Book View, March 2000


This month, the announcement of the millennium comes from Penguin Putnam, which has hired retired Commanding General Gilbert S. Harper of the US Army as VP for warehousing and fulfillment. Responsibilities in his previous life included “designing the Army’s next generation distribution architecture.” Industry watchers like the image of the soldier reporting to our own General Grann. . . Other PP news: Marcia Burch, Penguin Director of Marketing has left the company after 30 years. (She may be reached at 718 768 1331). She has been replaced by Random’s Director of National Accounts Marketing Group, John Fagan. Moving up from Associate Director of Marketing and reporting to Fagan is Christine Caruso, now Director of Communications.

Steve Murphy, EVP and MD of Disney Worldwide Publishing, has resigned to become President and COO of Rodale, succeeding Robert Teufel, who has retired. The company will buy Murphy a house in Emmaus, PA., where Rodale is located. Other Disney departures include Lauren Wohl, heading for Winslow Press as VP Marketing. Meanwhile Karen Kelly, formerly of Rodale, where she headed Daybreak, a health and spirituality imprint, and Warner, has gone to

The myriad departures at S&S include Phil Duva, SVP Operations, for WRC Media, where he will be EVP and COO, and Seth Gershel, from S&S Audio. He will be replaced by Gilles Dana, Publisher of New Media, who will be Acting Publisher. Meanwhile, David Lappin joins S&S as VP Director of National Accounts. He was RH’s SVP Executive Director of Sales. Executive Editor Emily Heckman has left Pocket Books. Carisa Hays, late of BDD and iVillage, will join The Free Press as VP Director of Publicity. . . In the continuing saga of cookbook editors on the move, Maria Guarnaschelli has left Scribner. And Annik LaFarge, VP & Associate Publisher of the S&S trade division, also leaves for Steven Brill’s as Director of their e-book division. She will join two other book industry veterans, Susan Dalsimer, ex Miramax/Talk books publisher who is consulting for the soon-to-launch site, and John Conti, as reported last month. . . .

Sterling announces the hiring of Steve Magnuson as VP Editorial. He was most recently Director of Publishing for Harmony and Three Rivers Press. Reporting to him will be Frances Gilbert, children’s book Acquisitions Editor, lately of Scholastic Canada where she ran the Arrow book club, before becoming book fairs Product Development Manager. Robin Strashun has also joined the company as Director of Marketing. She was Director of Marketing for special markets for Crown, Fodor’s and Random Reference. Charles Nurnberg also announces a co-publishing deal with children’s book packager Pinwheel.

After an extended search, OUP has promoted one of its own, Laura Brown, VP and Director of Trade Publishing, to the position of President, replacing Ed Barry, who has retired. In other university press news, Charles Grench, Editor-in-Chief at Yale U. Press, went to U. of North Carolina Press after Lewis Bateman left there for Cambridge U. Press. And Liz Hartman has left Columbia University Press and will go to OUP in charge of marketing, replacing Mary Ellen Curley, who went back to HarperCollins earlier this year.

Linda Cunningham was named VP Publishing for Questia Media Inc., a web-based research service for students and scholars. She was formerly SVP Publishing Dir. of HarperResource and HarperAudio.

Leaving RH is Bill Barry, formerly SVP Corporate Development, for IDG Books, where he will be president and COO based in NYC. In cookbookland, Little Brown’s Jennifer Josephy has been put in charge of the cookbook program — and more — at Broadway/Doubleday. Trigg Robinson McLeod, formerly VP Director of Publicity for Broadway, has joined PGW as Director of Marketing, reporting to Mark Ouimet, SVP Sales & Marketing.

David Chalfant has left IMG. . . Mary Wowk has left Anness Publishing to pursue other interests. (She may be reached at 212 877 8801.) Paul Beason has left St. Martin’s to join Workman as Export Sales Manager.


Nat Sobel
swiftly moved Tom Kelly’s option novel from Knopf to FSG’s Paul Elie in a two-book deal after Sonny Mehta neglected to exercise his option in a timely manner. (Knopf had published Payback.) Both books are “thriller-ish.” The first, titled Inwood (from that section of NY where it’s set), is about the Teamsters, and the second will have to do with constructing the Empire State Building.

Elaine Koster has been busy lately. Along with her six fig. deal with Martha Levin, Hyperion’s VP Publisher, for a special agent about the FBI by Candice Delong, she has sold two other titles, both involving former colleagues: Joe Pittman, now a Sr. Ed. at NAL whom Koster originally hired, wrote Tilting At Windmills, a novel described as a “male weepie,” whose English language rights were sold to Judith Curr at PB for “good money.” And Deb Brody (whom Koster had also hired at NAL, and who is now at Holt) bought Taming the Hunger Within by Marcia Herrin, who is in charge of the Eating Disorder Program at Dartmouth. She was featured in a People cover article on eating disorders written by Nancy Matsumoto, who will be her co-writer on this book. . . .

