The Friday Project

The saga of this start-up, which was tipped as a company to watch way back in 2006By The Bookseller., has ended with its key assets being purchased by HarperCollins. One might argue that the matter is closed. However, the Bookseller ran an in-depth piece on the débâcleI’m really not sure if it is a débâcle, but I do love these French words. last Thursday. It’s worth reading as a closely-described account of the business from start to finish.

What was The Friday Project?

Taking content from such sites as “London by London” and Tom Reynolds’ blog about life in an ambulance, TFP intended to “truly put the internet at the heart of our publishing strategy”, as publishing director Clare Christian said at the time. Editor-in-chief Paul Carr was more bolshy. “We may crash and burn, but it will be because we screwed up,” he declared. “And if we make millions, then it’s our success.”

It did crash; there is evidence of singeing. So what went wrong?

“Mismanagement in a lot of ways, bad luck I’m sure, and books not doing as well as we’d thought,” says a decidedly shaken-looking Christian. “We spent too much money on promoting ourselves.”

The evidence, as I judge it from this article (and other sources), is that The Friday Project experienced early growth and made a prediction of continued growth that did not come to pass. Christian took a gamble in the closing stages – one that appears reasonably sensible, a classic ‘tough call’ – but it didn’t pay off.

There are one or two observations to make about the whole thing. First, I’m genuinely puzzled by the extent to which onlookers have celebrated the demise of the company and used the opportunity to present their superior business ideas: publish better books; spend less money on marketing. Yes, there will be many creditors out of pocket; but there are too few to account for the vitriol that one finds in the comments section of any article that mentions The Friday Project.

Second, from the writer’s perspective, it’s always useful to be reminded of the financial disaster that awaits publishers who put out books that do not sell. I’ve often bemoaned the celebrity memoir culture of modern book selling, but publishers do have a bottom line. (No doubt I’ll have forgotten this insight by next week.)

Anyway, the singed remnants of The Friday Project will soon re-emerge phoenix-like. I hope it doesn’t stall in the rather negative draughts of opinion.

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

7 thoughts on “The Friday Project”

  1. “it had 70-odd titles on its backlist, with 60 more in the pipeline.”

    Ouch, sounds like they went for the shotgun method and simply weren’t able to move enough units to average out a success. The Christmas thing sounds a little strange. Reading the article it’s almost like they expected to sell more just because they produced more. They may have been opening up new sales channels but the article doesn’t make that clear.

  2. I agree. Nice to see a well thought out and reasoned response to the Friday Project ‘debacle’. I, for one, hope Clare and Scott make a real go of the newly founded Friday Project, rather like the success story that is kudocities.com, which rose from the ashes of Fridaycities. The connection, here, of course, is they both had the same business disaster monger, Paul Carr, involved.

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