The View From the Top
When Friedman joined HarperCollins in 1997, profits were at $12 million, but jumped to $167 million by 2006.
“The jumping of the 1,000 percent is true, but there was an acquisition in there so it’s a little misleading … But we certainly have a fantastic financial picture,” she says. “And it’s not easy, I have to tell you. … Not easy at all, but certainly doable.”
Turning the company around
However, the financial picture was not always so bright for HarperCollins. Right before News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch hired Friedman, HarperCollins went through large layoffs and cancellations of book contracts.
So what contributed to this major turnaround?
“Everything,” says Friedman. “I mean the major contributors to the growth [were] every single imprint within the company and around the world. We had to look at every part of the company and … say, ‘This is what you are doing now, and this is what you can do,’” she says. “When I came here, it was clear to me that HarperCollins had a tremendous backlist that had not been explored. The people here were paralyzed, they didn’t know if they would be fired or if they could buy books or what.”
Friedman says she realized that HarperCollins had changed from what was once a strong, full-list company to a company that chased best sellers.
Today, she says, “We are back where we belong. Publishing is not only best sellers—in fact, best sellers may be the least fiscally responsible way to go. So we … [spend] a great deal of our time on the backlist. Obviously we have lots of best sellers … but the mix is what is very important, and the backlist is a significant part of it.”
Marketing the mix
Once a mix has been created, the right tools are needed to market that mix.