Lois Wallace has sold a biography of Ben Franklin in Paris by Stacy Schiff to Henry Holt for a rumored $400m+. . . S&S has acquired the rights to the next two James Lee Burke novels from Phil Spitzer, where Pat Mulcahy’s services as editor will be retained separately. Burke has now moved with Mulcahy for all 11 of his books, starting at LB with Black Cherry Blues to this his eleventh novel, Purple Cane Road. Mulcahy was most recently Editor-in-Chief of Doubleday.

Yes, Mrs. Goleman, a psychologist for the past 20 years and doubtless an inspiration for her hubby Daniel’s mega bestsellers growing out of Emotional Intelligence, has sold her own book. Actually Eileen Cope at Lowenstein Associates sold it after Frankfurt last year to Harmony, and it’s been raking in the foreign rights sales ever since, according to Rights Director Rebecca Strong. Based on the original proposal alone they have contracted for over $300,000 in foreign rights income (6+ countries) with deals in Spain, France, and Japan among others still to come, and publication not scheduled till 2001.


The first annual New Yorker Book Awards, a kind of literary People’s Choice Awards, were celebrated at the New York Public Library’s third-floor reading room on Valentine’s Day. As announced, Annie Proulx took the Fiction Award for Close Range; Edward Said the non-fiction award for his memoir Out of Place; poetry went to Louise Gluck; Best Debut to Jumpa Lahiri; and lifetime achievement (presumably for his literary accomplishments) to proud new father Saul Bellow. After the surprisingly brief formalities, guests including a range of authors (AM Homes, Junot Diaz, Donald Antrim), publishers (Jack Romanos, Kathryn Court, Dick and Jeannette Seaver), agents (Lynn Nesbit, Sloan Harris, Nicole Aragi) and other literary types, descended to the Celeste Bartos Forum. The once elegant room had been transformed into a louche postmodern cabaret space (perhaps Tina Brown’s decorator is still on retainer), where a multi-course meal was passed around by waiters while attendees awaited a performance by Rufus Wainwright.

For the third year, the National Arts Club hosted the announcement of the LA Times Book Awards finalists. Steve Wasserman, Book Editor for the Times, named the finalists after a splendid tribute to book publishers and writers everywhere. Finalists for the award for fiction include Amit Chaudhuri’s Freedom Song: Three Novels; Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog; Kent Haruf’s Plainsong; Ja Hing’s Waiting; and Annie Proulx’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories. Among other awards to be given is the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. Dava Sobel, Stuart Applebaum, and Bill Straun were spotted at the event, not to mention Frank McCourt and Arthur Schlessinger Jr. The awards will be presented on April 29 in LA.


Welcome to Greta Maneker, born to Marion (Features Editor of NY Magazine, ex-S&S) and Liv Grey on Dec. 13.

Theater of the Absurd

The Digital Rights Management & Digital Distribution for Publishing conference in New York on February 23–24 was something of a set piece ripped straight out of an early Ionesco script, with non sequitur following hard on the heels of non sequitur. Digital rights vendors continued to perform feats of creative visualization (“This is going to be a huge year for digital rights management!”), NuvoMedia’s Martin Eberhard testily defended his decision to keep the Rocket eBook system totally proprietary (“I don’t want to be responsible for causing an MP3-like disaster for the book industry.”), B&N’s Ken Brooks insisted that he should pocket up to 40% of an e-book sale (“Our business is developing and maintaining the customer relationship—we own that transaction.”), the Authors Guild’s Paul Aiken continued to insist that royalties for electronic editions should be higher than for printed books (“There is no comparison between delivering information digitally over the Internet and delivering information in trucks over highways.”), and the BISG’s Sandy Paul continued to adumbrate the ghastly 13-digit ISBN (“You have been warned.”).

Playing their pre-scripted role to the hilt, the 100 or so publisher types in the audience continued to react impassively to the likes of HP Laboratories’ ebullient John Erickson (lately of Yankee Rights Management), who wowed the crowd by splicing Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence with a touching nod to ET: “When you deploy your own content, it must eternally link back to you. The content must phone home.” It was the latest attempt to convince publishers of the joys of viral marketing, in which customers send little snippets of content — say, part of a chapter — to their entire address book of friends and loved-ones. When those recipients pound on the “Buy Me” button, they are instantly whisked to the publisher’s handsome sales site and, one hopes, surrender their credit card numbers and plenty of other customer-profile data that can be easily dropped into a marketing database. Or something like that.

The drama continued when B&N’s Ken Brooks announced that “the e-book industry is still all dressed up with no place to go,” and complained that lack of content was keeping everyone from getting to that big digital debutante’s ball. Brooks made a show of offering publishers use of his Manila-based e-book conversion shop, where for a “very low” fee, B&N will scan “p-books” (as Brooks insisted on referring to printed books) and output them in a variety of electronic formats, a process he described as “making the sausage back into the pig.” The electronic files are then returned to the publishers for, one hopes, future use.

