Book View, August 2000


Kristina Peterson leaves Random Children’s to take over as President of S&S’s Children’s division. . . . Meanwhile Vivian Antonangeli has left Reader’s Digest Children’s, following the arrival of Harold Clarke — previously President of RHas VP Publisher New Market Development for Global Books and Home Entertainment. Antonangeli, who had been GM and President of the division, is reachable at 917 744-2955. Rosanna Hansen, who had been Publisher, has also left the company. . . . Paul Golob will be joining Public Affairs as executive editor in September, after less than three months as an editor on the New York Times Op-Ed page. Prior to that he was at Free Press and Basic. And speaking of FP, congrats to Bill Shinker, newly named VP and Publisher. . . . Warner’s Anita Diggs has joined Ballantine’s One World imprint as Senior Editor, reporting to Maureen O’Neal, and replacing Cheryl Woodruff, who has resigned
. . . . After 20 years, Mark Magowan, VP of Abbeville, is leaving to join Abrams after Labor Day as Associate Publisher, fueling rumors that his former employer is on the block. Meanwhile, his new employer is the likely purchaser of the assets of STC, Golden Turtle, and selected Smithmark titles.

The past month has brought a lot of change to media coverage of books: David Kirkpatrick has begun his tenure at the NYT, Elizabeth Manus has moved out of the New York Observer offices and is now on general assignment, and Celia McGee has moved to general assignment at the Daily News. Paul Colford from Newsday has replaced her on the book beat and will also write on the electronic and virtual media.

Quick takes: Tom Spain and Jackie Farber are out at Dell/Delacorte. The former had been Maeve Binchy’s editor, but when Carole Baron went to Dutton, the author followed her there. . . . Marcy Posner and Dan Strone have both left the NY office of the William Morris Agency. . . . Natalie Chapman has left Discovery Books, where she was Publishing Director. Dorothee Grisebach, Editor in Chief of Droemer Knaur, has been let go as part of the latest Holtzbrinck re-organization. . . . Publishing News reports that HarperCollins UK Sales and Marketing Director David North has been named MD of its trade division, Pan Macmillan. He replaces Ian Chapman, who left at the end of last year to head up S&S. Meanwhile, James Kellow, Marketing Director at Fourth Estate, is leaving to take up the new position of UK Sales and Marketing Director at S&S UK.

Erin McHugh, former Executive Vice President, Executive Creative Director, and partner at Spier New York, has joined the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s statewide gay and lesbian political advocacy organization, as Director of Member & Institutional Support. She served on the Pride Agenda’s Board of Directors for most of the past decade. Niko Pfund, Director and Editor-in-Chief, has left for OUP to become Academic Publisher. Pfund started his publishing career at OUP, as an editorial assistant. And Chris Rogers has been appointed College Editorial Director. He was previously Director, New Business Development for Wiley.

Nina Hoffman has been named EVP of the National Geographic Society and President of the Books and School publishing group. She was formerly SVP Publishing. . . . Michael Stephenson, currently VP, Editor in Chief of Doubleday Direct’s Specialty Clubs, has been given the same titles for New Book Development at BookSpan, overseeing book development for all clubs.

Motorbooks Publishing, a piece of the recently spun off SF Chronicle publishing group, has made the following appointments: Mike Hejny, formerly VP, Merchandising at Barnes & Noble, has been named VP of Sales and Marketing; Ben Jones is VP, Direct Marketing, formerly of Heritage House, Carl Fazio is VP and CFO, formerly McGraw-Hill Medical Division, and Brad Savola is VP and CTO, formerly of Fair Isaac database marketing.


It’s been a big book summer, with the latest million-plus deal just announced: Sun Microsystems co-founder and chief scientist Bill Joy’s book has been sold by Kathy Robbins to Penguin’s Rick Kot for $1.6 million +. . . . It is based on Joy’s April 2000 Wired magazine article, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” Robbins was already doing well in this period we used to label as the summer doldrums: she recently sold David Denby’s book to Little, Brown for $500k +.


