For most of the summer, the conventional wisdom on Bloomsbury USA was, “Well, at least they still have Colin Dickerman there.”
No longer. Starting September 2nd, Mr. Dickerman—who had been serving as publisher of the house since spring—will join health/wellness publisher Rodale Books as publishing director for narrative nonfiction. He will report to his old boss Karen Rinaldi, who helped launch Bloomsbury USA in 1998 and abruptly decamped for Rodale in March.
The fact of Mr. Dickerman’s hiring at Rodale—an unlikely turn of events, considering his tastes run closer to literary fiction and high-quality nonfiction than to health and fitness—suggests that the house is looking to expand its nonfiction publishing program, something its CEO, Steve Murphy, has been talking about doing for at least eight years.
But as Bloomsbury president Richard Charkin said in today’s announcement, Rodale’s gain is Bloomsbury’s loss. Indeed, Mr. Dickerman’s departure is only the latest blow dealt to the severely troubled company, which has struggled to make ends meet since an ill-advised growth plan conceived by executives at its U.K. parent company was initiated in 2005.
Bloomsbury’s U.S. operation (very different and quite separate from its much more mature U.K. counterpart) started expanding rapidly at that time, its staff growing to about 60 people and the number of books published every year substantially increased.
But by the spring of 2007, it was clear that the strategy was not working, and in January of this year, publishing director Annik LaFarge was laid off along with six other people. Others have left since then, including executive editor Gillian Blake. At this point there are, by our count, only a handful of full-time editors working there, including one who was just hired in March and another who until recently was just an assistant.
Taking over for Mr. Dickerman is George Gibson who until now has been the publisher of Walker & Company and is one of the only people within the company with any significant experience as an executive.