Edward Ruehle, program director for Harvard Business School Publishing, continued in a mock-serious vein and pointedly compared book publishers to the once-dominant but now permanently beleaguered Sears, whose profits were systematically undercut by savvy discount retailers while the department-store giant kept haughtily insisting that no such thing could possibly come to pass. He warned publishers to guard against the imminent incursion of “vortals,” those vertical portals that offer a critical mass of information on a narrow topic such as health care or llama grooming. The point is that “disruptive technologies” such as vortals or other types of content aggregators need not offer a better product, but simply one that is as good as the old-fashioned book — and publishers might wake up one day to find their customer base vaporized.

In that vein, we note that, a subscription-based “aggregated information supplier for professionals,” has already licensed 1,000 books and is eyeing a potential market of 6 million IT professionals in the US who would pay a $200 annual subscription fee. The site has actually doled out $1 million in royalties to date, with publishers paid on a percentage of revenue generated. It’s just further evidence that, as Ruehle noted, if publishers don’t keep an eye on those IPO-bound upstarts, they’ll be “picking the cherries out of our cake.”

Wild About ONIX

When the AAP unfurled its new ONIX guidelines at New York’s McGraw-Hill Auditorium on January 19, you couldn’t fault certain woozy invitees from thinking they’d wandered into a euphoric episode of Oprah. Before their very eyes, R.R. Bowker lay down with Baker & Taylor, clasped hands with Amazon, Ingram and Vista tearfully embraced, while Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Wiley broke out the peace pipe. All the while, AAP president Pat Schroeder put sufficient “win-win” spin on the affair that it could have passed for an AOL-Time Warner press party. “This thing has legs,” sums up Carol Risher, AAP vice president for copyright and new technology. “There’s no bad news.”

Lord only knows why the usual internecine squabbles took a sudden hiatus for ONIX, short for Online Information Exchange, the AAP’s latest effort to standardize the way that information about books is disseminated online. Of course, it could be the fact that books with “metadata” (online informational tidbits such as cover images, descriptions, reviews, and the like) outsell books without that information eight to one. The theory is that if a customer can’t find a book they’re looking for online, they obviously won’t be buying it.

According to Risher, the whole effort was actually instigated by publishers, who complained to the AAP that they were inundated with requests from online parties seeking promotional and bibliographical data about their books — each request calling for a different format. The AAP thus mobilized what must be an unprecedented coalition of 27 different publishers, online booksellers, distributors, and information services, which whipped up a fully formed industry standard in a shocking eight weeks. Consisting of 148 simple codes, one for each item of information that might be requested about a book, ONIX simplifies the way metadata are coded and exchanged. It’s also a language that can be easily modified. For example, future phases of the program will look at writing XML code for ONIX, which could automate some data-entry and analysis functions.

In some ways, though, the biggest hurdles still lie ahead. That is, publishers will actually have to start using ONIX. Given blasé attitudes toward IT infrastructure and resignation in the face of supply-chain inefficiencies, we may all be reading books on our wristwatches before the standard is fully deployed. But Holtzbrinck has already committed to bringing out its Spring 2000 titles in the ONIX format, having partnered with the software provider Quality Solutions, which means ONIX will be circulating by mid-March. It’s a start, at least. As Risher says, “This is not the end of things here. This is the beginning.”

International Fiction Bestsellers

Apocalypse Now
Amnesia Hits Spain, Horror Bloodies France, and Pokémon Ravages Australia

Perhaps in compensation for the underwhelming arrival of Y2K, this month’s bestsellers have registered a potent desire for all those missed connections, fatal errors, and world-historical upheavals we were so tantalizingly promised. In Spain, Nativel Preciado’s The Narcissist plunges into the abyss of a full-blown identity crisis, following the story of the rich and powerful Baltasar, whose insular world of egotistic self-love is shattered when he loses his memory after a freak accident. As he comes to grips with amnesia, the protagonist finds that nothing in his world is quite as it seemed. According to our source, the work’s parable of abuse and subsequent loss is especially poignant in light of Spain’s current political climate, and may account for its selection as a finalist for last year’s Planeta prize. The novel has obviously found a sympathetic readership in Spain, selling 105,000 copies and attracting the interest of several publishing houses throughout Europe. Rights are controlled by the Planeta Group.

Also exploring the disconnectedness of space and time in Spain, young Basque writer Laura Espido Freire’s Frozen Peaches concerns itself with Elsa, a young painter who is obliged to leave her home when an unknown party inexplicably begins to threaten her. Exiled to another city, Elsa takes up residence with her grandfather and begins to discover the story of her own family — which includes a cousin with whom she mysteriously shares a name. Frozen Peaches received the Planeta prize last October, and has certainly not been disconnected from the market, having sold over 205,000 copies in Spain. See Planeta for rights.