What’s with this increasing interest on the part of all media — print, tv, radio and, of course, electronic — in books? It’s a barrage, with endless stories on individual authors (Rowling, Fox (Michael J.), Rubin (Robert), Welch (Jack)); new e-initiatives (iPublish, iWrite, I’m Stephen King); bestseller lists, unread bestsellers, pre-pubb’ed bestsellers (HP #5) — and on and on and on. Even the staid Economist has announced that, beginning in September, they will expand the number of pages devoted to books and will run those weekly, rather than the current ten times a year. And, the new weekly section — now called “Moreover” — will be renamed “Books and Arts.”

In an interview in Gannett’s The Review Press IMG’s Mark Reiter speculates that German and Japanese rights to Jack Welch’s book will each go for “north of $1 million,” and denies that his commission for the $7.1 million deal was a cool million. He also confides that within the decade he “hopes to find himself writing books full-time,” but wants to represent one particular client before he leaves agenting. The name? Warren Buffett.


Come Fall, publishers will have to choose between three publishing conferences, all scheduled within a week of each other. Reed’s ePub Expo will be held Oct. 31–Nov. 1 at the Millennium, while Internet World’s e-Book World takes place at the Marriott Marquis on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 6–7. The former will focus on the management, distribution and production of digital content. (See PT page 8 for details.) Seybold is holding what purports to be a publishing show in San Francisco at the end of August. It is, however, weighted heavily in the direction of technology, though there are sessions on Digital Rights and Digital Asset Management, ebooks, etc. Click on

Word comes to us that the 25th annual University of Denver Publishing Institute opened on July 10th on the University of Denver campus with 91 students — all college graduates. The program was co-founded by Elizabeth Geiser and includes as instructors Elisabeth Scharlatt of Algonquin Books, Jane Isay of Harcourt Trade, Arnold Dolin, formerly of Penguin, and others. At a gala dinner at the Fourth Story Restaurant (atop the Tattered Cover), six graduates of the program spoke of their careers, among them Tari Warwick (vp, Perseus Books Group), Meg Ruley (Jane Rotrosen Agency), Jeanne Martinet (author of The Artful Dodge), and Reid Hester (editor with Mayfield Publishing).


’s party for cutting edge novelist Brad Gooch was held by and at Diane von Furstenberg’s loft-cum-showroom (a family emergency called Ms. von F back to Belgium) and included Barry Diller, Jonathan Burnham, Jay McInerney, Mary McFadden, fashion photographer Carter Smith, Bret Easton Ellis (a co-host), and other trendy novelists such as Ben Neihart, Christopher Bram, and Fred Tuten.


We sadly note the passing of Workman‘s Sally Kovalchick on July 15th.

Bertelsmann’s Ventures

Random House Parent Wages Global E-Commerce Turf War

There is a special place on Thomas Middelhoff’s atlas of corporate geography that he likes to call “Bertelsmann Valley.” You might think of it as Silicon Valley stretched to a global scale and populated with scenic villages of dot-com shops, a few stray Holstein cows, and a couple billion dollars in strategically seeded venture capital. Or as Middelhoff, whom everyone knows as the chief executive of the world’s third-largest media conglomerate, describes it in company literature, Bertelsmann Valley is a “global innovation factory” turning German venture capital and corporate synergies into bang-up business plans to power the next wave of e-commerce.

Whichever metaphor you prefer, Random House, Inc. is looming ever larger as a prime piece of real estate in Bertelsmann’s e-commerce portfolio. With stakes in custom e-publisher Xlibris and digital audio retailer Audible via Random House Ventures, Random’s e-investment subsidiary, it’s clear that Random’s stockpile of digitized content will prove instrumental as Bertelsmann gears up for a global digital turf war against AOL Time Warner and CBS Viacom. And with more than $10 billion in Bertelsmann coffers primed for acquisitions and other investments — cash mostly derived from the sale of Bertelsmann’s stakes in AOL Europe and AOL Australia to America Online — the strategic alliances between the company’s publishing and e-commerce holdings are being closely watched by competitors on all fronts.

