A month into the naughts, let’s recap some recent moves: Greg Tobin leaves Ballantine after seven months as VP, Editor in Chief, to try his hand as a full time author. He has a two-book contract with St. Martin’s/Tor Books’ Tom Doherty. . . . Alun Davies, longtime head of BDD’s international division, moves to S&S in a consulting capacity as of February. He will report directly to Jack Romanos and, according to Romanos, will work “closely with the publishing, editorial, subsidiary rights and international sales staffs of all our units.”. . . . Two defections from Broadway: Tracy Behar to Pocket Books, where she is VP, Editorial Director of Adult Books. And Harriet Bell returns to HarperCollins (well, Morrow) as VP and Editorial Director of William Morrow cookbooks. (Susan Friedland continues to oversee the HC cookbook list.) Morrow cookbook editors Pam Honig and Justin Schwartz, meanwhile, have left the company. Lisa Rasmussen, VP Director of Sales for Avon, has resigned. Libby Jordan has been hired to do Morrow/Avon marketing. She was previously at Dell.
Joelle Delbourgo, who became an agent last summer after leaving HarperCollins, where she was SVP, Editor in Chief and Associate Publisher, and Wendy Sherman, also a recent addition to agenting (formerly VP, Executive Director and Associate Publisher of Henry Holt), have joined forces in a literary agency. Jessica Lichtenstein, formerly at HarperCollins and St. Martin’s, will join the group, working for the principals, and developing her own list. . . . Harriet Rubin has moved to iVillage, as VP of the Work Channel. She was formerly writing, including contributing a column for Fast Company, and before that, headed up Currency, the business imprint of Doubleday.
Bethany Harris has been named Director of Marketing for Penguin’s Consumer Products and Entertainment division, reporting to Lisa Marks. . . .
Time Life has let 50 people go in Alexandria, as the company moves toward a different business model of shorter continuity series. Among those terminated was Kate Hartzen, who had been at Random Value, among other publishers. Meanwhile, Edith Berelson, who was recently laid off from sister company BOMC, landed in Reader’s Digest’s New Business Development department, and another casualty, Cathy Lobel, has landed at Prentice Hall as Marketing Director.
Grace Freedson is leaving Barron’s after 16 years as Director of Acquisitions . . . . Harold Underdown has been named Editorial Director of Charlesbridge Publishing. . . . Jim King, formerly Director of Promotional Sales at Publications International, has been named VP of Sales and Service at BookScan, part of the Marketing Information group at VNU (see our related article on page 1). . . . Nick Webb, formerly MD of S&S UK, has been hired by Rightscenter.com to head up its UK operations. . . . Paul Gediman, most recently PW Forecasts’ Nonfiction Editor, has moved to Michigan and joined up with Borders.com as Senior Editor.
Doubleday/Broadway bought world rights to Until The Sea Shall Free Them by Robert Frump, about “Marine Electric,” a Merchant Marine coal carrier that went down in a storm in the 1980s. It’s being touted as “A Perfect Storm meets A Civil Action,” because the first mate, who survived the disaster, is taken to court and charged with responsibility for it. Word is Sterling Lord sold it to Shawn Coyne for $350K. . . . Nicole Aragi of the Watkins Loomis Agency just auctioned off a first novel by Indian author Manil Suril, who was born and raised in Bombay and has been living in the US for the past 20 years, where he is now a math teacher. Called The Death of Vishnu, the novel was sold to Norton for an estimated $350K+, with 10 publishers bidding . . . . And Random’s Scott Moyers bought an as yet untitled history of the NFL by Michael MacCambridge (ESPN Sports Century) for around $400,000 from ICM’s Sloan Harris.
Knopf’s Robin Desser and Sonny Mehta have bought Richard Price’s new novel “inspired by the murder of Jonathan Levin,” according to the Daily News. Lynn Nesbit sold the proposal for high six figs. . . . Howard Morhaim sold An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves and the Creation of America, by Henry Wiencek (author of the NBCC nominee The Hairstons), to FSG’s Elisabeth Sifton for $500,000 in a pre-empt.
“We love books,” announces Reader’s Digest Editor in Chief Chris Willcon in this month’s issue as he launches into a plug for its “new” BookPicks area on the readersdigest.com site. Unfortunately, only a handful of books are reviewed there, and while there are some messages in the accompanying chat rooms (most are empty), it’s been three months since anyone has thought to add to them. Still, we like the sentiment.
In its February 7 issue, Business Week announced “The Business Week Best-Sellers of 1999,” commenting that “best-selling business books of 1999 mark[s] the maturation of a relatively new book genre, annals of the Digital Age.” Having said that, only two of the top five hardcovers are about the Web, and a paltry six of the top ten hardcovers and two of the top ten paperbacks are focused on e-biz. Three of the top twenty hardcovers and paperbacks are Motley Fool titles, two are by Suze Orman, and two are Dummies’ books —Investing for Dummies and Home Buying for Dummies.
In association with The Little Bookroom, Pen American Center has asked its members to fill out a questionnaire about New York, which will lead to the publication of New York City Secrets. This emulates the methods used to create Rome City Secrets, which was based on the tips and insights offered by Fellows of The American Academy in Rome, and promises to be (when it’s published in March) a quirky guidebook of little known routes, restaurants, overlooked art, and favorite activities. In exchange, PEN will be mentioned in the book, and gets a portion of the royalties. The Little Bookroom plans a series of City Secrets books.
Meanwhile, Rome City Secrets may be ordered off the citysecrets.com web site, which has a link to “NY BOOKs Checkout,” a cleverly designed online retailer that is part of the New York Review of Books/Granta site. Although theirs is an unadorned page, the steps involved in purchasing are clearly laid out in advance, so that knowing, for instance, how much shipping and handling will cost, how much a UK-published title will cost in the US (or vice versa), what’s involved in gift giving, etc., is anticipated before the user begins worrying about them.
The media were out in full force on January 21, to celebrate the publication of a first novel by one of their own. Stacey D’Erasmo, a former VLS Editor, former BookForum editor, and current journalist, was fêted by her publisher Algonquin at MaryLou’s on West 9th Street. In attendance at the party for D’Erasmo’s well-reviewed Tea were NYT Magazine’s Ariel Kaminer, Newsday’s Laurie Muchnick, Salon’s Laura Miller and Craig Offman, VLS Editor Joy Press, Out Magazine chief Tom Beer, and Harper’s Bazaar’s Barbara O’Dair. There were even a few novelists (Pulitzer Prize–winning Michael Cunningham and A.M. Homes) and agents (William Morris’ Peter Franklin and Henry Dunow Agency’s Jennifer Carlson).
The Salon.com Book Awards (check out winners at their site) were as much a celebration of the thirty-something generation’s ascendance in the social ranks of book publishing as they were a party for yet another round of book awards. Seen in the crowded rooms of the Player’s Club were S&S’s Geoff Kloske, Little, Brown’s Sarah Burnes, and Random’s Scott Moyers. Agents included Elaine Markson agency’s Elizabeth Sheinkman, Ellen Levine’s Louise Quayle, and Donadio & Olson’s Ira Silverberg. Some young-thinking post-30s in attendance included Penguin’s Kathryn Court, The Nation’s Art Winslow, Vanity Fair’s Wayne Lawson, and everybody’s John Leonard.