Finally in Spain, Nobel prize-winner Camilo José Cela probes more stable notions of identity with his new work, which we’ve been translating as The Wooden Box but which we’re told is not easily translatable. Madera de Boj deals with the lives and adventures of the inhabitants of Galicia, in the Northwest region of Spain, who are deeply influenced by the land there. The book has been sold to Portugal (Editorial Noticias) and Brazil (Bertrand Brazil). See the Carmen Balcells agency for rights.

Soaring onto the list in Argentina is Doves Fly Away by Carlos Gorostiza. The novel dissects the intertwined personal and political struggles of Ignacio, an idealistic young man who deserts the army in his homeland of Argentina and escapes to Barcelona, where he becomes embroiled in the Spanish Civil War. Investigating life under the rule of fascism, the book takes readers up to the country’s return to democracy after the death of Franco. The novel has caught fire in Argentina, with rights still available from Planeta Argentina.

The fractured nature of the self is again on the agenda in India, where Pankaj Mishra’s The Romantics follows Samar, a young graduate from Allahabad, whose restlessness within a dissolving caste system drives him to escape a future of dead-end, small-town jobs. Having fled to Benares and surrounded himself with a book-filled solitude, Samar is quickly distracted by a cadre of expatriates that includes Catherine, the French femme fatale who will destroy Samar’s equanimity once and for all. The work is said to be rendered in vivid and unsentimental prose. For what it’s worth, Mishra has quite a tale of his own to tell. He was an editor at HarperCollins India when his friend Arundhati Roy’s manuscript The God of Small Things landed on his desk. After helping to launch Roy into the stratosphere, Mishra decided it was high time he devoted more time to his own writing, although he has recently been appointed as a consulting editor for Picador India. The Romantics will be published by Picador UK and by Knopf in the US.

Meanwhile in Holland, Lulu Wang, the Chinese-Dutch writer whose first novel The Lily Theatre sold zillions of copies when it shot to the top of the list early last year and took the Nonino Prize for Literature in 1999, returns with her follow-up, The Tender Child. A memoir of the author’s early life in China, the book blew out the doors with a first printing of 160,000 (a record for Holland), with Doubleday picking up rights for the US (due out this spring). Hodder & Stoughton will publish in the UK at the same time, and a number of other countries have signed on, including France (Grasset), Germany (List), and Iceland (Mal og Menning). Rights to the new one are controlled by Linda Michaels.

Confirming everyone’s suspicion that the French are experiencing a craving to be scared out of their wits in the new millennium, Emmanuel Carrère’s The Adversary follows hard on the heels of fellow genre-novel Hannibal (which by the way is selling a confounding three times faster than the Goncourt prize winner — go figure). The Adversary’s hero is one Jean Claude Roman, who apparently kills every member of his family after deciding he had had quite enough of them all. Press coverage in France has deemed the book nothing less than an “editorial event,” and a first printing of 10,000 sold out even before the author made an appearance on Bouillon de Culture — France’s answer to Oprah.

Italy draws on truth rather than fiction for inspiration this month with The False Note in the Chorus, a collection of articles and essays from journalist Indro Montanelli. The famous correspondent founded Milan’s Il Giornale, which he headed until 1994. The book chronicles in part the terrible years of the red brigades and the fall of communism, among other episodes. Also on the list is Millennium Flop, a collection of political cartoons published over the past two years from the savage pen of Giorgio Forattini. The cartoonist was himself in the papers recently when Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema launched a legal action against him over a cartoon published in La Repubblica.

And offering definitive evidence that the world is just begging to be punished, Pokémon has arrived on the bestseller list in Australia. According to Mel Cox, Contracts and Foreign Sales Manager for Scholastic Australia, the Christmas season drove sales of this “official” handbook to one million units. The book is a guide to the Pokémon characters, and joins the scores of story and sticker books already flooding the market. Publishers, meanwhile, are privately consulting their Tarot cards to see if Pokémon will manage to avoid the one-hit wonder status that has dimmed the glory of other licensed product. For now, Cox says, all omens are in the affirmative: “Kids are mad about it.”

Let There Be Market Share

Although a record number of exhibitors and booksellers were registered for the CBA Expo over the week of January 24 at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, many attendees apparently were caught without their snowmobiles, leaving attendance somewhat sparser than had been expected. Nevertheless, the general consensus indicated that business was booming. Several publishers reported a record number of sales and others were pleasantly surprised by booksellers’ upbeat enthusiasm.

Amid flurries of order-taking, the floor was abuzz with conversation about two recent acquisitions — Thomas Nelson of Rutledge Hill and Doubleday/Waterbrook of Harold Shaw Publishers — leading to the usual speculation about mergers and their merits. Generally, both deals were seen as a positive step for small publishers to gain strength in the increasingly competitive world of 21st-century publishing. As a case in point, Rutledge will become Nelson’s main avenue for reaching the general trade market, giving Nelson presence in the secular publishing arena. Larry Stone of Rutledge Hill will continue to head up the division. In related personnel moves, it was announced that Dave Moberg of Garborgs will head up Word Publishing, a division of Thomas Nelson. He will report to Lee Gessner, former publisher of Word who will now be responsible for imprints including Word and Rutledge Hill.