“In the decentralized organization of the Bertelsmann group,” Middelhoff told a recent conference in Berlin, “the new magic words are: stronger cooperation and intensive networking between the autonomous product lines and companies.” Shortly after that statement was made, the Bertelsmann e-Commerce Group (BeCG) was rolled out, forging a unified front of Internet, mobile, and broadband properties including (in which Bertelsmann has a 40% stake) and, which operates in 14 countries (including Japan, which the company notes is the second-largest book market in the world, devouring 1.5 billion books a year) and is soon to open in China, Korea, and Italy. Headed by Andreas Schmidt, who was recruited from AOL Europe, the BeCG mandate is to drive content — from books to magazines to compact discs — to wired consumers. “In the near future, we believe all content will be digitized,” Schmidt tells PT via e-mail, “and our aim is to put the products Bertelsmann produces — music, books, movies, and television — into digital form and distribute them across the Internet.” That may be the party line, but there’s more “intensive networking” to come. Middelhoff told the Financial Times Deutschland that he expects to bundle all Bertelsmann e-commerce under a single brand in the next three months. The long-term goal, Middelhoff said, was the digital distribution of books and music to a worldwide “content community” via a single brand network that could include and the Bertelsmann joint venture GetMusic. And all that commerce can be conducted with help from Bertelsmann’s digital rights management unit, Digital World Services.

For the moment, though, books are on the Bertelsmann Valley back forty. Major hits in the US have targeted the music and magazine segments, as in the acquisition of CDNow for $117 million. Bertelsmann’s magazine and newspaper unit Gruner + Jahr, meanwhile, dumped its UK holdings last month to focus on targets in the US, including the acquisition of Inc. magazine for $200 million. G + J USA CEO Daniel Brewster is also said to be in hot pursuit of the Times Mirror magazine group, a prize that would put content from such titles as Field & Stream and Popular Science at Bertelsmann’s e-commerce disposal.

On the portal front, much ado was made in May over Bertelsmann’s participation in the Terra Lycos deal, in which Spain’s Terra Networks gobbled up the portal Lycos for $12.5 billion, with Bertelsmann planning to pitch in $1 billion in advertising over the next five years. But the deal’s rationale involves a broader strategy to combine Terra’s data lines with Lycos’s portals, and funnel Bertelsmann’s content over both of them to the 50 million people in 37 countries who visit the Terra and Lycos sites each day. In fact, thanks to strategic alliances with AOL, Terra Lycos, and other portals, Bertelsmann has direct access to 200 million customers, in addition to the 50 million people already in the Bertelsmann database, including its book clubs. And on that note, all Bertelsmann clubs have been folded under one “direct-to-customer” umbrella to consolidate cross-divisional networking. BookSpan, a joint venture with Time Warner’s Book-of-the-Month Club and Bertelsmann’s Doubleday Direct, has only heightened convergence in clubland, while company insiders suspect an imminent bid for Reader’s Digest. Then again, what media property hasn’t had a rumored Bertelsmann bid?

A spokesperson declined to discuss Bertelsmann’s publishing holdings. But the most recent figures show that those holdings derive close to 70% of their revenues in North America, while 34% of Bertelsmann’s total revenues in the last fiscal year were generated in the US. Accordingly, few were surprised when Bertelsmann made Random House ground zero for the company’s worldwide book business, with Peter Olson at the helm. And that just means more fun for Richard Sarnoff, president of Random House Ventures. Look for more deals à la Audible, which created the Random House Audible imprint to produce spoken word content for digital distribution, with titles sold on the web by (which has an exclusive deal with Amazon).

