Our Sterling Cooper Draper Price

madmenThis post is for the Mad Men fans. For the rest of you, it won’t make much sense.

Sunday’s episode has received universal acclaim, and rightly so. The thrilling season finale concluded perfectly, with the newly minted Sterling Cooper Draper Price setting up shop in a hotel suite. I actually cheered when Don said, “Who the hell is in charge, a bunch of accountants trying to turn a dollar into a dollar ten? I want to work. I want to build something of my own.”

Since advertising in the 1960s is a fitting parallel with publishing in the aught-years, I thought I’d bring up the question: who’s the SCDP of the book world? The new outfit with an intriguing mix of old and new talent?

Is it Jane Friedman’s Open Road Media? Bob Stein’s Institute for the Future of the Book? Bob Miller’s HarperStudio? Quirk Books? Or one of the traditional publishers making a deft transition into the new age?

I don’t have a firm opinion, surprisingly enough. Some of the majors will prevail, some will fall, and one or two new shops will chart some serious growth.

What do you think?

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Filed under industry

6 responses to “Our Sterling Cooper Draper Price

  1. There are a few taking important steps to be the SCDP of publishing, but I fear something shitty is going to happen before someone truly kicks their ass into gear.

    Right now people/publishers are whining, taking little (but safe) steps and whining some more. Everyone is holding their breath, but not until some major publisher folds or another round of massive layoffs happens, will one group stand out – whether it be HarperStudio, Open Road or Quirk. Regardless, it’s a little like the Titanic at the moment. Corny metaphor, maybe, but only after some economic publishing disaster sinks one of us will the rest of publishing become more stable.

  2. Pingback: It’s Hard Out Here for a Pragmatic Optimist | Guy LeCharles Gonzalez

  3. I’ve never seen Mad Men — it will be added to the Netflix queue very soon, though — but I can appreciate your underlying point. The conglomerates are run by accountants and investors, not creatives; there are small presses that fit the SCDP model — I agree with McSweeney’s — but none big enough to have a major impact beyond their niche.

    I’ve been very impressed by Sourcebooks’ Dominique Raccah, though, and think they’re definitely one to watch as they transform themselves; PoetrySpeaks.com is a nice blend of creative and business.

  4. The fact that the creative guy is the hero signals that Mad Men is truly a work of fiction. The only publisher I can think of where the creative guy is at the top is McSweeneys.

    • Pablo Defendini

      Not the case in advertising, mattbucher. Plenty of creatives run their own shops, and are founding partners at large firms. Being creative and having a sense for business is hardly a binary, either/or proposition, regardless of what the stereotype of the scatterbrained artist says.

      I also perked up during that little monologue, Ryan. The money men do run things in publishing these days, to the detriment of readers, the quality of books (both form and content), and the industry’s future, I think. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with making a buck, the pursuit of the almighty dollar should never trump all.

      Business people are important: they bring tactical vision, a knowledge of business methodology, and a wealth of other talents (no pun intended), but you can’t really expect someone who would sell you a screw as soon as sell you a fridge, or a car, or a [insert widget here]—someone who, when you get down to it, is only passionate about selling—to also be passionate about books. I’m not saying that that animal doesn’t exist, but I’m pretty damn sure it’s a rare breed.

      • Pablo Defendini

        Oh, and to answer your question, Ryan: none of the above. I don’t think we’ve really seen a SCDP in the industry. Yet. Some are getting close, though.

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