Speaking of the 21st century, nobody could fail to notice the hoopla surrounding the launch of, which was unveiled during the expo. As has been reported elsewhere, the site, which sucked up a $30 million private equity infusion and partnered with e-commerce gurus at Andersen Consulting, is a sister to Family Christian Stores, a chain of 346 Christian retail outlets in 39 states. President Jef Fite brazenly placed himself among the AOLs and Amazons of the world, noting in a press release that the site would be positioned as a “true life destination site” serving an estimated 40 million cybersurfing Christians. That number, some observers predict, will grow by an additional five million in the coming year. However the market gets sliced, iBelieve should get a jump on the game by leveraging FCS’s six-million member Family Perks frequent shopper program to promote the Internet venture. In-store kiosks are also planned for the bricks-and-mortar retailer, as a large number of Christian shoppers have not yet warmed to the Internet as a source of information about matters of faith.

Christian booksellers may be a bit behind the Internet curve, but as Expo attendees kept telling one another, you’ve got sales. Religious bookstores are expected to post 1999 sales of some $3 billion, a record nudged upward by everything from Y2K-mania to a boost in faith following the Columbine shootings. Even the end of the world, it seems, has its retail upside.

Carlyle’s Portfolio

A Peek Into the Military-Biblio Complex

The Carlyle Group has invested in a German maker of car ignition systems, owns the manufacturer of the Bradley M2A3 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, and bought a company that specializes in ion exchange technologies for treating radioactive waste. It boasts former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci as chairman and counts former Secretary of State James A. Baker III as a partner. It controls the largest franchisor of non-cola soft drinks in the world, and though some in publishing may have forgotten this, the privately held Carlyle Group also has a 90% stake in the book wholesaler Baker & Taylor.

Though books take a back seat to missile launchers among Carlyle’s portfolio of 11 defense contractors, there is evidence that the firm’s publishing-related stakes may be on the offensive. Last June, Carlyle invested in the Figaro Group, which owns one of France’s leading daily newspapers, and in December the company took a majority stake in Entertainment Publications, the publisher of upscale coupon books and discount programs.

Closer to home, however, Carlyle joined the Tribune Company in plunking down a $30 million investment last August for, giving it a minority stake in the online textbook discounter. According to company documents, the VarsityBooks hit was part of a broader effort at Carlyle to target Internet-related firms with a special $210 million venture capital fund, which has brought on such diverse companies as Blackboard, an online learning firm that sells course website packages to colleges and universities, LatinForce.Net, an e-commerce portal targeting Hispanics in the US and Latin America, and MuniAuction, a website that has auctioned some $6 billion in bonds, notes, and certificates of deposit.

To date, Carlyle’s eclectic publishing units have little to commend them as an integrated group. But small alliances are shaping up. Baker & Taylor, for example, is the principal supplier for VarsityBooks, and has agreed not to offer direct-to-consumer fulfillment services for VarsityBooks’ competitors. According to documents filed with the SEC, VarsityBooks transmits orders to B&T within twenty minutes of their receipt; books are then slapped in VarsityBooks-branded boxes and shipped direct to the consumer, theoretically arriving within three business days of the order placement. Such a system should soon be getting a workout, given VarsityBooks’ recent alliance with ICQ, the AOL-owned interactive community. The deal gave VarsityBooks placement on ICQ’s student channels and eyeball-time in front of the rest of ICQ’s 50 million users. And while speaking of alliances, let’s not forget that B&T received a chunk of Amazon stock when it supplied the online bookseller with its proprietary database. B&T unloaded a good part of those shares for a tidy $43.7 million.

According to Carlyle Group principal Philip Dolan, Baker & Taylor has served ably as a platform for forays into the publishing market. “We’ve seen an opportunity to leverage the skill sets and the assets of Baker & Taylor to help seed new businesses in the Internet space,” Dolan says. “VarsityBooks was an opportunity where Baker & Taylor had all the systems in place and could be very supportive of this company’s business model.” He declined to speak about further investments in the publishing arena.

Regardless of future plans, Carlyle must be irritated that so much of its investment has ended up in court. Baker & Taylor finally closed a federal lawsuit last July, paying $3 million to settle a case contending that the wholesaler overcharged libraries by more than $100 million, reclassifying trade books as higher-priced nontrade books. After the settlement, however, individual states were free to pursue their own actions against the company; a spokesperson for B&T declined to comment on the issue. Then there’s the suit filed in December by the National Association of College Stores, which alleges that VarsityBooks’ claims of 40% discounts are bogus, since only a few books are sold at the advertised discount. VarsityBooks officials have insisted that the litigation is “completely without merit,” and have asked to have the suit dismissed. A NACS spokesperson said that a judge had not yet made a ruling on the matter.