As the titans duke it out for e-market share, don’t forget Bertelsmann Ventures, a venture capital fund with offices in Santa Barbara, New York, and Hamburg, which recently closed a $250 million round of venture-ready capital. And Bertelsmann controls a venture capital fund for e-commerce companies via its e-Commerce Group. As Middelhoff told the European press, it’s “only the beginning.” That much, at least, is certain.

A View from the Bridge: Notes from the New-Media Database

As part of a continuing effort to chart the ripples of the industry’s sea change, PT has conducted an informal survey of more than 150 new-media companies that are staking claim to traditional publishing territory. We’ll have more to report from our research in the coming months, but first, here’s a brief snapshot of the seascape ahead.

While agents are morphing into digital rights managers almost as easily as editors become agents, editors themselves have thus far retained maximum job security. Over 50 online publishers exist (many focused on genre fiction, especially romance), but few other than Fatbrain have evolved significantly past the Cro-Magnon slush pile — due to their excruciating lack of editorial standards. Two new ventures, however, are targeting precisely this opportunity. TW Trade Publishing’s iPublish, which is scheduled to go online in January 2001, has been actively soliciting original material from both new and brand-name authors to sell on their own site and from major online retailers. With partners including Microsoft, Gemstar, Ingram, and, the iPublish program seems prepared for most distribution exigencies. The UK-based WritersRepublic, meanwhile, also promises to identify and promote new talent, distributing and exposing edited books in far less time than it would take to have them traditionally bound.

And on the subject of new talent, even those authors without the brand recognition of a Stephen King may soon have digital options, as sites such as and flirt with the idea of launching. These will act as portals to websites for individual authors, helping them market their books and, of course, themselves.

In the retailing world, print-on-demand is slowly infiltrating the market, as Sprout continues to partner aggressively with publishers, distributors, and an increasing number of booksellers. Watch for Lightning’s rollout in this space as well. And the long-anticipated has energized the already active independent bookselling community, even though its site has yet to fulfill a book order. More interesting has been the drama engulfing sleepy industries like textbook sales, which have been jolted by digital shock-troopers BigWords and VarsityBooks, only to have the latter switch gears and broaden its focus to the student services arena. This fall, watch out for, which will attempt a similar assault on the British textbook industry.

The ironic flip-side of the education space is that with the digital revolution, there’s no longer any reason to buy an entire book. Questia Media and are poised to launch subscription-based searchable research libraries online (Questia for individuals, ebrary for institutions). Similar services such as Themestream aid users who are drowning under the spillgates of online information, and summarizes business books, the upshot being that nobody has to actually read them.

Crash Course: The Ideal Radcliffe Student

This year’s 98 indefatigable Radcliffe Publishing Course graduates have done it again — succeeded in putting the rest of us to shame, that is. As in years past, we give you just a taste of publishing’s hyperachieving next generation in the composite biographical sketch below. All achievements have been taken from actual student biographies. Book, magazine, and electronic publishers interested in attending Radcliffe’s New York Career Day, on Tuesday, August 8, from 9:00 a.m. to noon at the Time Life Building, may call 617-495-8678 for more information.

Despite the thrills of Pentagon briefings, Ms. Student left her nascent career as a satellite television producer behind when she returned to run her own weekly radio show at the University of Alabama. During her busy senior year, she bartended full-time before graduating cum laude in pure mathematics and French literature, using the quiet moments of her pub shifts to look into how and why Cameroon has become divided along Francophone and Anglophone lines. The recipient of Harvard’s Sheldon Prize Fellowship, Ms. Student has spent this past year chronicling the millennial Catholic pilgrimage, leading her from Rome to Lourdes to Fátima, Portugal, and ultimately, 500 miles by foot to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. In addition to creating guidebooks for use on the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s tours to Europe and Mexico City, this karaoke star and aspiring guitarist cherishes fond memories of seeing Bill Gates tossed into a swimming pool at a summer intern party during her stint as an editor of the Microsoft Office Web site. Besides starring as the lead guitarist in three rock bands that played all over the Worcester area, Ms. Student has published feature articles in Spanish on Mickey Mouse and heavy metal music in El Mercurio newspaper in Valparaíso, Chile, all while flexing the journalistic muscles she formed working the late shift on the Washington Post sports desk. Since graduating, she has written strategy studies on global account management for the Advisory Board Company and on electronic government for KPMG Consulting, while freelancing for Previously, she earned her “ducktorial degree” and five-star service award as intern with Disney, but still found time to be selected one of Canada’s representatives to the United Nations’ World Summit for Entrepreneurs. In her summers, she has inoculated small children, constructed latrines, and performed teeth-brushing songs in Ecuador and Paraguay. Late into the night, this dedicated insomniac reminisces about that fateful day in London, when she made her friends insanely jealous by coming within seventeen steps of Prince William.

