Little, Brown, a Hachette Imprint, Lays Off Seven People

Little, Brown, a Hachette Imprint, Lays Off Seven People

Hachette Book Group laid off seven employees at its Little, Brown imprint on Wednesday, according to the company, in a shake-up that was the latest example of turmoil in the publishing industry.

The layoffs, which the company described as part of a corporate restructuring, come as major publishing companies have been buffeted by sluggish print sales and rising supply chain costs, and have struggled to find new ways to get books in front of customers who have migrated online.

The seven people being laid off include the editors Tracy Sherrod, Pronoy Sarkar, Jean Garnett and Ben George, according to a person with knowledge of the situation who wasn’t authorized to discuss personnel matters.

To many industry observers, the departure of Sherrod, a high-ranking Black editor, is a troubling sign that publishers are faltering in their promise to diversify their companies, particularly within their executive ranks.

A Hachette spokeswoman said the restructuring was part of an effort to better serve readers and was not a cost-cutting measure. As part of the restructuring, the company said, it will hire in new roles. The news was reported earlier by Publishers Weekly.

Last month, Penguin Random House let go of two publishers of its most prestigious literary imprints, casting off Reagan Arthur, the publisher of Alfred A. Knopf, and Lisa Lucas, who was the publisher of Pantheon and Schocken and had been the first Black publisher at Pantheon in its 80-year history. Their departures were part of a cost-saving restructuring, according to a person in publishing familiar with the decision.

Penguin Random House is the biggest publishing house in the United States, and the layoffs that have hit high-level editorial staff suggest that executives are feeling pressure to squeeze out more profits wherever they can.

At Hachette, the layoffs have followed a series of changes at the company after the arrival of a new chief executive, David Shelley, who was the chief executive of Hachette UK. He now oversees the Hachette publishing operations in both the United States and Britain, with the goal of aligning the two companies.

The subsequent reshuffling resembled a game of musical chairs. Little, Brown’s former editor in chief, Judy Clain, left to run an imprint at Simon & Schuster, and Sally Kim, who previously worked as the publisher of Putnam, joined Hachette as the new president and publisher of Little, Brown.

When Sherrod came on as a vice president and executive editor at Little, Brown in 2022, her mandate was to publish fiction and nonfiction by Black authors, and many saw her hiring as an encouraging sign of Hachette’s commitment to diversity. Sherrod went on to acquire notable books, including “skin & bones,” the adult debut novel from Renée Watson, a best-selling children’s author, and “Renaissance Men,” Harriet Washington’s narrative biography of three African American physicians.

On social media, some reacted to news of Sherrod’s departure as more evidence that the push to diversify publishing had stalled.

“So much for diversifying leadership in publishing. #byebye2020,” Leslie Harris, a professor of African American History at Northwestern University, wrote on X.

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