Brazilia on the Ganges

Let there be no mistake about the 25th annual Calcutta International Book Fair. As host Subrata Datta Gupta informed the press prior to the show, though the fair paid special tribute to Brazilian literature and culture this year, “books from other Latin American countries would also be on sale showing that these countries have more to offer than just football.”

Mercifully, not a shinguard was in sight as the fair kicked off on January 25, with a crowd of an estimated two million said to be browsing 500 stalls (up 10% from last year), presumably tossing back caipirinhas as they went. The Brazilian cocktail-confections would have helped, anyway, after a somewhat disorganized opening ceremony, in which well-known sculptor Chintamoni Kar carried on to the accompaniment of construction workers hastily throwing up the fair’s stalls. In fact most stalls, including Brazil’s festive pavilion, remained closed at the inaugural event, in which Kar mused about the fraying of values and interpersonal relationships, and called upon writers to lift up their fellow citizens. Unfortunately, there was no lifting up Günter Grass, who had been asked to give the inaugural address but had to beg off due to ill health. Apparently offerings of feijoada were not enough to stir the Nobel laureate from his bed.

Conditions could only improve after the opening hiccups, and the fair was still in progress as PT went to press. Luminaries adding panache to the fair included Jeremy Mynot, chief executive of the Cambridge University Press, who was set to deliver an address on the future of academic publishing, Benjamin Zephaniah, the UK’s renowned “performing poet,” and the Brazilian scholar Dr. Candido Mendes de Almeida. The foreign complex this year included stalls from France, Britain, and the Oxford University Press, Karachi, and Indian representatives included 39 participants from New Delhi, five from Maharashtra, three from Punjab, and two each from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Nepal joined the fair for the first time, and Bangladesh sent around 25 participants. The extra support helped, because although revenue from the fair has been going up in recent years, the high price of books has reportedly had a negative effect on sales volume.

On the other hand, somebody should perhaps alert BOL to a market opportunity, as our source reports that the impact of the Internet on Indian publishing has thus far been negligible, mostly due to the high price of shipping from Amazon’s US and UK sites. Most commonly, Indian consumers will scan the Amazon postings and then order English-language books through Indian booksellers, as most books of British and American origin are available in India at prices lower than their list prices (because of the extreme price-sensitivity of the Indian market). Insurgent Indian-based sites such as, an Indian entertainment and e-commerce portal, are making steady progress, however, and they are expected to bolster Indian publishers in the long run.

As fairgoers couldn’t fail to notice, there is little interest in Indian language translations from English, with the exception of the Malayalam language, which sees some translation for literary works. Due to widespread English literacy, even works in French, Russian, and Spanish are read in English translations. For that matter, we’re told, books in Indian languages are translated into English, so that a greater number of Indians can read and understand the literature in Indian languages not known to them.

Regarding territorial issues, our source said that most popular titles are now sold in India in both US and UK editions, despite the longstanding British control of the market. Even when a multi-national company such as Random House owns world rights, keen competition is felt from both its American and British subsidiaries. “In short,” said our correspondent, “infringement of territorial rights seems to be the accepted norm.”

We thank K.S. Padmanabhan for his contribution to this article.

Book View, February 2000


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 BooksTom 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 to head up its UK operations. . . . Paul Gediman, most recently PW Forecasts’ Nonfiction Editor, has moved to Michigan and joined up with as Senior Editor.


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 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 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 MorrisPeter Franklin and Henry Dunow Agency’s Jennifer Carlson).

The 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.

International Fiction Bestsellers

Tasmanian Devils
Australia’s Panty Line, France’s Tranquil Madness, and the Sub-Continent’s Al Pacino

As droves of Australians sashay into the pantry this month with the bestselling Marie Claire cooking title Food Fast, the rest of the literate world down under has been taking a peek under the Visible Panty Line with the newest from Australia’s comic superwoman, Gretel Killeen. After belting out a number of hilarious books for children (including the off-beat My Life is a Toilet, which details young love and pimple angst in the life of the 15-year-old Fleur), Killeen besieges the adult world with her latest collection of ornery columns from Australia Magazine. The title essay suggests that we ought to bring back the panty line, because in Killeen’s view wearing a g-string qualifies as sexual harassment. The book has been tickling the nation’s bestseller lists since it was published last November, and foreign rights are still grabbable: see Cathy Gillam at Penguin Books Australia. Continuing the tradition of vivid social commentary in Australia, cartoonist Michael Leunig is back with the long-awaited new collection Goatperson and Other Tales. The book is a compilation of previously uncollected material, and ponders the fate of the “goatperson,” a sort of Australian stand-in for the “everyman.” Or, as Leunig succinctly puts it, “Why do we do it? And, more to the point, who the hell are we, where are we going and where’s it all going to end?” Well, don’t look to us for answers. See Peg McColl at Penguin Books Australia for rights.