Loony for Laydowns

As live satellite feeds beamed Scholastic’s midnight Muggle-fest around the globe last month, the intricately choreographed release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was evidence of more than just the good fortune of Potter point-man Michael Jacobs. It was also proof that the one-day laydown — a luxury formerly reserved for embargoed bombshells and celebrity tell-alls — has become almost de rigueur for titles in all segments of the mediagenic book market.

How did the world get so loony for laydowns? Blame it all on Rick Hall, evp distribution and operations for Time Warner, who admits to creating a monster when the publisher launched Alexandra Ripley’s Scarlett in 1991 — the first ever one-day laydown. From there the beast evolved into a Frankenstein-ish creature goaded by (among other factors) agents’ demands for laydowns on every 3,000-copy novel. Then Random and especially Penguin Putnam stoked the one-day flames with on-sale dates for most everything. Penguin, in fact, has been rolling out laydowns for anything over a 100,000-copy first printing for the past five years, says Dick Heffernan, president of PP’s adult hardcover sales. They ship Thursday for a Monday on-sale date (though mass merchandisers hate this schedule and are likely to put books on sale early, he says). Warner, meanwhile, has now repented and refuses laydowns for first runs of less than 250,000 copies, up from 150,000 several years ago.

While the upside is obviously a kick for sales velocity and, particularly for returning authors, a higher debut on the bestseller list, laydowns can be tricky to execute. Wholesalers need extra time to ship to their accounts — AMS’s Kevan Lyon says the wholesaler stickers for all its warehouse club and mass merch retailers, but notes that compliance has been an issue. Clerks tend to jump the gun and rip open boxes without a thought to the on-sale date affidavits their superiors have dutifully signed, or else cartons languish under stockpiles of Teletubbies. Mass market outlets are rarely included in the one-day madness anyhow, because of the logistical problems, but others note that mass merch accounts have always had a de facto one-day laydown, since their books go on sale the same day every month. Then there’s the eternal question about who pays freight (Time Warner picks up all freight costs as long as they’re going to that much trouble, says Hall, but costs can be exorbitant when shipping a single title). And we all know about the Potter tempest over Amazon, sparked by the Internet retailer’s early ship date for FedEx arrival on HP-Day, a privilege that prompted endless recriminations from brick-and-mortar stores.

In any event, as Michael Wolff pointed out in a recent column, Harry’s one-day wonder was a marketing spectacle of a magnitude not seen in the book world for some time: “It’s movie marketing. Or it’s software marketing. Microsoft marketing, momentous-cultural-event marketing.” Indeed, while many agents insist that the benefits from laydowns are tangible, others are concerned that the on-sale date has become a marketing panacea for an attention-deficit culture.

Retailers, for their part, are by now resigned to the one-day rigmarole, and many even profess to like them. Bob Wietrak, vp merchandising for B&N, says approvingly that laydowns build in-store excitement and rile up readers with advance orders and other hoopla. Of course, the first printing has to be large enough to make it worthwhile, he notes. Laydowns typically only work for major authors, and would not affect midlist writers who rely on Cold Mountain–style word of mouth. On the other hand, a few booksellers said that all things considered, even well-orchestrated hype still looks a lot like hype. “Does it make for better bookselling?” asks A Clean Well Lighted Place’s Neal Sofman. “Frankly, I believe in selling the quality of the book, not the timing of the book.”

