Farrar, Straus Publisher Jonathan Galassi Carefully Assures Staff: ‘We Are Not Going to Change’

In the paper today, the first half of Pub Crawl focuses on the layoffs that shook up Farrar, Straus and

In the paper today, the first half of Pub Crawl focuses on the layoffs that shook up Farrar, Straus and Giroux on Monday as a result of the 64 job cuts ordered by the C.E.O. of the group’s parent company, Macmillan. As of press time, FSG publisher Jonathan Galassi had declined to issue any kind of statement about what had happened at the boutique literary imprint and what specifically would change in the way it functioned. At that point, the only semi-official word out of Ms. Galassi on the matter had come from remarks he made to his staff on Monday afternoon, when he assured them that the jobs eliminated that morning were not—as some might have feared—merely the first of many corporately-mandated budget cuts heading towards the imprint. Mr. Galassi followed up that meeting with a gracefully-worded, unsentimental memo sent to staff yesterday afternoon.

In that memo, Mr. Galassi writes that "the greatest single change" at FSG is that the children’s publishing program is being consolidated into a separate, centralized new children’s division led by Henry Holt publisher Dan Farley. Exactly what Mr. Galassi is driving at by designating the changes to FSG’s children’s division "the greatest" of all those the Macmillan cuts had required is unclear, especially as he goes on to list some other changes that seem like they might concern him a little more.

Those changes include the merging of FSG’s sub rights department with that of Henry Holt, the integration of the imprint’s production department into a newly created centralized one that serves all of Macmillan, and the takeover of FSG’s national retail accounts by the central Macmillan trade sales force. Mr. Galassi qualifies as much of this as possible with assurances to his staff that FSG’s heart and soul will remain intact in spite of the changes.

In reporting the change to the sales force, for instance, Mr. Galassi is careful to note that while FSG is technically losing its dedicated sales force, the guy who has been in charge of it, Spenser Lee, will still have the important responsibility of selling FSG’s books to Barnes & Noble. And in describing the change to sub rights, Mr. Galassi emphasizes that it is FSG taking over Holt’s rights department, not vice versa, and notes by way of evidence that the person who will direct the joint department, Denise Cronin, will be working from FSG’s office on 18th Street rather than Macmillan’s HQ in the Flatiron Building. What goes unsaid, of course, is that the merger has left FSG’s sub rights director Michael Hathaway out of a job, and, regardless of which office his replacement works works from, puts his staff under the command of someone from outside.

Interestingly, while he does assert that "the most important part" of the plan concerns all the things that are staying the same at FSG, Mr. Galassi missed the opportunity to mention that imprint’s business department—which is involved in the allocation of money for acquisitions—is being left alone and not being forced to integrate into the company-wide team that other Macmillan imprints have to deal with. In an interview yesterday morning, FSG spokesman Jeff Seroy said FSG’s business department was kept separate from the central one in order to "safeguard" FSG’s identity.

"We are a separate and distinct operating unit with a seperate and distinct identity, and it’s important to maintain that," Mr. Seroy said. "The business department is here, it’s part of FSG, so they’re part of our culture. They bring our cultural values to the table. They know what our publishing values and goals are, and they can represnet our interests, advocating for them and mediating between the larger company’s interests and FSG’s from our point of view."

The full text of Mr. Galassi’s memo, which was sent out at 2:23 yesterday with the subject line "TO EVERYONE AT FSG," is reproduced below.

By now you have received several memos from John Sargent in which he describes changes that are being made in the Macmillan trade group for 2009 and beyond. I want to spell out here what this means for FSG.

Andrew and I have been working on a plan that will reduce FSG’s cost structure and help us to be more efficient in what everyone recognizes is an extraordinarily difficult environment. In some areas, we will rely more on the existing Macmillan infrastructure than we have up to now, to achieve greater effectiveness in an increasingly challenging marketplace. We believe these adjustments will allow us to work our way through what promises to be a hard 2009 and help position us to prosper in the future.

The greatest single change involves our children’s publishing program. We have been working for well over a year with the other children’s publishers in the group on an overall strategy for juvenile publishing at Macmillan. Everyone agreed that we want to become a stronger and more significant presence in this market, though not all agreed on how to get there. Going forward, there will be a unified children’s group across Macmillan under the leadership of Dan Farley, which will afford us more a concentrated focus and provide real advantages to our authors and illustrators and their books. In the new structure, FSG Books for Young Readers will be reporting to Simon Boughton and Margaret Ferguson will be its associate publisher and editorial director. Simon will continue to have oversight of Roaring Book Press and First Second, which will become imprints under the FSG umbrella.

The other structural changes being instituted are these:

A group-wide production department is going to be created under the leadership of Karen Gillis, with Tom Nau overseeing children’s production.

FSG national accounts will be sold by the Macmillan trade sales force. Spenser Lee remains our director of sales and will continue to sell Barnes and Noble for our adult books and Ben White and Christina Stanley will be joining the Macmillan sales group.

The FSG subsidiary rights department will take on the selling of rights for Henry Holt under the directorship of Denise Cronin, who will be moving to our office here on 18th Street.

Unfortunately, we are also going to have to reduce staff in certain areas. It is extremely painful to lose our colleagues and friends, some of whom have been with us for a long time. We honor these individuals’ many contributions to the company over the years and shall
miss them greatly.

The most important part of our plan, however, concerns what stays the same at FSG. Stefan von Holtzbrinck, John, Andrew, and I remain committed to ensuring that FSG remains a vitally independent, editorially driven publishing house. Our approach to publishing and what we choose to publish are not going to change. We are convinced that the role FSG has to play in the universe of writers will continue to grow in significance in the years ahead. This new structure will make us more agile, more capable of being creative in doing what we do best in an environment that is constantly changing and ever more competitive.

For all its challenges–and, in truth, because of them–publishing remains an activity that is significant, stimulating, and enjoyable–a wonderful way of spending one’s professional life. We look forward to more exciting and rewarding work with you in the future.

Please call or come see me and/or Andrew if you have questions about any of this. And, as always, thank you for your extraordinary dedication and cooperation.

Farrar, Straus Publisher Jonathan Galassi Carefully Assures Staff: ‘We Are Not Going to Change’