Probing parallel questions in Italy this month is Andrea de Carlo’s zen-like novel Here and Now, which details the cosmic awakening of Luca, a fortysomething man who manages a horse-riding center in the countryside north of Rome. Following a nasty fall from a horse one day, he gets up and realizes that he is “perfectly unhappy.” The tale of the ensuing quest for enlightenment involves a crazed woman named Alberta and is considered de Carlo’s “strongest and most commercial book yet,” according to our sources, selling more than 120,000 copies, hitting the Italian list at #3 last month, and peaking at #1. Rights negotiations have been launched in Germany, France, and Spain, with other territories still available, according to the Vicki Satlow Literary Agency in Milan.

Also in Italy, playwright and theater gadfly Marco Paolini has been bringing down the house all over again with the publication of Vajont, a book about Paolini’s fascinating and politically charged play of the same title. The theatrical work chronicles a terrible 1963 catastrophe in the village of Longarone, in which a land mass above the largest double-arc dam ever designed gave way, killing some two thousand people. The new book follows up the smashing home video release on the same subject. See Roberto Gilodi at Giulio Einaudi for rights.

Finally in Italy, a bout of humor rocks the list, beginning with Mondadori’s Paperodissea. The title loosely translates as The Odyssey of Donald Duck, in which the Disney character’s epic yearnings are presumably revealed. Also laughing all the way to the bestseller list, Baldini & Castoldi brings two humor books to the list, both by popular Italian comedians. Friends Ahrarara is written by Fichi d’India, the professional name of two comedians who are whooping it up all over Italy, and the dynamic duo Gino & Michele crawl onto the list with Also Ants . . . Get Mad 2000. The last installment, Also Ants in Their Small World, appeared on the bestseller list in November.

Christian Oster has meanwhile made off with the Prix Medici in France for his eighth novel, My Big Apartment. Known for his light, ironic works that investigate the “tranquil madness” that often runs rampant in our lives, Oster now examines the travails of a somewhat discombobulated narrator who has lost the keys to his apartment — and with them his girlfriend, too. He bumps into the very pregnant Flore at the local pool, and ends up as the child’s adoptive father. Narrated with an imperturbable and parodic wit, this one is Oster’s first big hit, with sales topping 60,000 in France. See Minuit for rights.

Canada is mourning the recent passing of novelist Matt Cohen, whose Elizabeth and After appears on the list this month. Cohen was a reviewer for The Globe and Mail, and was known for his occasionally convoluted but always learned disquisitions. Elizabeth and After won the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction in Ottawa last November, and chronicles the protagonist’s return to his small-town Ontario home, only to dredge up memories of the alcohol and violence that ended his marriage there. Rights have been sold to France (Phebus) with a separate French language deal completed for Canada (Boreal), and Picador USA will publish in August 2000. We’re told other rights are still available from Anne McDermid.

A blast from the recent past has shaken up India, where Pakistani author Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice Candy Man is back in the limelight due to the release of the film 1947 Earth, which is based on the book. Ice Candy Man was published in 1989 by South Asia Books, and was issued as a US paperback under the title Cracking India by Milkweed. It is an 8-year-old girl’s story of the 1947 partition of India, when British India was split into India and Pakistan. The new film is directed by Deepa Mehta and stars Aamir Khan, allegedly the “Al Pacino of the sub-continent.”

The young jurors of the Nestlé Smarties children’s book prize, awarded by the Youth Libraries Group to books published in the UK, have tapped Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, from the UK’s Piccadilly Press. The bronze-award-winning book is said to be a “delicious diary” based on the author’s childhood in Leeds. It features among other colorful characters the inimitable Angus, a “half-Scottish wildcat moggy who stalks next door’s poodle.” Rights have been sold to nine countries, among them France (Gallimard), Germany (Bertelsmann), and Italy (Mondadori). The book will be out in the US this spring from HarperCollins. See Piccadilly for rights.

A few final notes: The Surgeon of Crowthorne, which has been on the Australian list for eons, is actually The Professor and the Madman. And we observe that the new Harry Potter is due out July 8, 2000. Though as yet untitled (it’s referred to as Harry Potter 4), it will cost’s buyers £10.99, and was recently #28 on the Amazon bestseller list — a full seven months before publication.

Book View, January 2000


Other than arch rivals co-venturing (viz. BOMC and the Doubleday Clubs) and sales departments reorganizing (first Random, then Harper, then S&S. . . ), it’s been a quiet few weeks. Well, not exactly quiet: First, word came that B&N’s David Cully was going to Lechters as President and COO, and then S&S announced that Steve Geck was leaving B&N to become VP, Associate Publisher of S&S Children’s Publishing, replacing Stephanie Owens Lurie, who moved to Dutton Children’s in October. . . Michael di Capua has moved his imprint to Hyperion Books for Children, reporting to Lisa Holton, SVP, Disney Publishing Worldwide. The imprint had been at HarperCollins. . . Bob Asahina has left Broadway “by mutual agreement,” and Jerry Howard has taken over those duties, while retaining his Doubleday position. . . Tracy Brown has left Henry Holt. . . Paul Bresnick has left Morrow. . . Karen Mender leaves Bantam-Dell for Pocket Books, where she will be VP, Deputy Publisher. Henning Gutmann, who was most recently an associate publisher at Wiley, moved to Yale U Press as senior editor.