International Fiction Bestsellers

Crime and Punishment
King Bites the Bullet, Crime Pays in New Zealand, and Carvalho’s on the Case in Spain

In a somewhat bizarre development, Stephen King’s hotly downloaded e-novella Riding the Bullet has shot around the globe — in a bricks-and-mortar edition. Though hard-copy versions of the work were originally ruled out by the K-man, our sources say, a dire lobbying blitz on behalf of King’s foreign language publishers has resulted in its techno-retro release on paper for the international audience. Thus the Bullet rides up the Italian list, marking the book’s first foreign language appearance. In addition to Italy, contracts have been signed in France, Holland, Japan, and Germany, where the book is due out this month. We are positively assured that the translated editions will not, however, appear online. For those who are wondering, the literal translation of the title in Italy is Passage to Nowhere.

In the UK, Lee Child’s The Visitor is his fourth thriller involving maverick ex-military cop Jack Reacher, and deals with a serial killer whose modus operandi has forensics experts bamboozled — particularly when the body of Sergeant Lorraine Stanley sends the murder investigation into overdrive. The book has been a hit in Britain, Australia, and “especially New Zealand,” says editor Marianne Velmans, who refused to speculate about the Kiwis’ unnatural appetite for serial crime. Rights to the previous Reacher novels have been sold in 26 countries (and he’s also on the list this month with Killing Floor in Sweden). Child, incidentally, lives in New York. The new one has been sold to the Netherlands (Luitingh Sijthoff), Bulgaria (Obsidian), and the Czech Republic (BB Art), and just published in the US from Putnam as Running Blind. See agent Darley Anderson for rights.

Sweden’s Björn Hellberg is thankful that his eleventh crime mystery The Thanksgiving has stealthily made the list. The book continues the myriad adventures of hero Sten Wall, small-town Swedish crime inspector, who is doing his darnedest to live up to the high standards set by his counterparts in the thrillers of Henning Mankell, Liza Marklund, and other Swedish crime aficionados. See agent Bengt Nordin for rights. Mankell, by the way, is also on the list with The Son of the Wind, which is set in a remote trading station in 1850s-era Africa and follows a Swedish adventurer who “rescues” a bushman boy and brings him back to Swedish civilization. Unfortunately, a murder foils everyone’s plans for a tidy postcolonial encounter. The boy’s search for his identity is the emotional center of gravity for this grim tale, which critics say is rife with “dangerously charged accuracy.” Rights are handled by the Leonhardt & Höier agency in Copenhagen.

Colonial oppression is also on the table in South Africa this month, where Arthur Maimane’s novel Hate No More stakes out a place on the list. For reasons of censorship, we’re told, the book could not be published in South Africa in the sixties, when the story is set. It chronicles the moral complexities of life for an urban black man in Sophiatown, where protagonist Phillip Mokone’s rage against apartheid drives him to an act of violence in an all-white suburb. Author Maimane is a journalist who worked in London for a number of years and returned to South Africa in 1994. Elsewhere in South Africa, readers are donning The Jaguar Mask, a tale by Daniel Easterman about an archaeologist on a dig in the heart of the Mexican jungle, where a centuries-old Mayan city is unearthed. The story, we’re told, is a “vertiginous tale of snaring and netting, old rituals and modern codes, blood-letting and immortality.” You can’t beat that. See HarperCollins UK for rights.

