goals and achieve them. They predict she will be successful.


The article profiles Jane Friedman, CEO of HarperCollins Publishers. What leadership qualities does she exhibit?


Do some research on branding in your textbook or on the Internet. Describe the concept of "branding" and how it relates to the publishing industry.


Define "organizational decline" and give at least two reasons why organizational decline may be a threat to the book publishing industry. Be prepared to discuss your answers in class.

Source "Michael Crichton? He's Just the Author,", Feb.6, 2005, pp.NA.
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