A few defections to the eworld: John Conti, previously VP Marketing at Ballantine, has moved to Steve Brill’s new online business,, where he will oversee the development of its book site. . . Workman’s Anne Kostick has left to become Director of Content Development for . . Kat Berman, previously at Penguin Putnam and then, has gone to BlueBarn Interactive, a new media company that specializes in building virtual communities for clients like Martha Stewart Living and Yahoo! . . . Kate Tentler has been promoted to VP and Publisher of S&S Online. She succeeds Lisa Mandel, who wil remain on as a consultant.

As announced elsewhere, Ian Chapman has been named MD of S&S UK, replacing Nick Webb. . . Josalyn Moran has left North South Books and is reachable at (718) 858-5989. MaryChris Bradley has been hired as VP, Director of Sales, and Ellen Friedman, as VP, Art Director. . . Knopf announces that Deborah Garrison, currently at The New Yorker, will become Poetry Editor as well as Senior Editor at Pantheon. . . Perigee BooksJohn Duff announced the promotion of Sheila Curry to the position of Executive Editor
. . . Hillel Black was named Executive Ed at Sourcebooks working out of his NY apt. The company — #2 on PW’s list of fastest growing small publishers — is going more “mainstream” and he will be acquiring in all areas of nonfiction.


A quiet month, what with sales conferences, holiday parties, and last minute shopping. But Crown’s Kristen Kiser found time to acquire North American rights to an autobiography by Britney Spears. Frank Weimann agented the deal, which involves an advance against shared profits. The book will be with Britney and her mother, Lynne Spears, and will come out to coincide with her new album in May and tour in June. She will do three book signings for Crown, along with national media appearances.


A report filed by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) entitled “Copyright Industries in the U.S. Economy: The 1999 Report” reveals that US copyright industries make up 4.3% of the US GDP ($348.4 billion) and contribute more to the national economy and employ more workers than any single manufacturing sector.


It would seem that, even if authors don’t make the cut for Regis Philbin’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire (See the show! Buy Hyperion’s book!), they can still win a prize, as the number of book awards continues to rise. Amazon lists 58 awards-giving organizations. And though Don Imus seems to have taken his well-publicized prize away, others have jumped into the fray. The New Yorker is soliciting nominees for its new awards for “literary excellence,” to be given out on Feb. 14, the 75th anniversary of the magazine’s founding. The Bagehot Council has just announced the Henry Paolucci Awards, to be given out next October to books on domestic or foreign policy, law, and history.

Then of course, there are Microsoft’s Frankfurt ebook awards, which will be presented at next year’s Fair. With one prize worth $100,000, this is an award everyone will watch for, though the site, doesn’t look like it’s live yet. Only the press release from the Fair is available, though submissions are supposed to start coming in this month.


More anniversaries to celebrate, with Clarkson Potter toasting its 40th year at a party at Random East that attendees said was delightful. Mr. Clarkson Potter himself was present, though he had a hard time getting past the receptionist, who couldn’t grasp the eponymousness of it all. About 150 people showed up, including Chairman-elect of Bertelsmann’s worldwide publishing, Peter Olsen, Random House President Eric Engstrom, Martha Stewart, Nancy Novogrod, past publisher Carol Southern, and current Publisher Lauren Shakely.

Abrams 50th anniversary party was held at The University Club on December 9th, and was attended by 800 guests ranging from Evelyn and Leonard Lauder, Geoffrey Beene and Leroy Nieman to Richard Oldenburg, John Russell and Rosamond Bernier.

Two nights before, the Barefoot Books offices in London and Cotswold converged at their new downtown Manhattan digs for their 1st Annual Children’s Illustrator Exhibition and Millennium Party. Founder Tessa Strickland introduced the New York staff and articulated the mission of the company to highly interested parties.

The fine wine and Blackbird Julips flowed at the elegant soiree for Dan Halpern’s new book of poetry Something Shining (Knopf). In attendance: Jane Friedman, Lynn Nesbit, ICM’s Heather Schroeder, Robert Stone, Francine Prose, Ginger Barber, Academy of American Poets Executive Director Bill Wadsworth, Maria Campbell, and others.

Reader’s Digest held its annual party at Sea Grill, on Dec. 9. Holiday shoppers and crowds protesting Nike’s and Disney’s use of sweatshops didn’t deter shrimp-seeking publishers from descending on the restaurant in hordes. The view of the Rockefeller Center skating rink was magnificent.


A “celebration of the life of Faith Sale” will take place on Friday, Jan. 7 at 2 pm in The Great Hall at Cooper Union, 7 East 7th Street at Third Ave. A reception will follow.