Spain has welcomed back the award-winning Manuel Vázquez Montalbán and his hero Carvalho with the publication of The Man of My Life. Though not currently on the list, the book is set a few months before the end of the millennium, when detective Carvalho finds himself awash in an apocalyptic melange of love, sects, espionage, and death. Montalbán received the prestigious Grinzane-Cavour award this year for his contribution to world literature. Also in Spain, Juan Marsé’s Lizard’s Tongue licks the list with a “terrible yet tender” story that takes place in the years following the Spanish War and focuses on an adolescent boy and his milieu. See the Carmen Balcells agency for both titles. A final note on an off-beat work in Spain: Ana Rosa Quintana’s Taste of Bile explores the lives of women who suffer behind a facade of apparent respectability. The story centers on a glamorous couple whose seemingly perfect lives degenerate in a web of bilious obfuscations, and is apparently based on the real-life experiences of Quintana, who is a Spanish television personality and journalist. The work has sold 100,000 copies thus far, and rights are up for grabs from Planeta.

Italy is burbling about a nonfiction work that’s landed (go figure) on the fiction list: Strictly Confidential, written by one Geronimo, whom our source suggests is actually Bruno Cirino Pomicino, a former minister of financial affairs, who serves up plenty of dish about the last 30 years of Italian politics. The public is sufficiently aroused that they’ve powered the book through seven reprints and sales of 40,000 copies, although no foreign rights deals have yet been consummated. See Mondadori’s Emanuela Canali. And if you’re wondering whether Sandor Marai has ventured back from the grave for one more Campari and soda, well, he has. It turns out the family of the late Hungarian author struck a deal with Adelphi to handle world rights for the author’s entire oeuvre, and, lo and behold, The Performance at Bolzano becomes an Italian bestseller.

In the Netherlands, Kees van Kooten’s biographical work Annie is on the list, detailing the painful progression of the dementia afflicting the author’s mother. This “poignant, witty” account is said to be the last biographical work from the popular Netherlands TV host. Over 50,000 copies have been sold in only four weeks, and none of Van Kooten’s titles have been translated, according to De Bezige Bij, which controls rights. Also making the rounds in the Netherlands, Adam Armstrong’s The Cry of the Panther is said to be a love story set against the magnificent background of the rugged Scottish Highlands, and has been compared to The Horse Whisperer and The Loop. The book is on tap in the UK (Bantam), Germany (Bertelsmann), Italy (Rizzoli), Sweden (Bra Böcker), Finland (Otava), and Norway (Cappelens). See Stephanie Cabot at the William Morris Agency.

Triage for Kids’ List?

The announcement that the New York Times will start publishing a children’s bestseller list on July 23 has been met with the sort of jaded, industrywide cynicism that one would expect from such a move. Timed to coincide with the mega-release of Harry Potter 4 (aka Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as seen on eBay), the plan is a jumble of loose ends that is continuing proof to some that the Times ain’t what it used to be, and that this latest project is only hastening the decline in its importance to the book industry.

If the Times wanted to make room for adult bestsellers, said numerous industry observers, well so be it. But what about the lucrative juvenile publishing business which has been taken for granted for so long? Harry has broken so many rules since the publication of the first novel that this was almost to be expected.

Unfortunately, the Times is left with a hodge podge cobbled together from the same group of stores that already report the adult bestsellers. Harry Potter, the poky little puppy, a Disney board book movie tie-in, and even a Barney title could be cheek by jowl. Would Louis Sachar’s HOLES (which won awards for FSG and has sold over 360,000 copies since publication a year and a half ago) finally make the list? As Books of Wonder’s Peter Glassman opined, it will be a complete distortion of facts. By not using children’s-only booksellers, there is no way of knowing what authority is being appealed to.

Craig Virden, Random House children’s book president and publisher, says it’s like comparing apples and oranges, and throwing in bananas and grapes as well. As a measuring tool for bestsellers it fails miserably. Someone should have sat Joe Lelyveld down (it is reportedly entirely his project) and explained just how this very important piece of the book business works. At least a caveat should be issued to explain their sources.

And there will be star turns by Jamie Lee Curtis, Carly Simon, and Dr. Laura titles that just might hit the top of each list: who performs the triage when those authors prefer to be on the adult list? Doubleday is double-cataloguing Katie Couric’s children’s opus this fall — so we’ll see. When big orders are placed, the adult list will be presumed to affect sell through more effectively. And what happens to Dr. Seuss, Chris van Allsburg, David McCauley, and backlist as a category all its own?

Harry has undoubtedly raised the profile of juvenile publishing, most likely because it fits into the “crossover” shoe with ease. One hopes the NYT list will mean more review coverage on a weekly basis rather than the large editorial theme issues devoted several times a year to children’s books, which are not necessarily supported with advertising by major publishers, an ongoing lament. And maybe there will be a rate differential negotiated between adult and juvenile publishing — after all, most children’s books are not Harry, but in the long run will sell considerably more than adult titles. It should be noted that Barnes & Noble, which no longer promotes the NYT list in stores but continues to report sales to the Times, will report Harry 4 on the adult list. And word is that independents will rely even more strongly on their own homegrown BookSense bestseller lists under these circumstances. But check out that list for its own problems — it seems Harry has yet to find a sensible bestseller home.

Licensing 2000: Not the Way We Were?

Copious amounts of ink flowed in the pages of the trade press and the New York Times on the subject of the most recent Licensing Show, which took place June 13–15 at the Javits Center in New York. Unhappily for exhibitors, however, the lucrative patina around the likes of Eloise and Curious George could do little to lighten the gloomy countenances of those on the floor. Most licensing veterans chalked it up to a certain post-apocalyptic malaise, noting that the number of licensees who were burned by stunning failures appears to be growing exponentially — starting with Disney’s Hunchback, moving along to Godzilla, and culminating with Star Wars. And licensees will tell you that one major failure hurts everyone, particularly as the royalties exacted from them (viz. Star Wars, which topped out at 9%) move ever higher.

Such dire times found most licensors clamoring for the security of the classics, abetted by the brand-sustaining powers of cable television. Cable TV means that your favorite program from 25 years ago never dies — and neither does the possibility of licensing myriad products. Leave It to Beaver tote bags, anyone? In any case, nothing could be more tried and true than backlist publishing. Hence the numerous book properties on deck, including Babar, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Rainbow Fish, Miffy (Dick Bruna), C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, Franklin the Turtle, The Lord of the Rings (based on a live action movie this time, and opening against Harry Potter in the 2001 holiday season), Peter Rabbit, Maisy, Curious George, Dr. Seuss, Clifford, pat the bunny, and Harold and the Purple Crayon. And, as Viacom licensing maven Risa Kessler notes, a lot more non-classic oldies are returning — Strawberry Shortcake is 20 years old and in the midst of a mid-life revival, with plenty of licensing attached (Viacom and Cinar). While many of these properties are being licensed by third parties (Warner is licensing the Harry Potter merchandise, demanding — and getting — those outrageous royalties), Scholastic is handling the licensing for Clifford, and Golden is developing its own program for pat the bunny.

But Harry Potter is unquestionably the moment’s 1000-pound gorilla. When a property with this much hype and money behind it flops, it drags the whole industry down with it. Based on the findings of focus groups, some close to the property feel that the range of licenses proposed by Warner Bros. is too great (Hasbro is the master licensee), is inappropriate for this kind of property, and could sink the business. (It is difficult to conceive of an audience for Harry Potter action figures, but they will undoubtedly be marching into toy stores near you.)

Meanwhile, the fair was bristling with licensing-industry versions of and, though they were more ambitious, with a dash of thrown in for good measure. There was, which went live following its launch at Toy Fair, and is a subscription-based B2B with links to all the commerce and communication resources you’ll ever need — for a mere $5000 annually. Initial agreements have been signed with Mattel, Hasbro, Universal Studios, and Dreamworks, among others. Also boasting a presence at the fair was WHN (, which lets retailers shop for branded product, and allows potential licensees to purchase rights to make products based on those licensors’ brands. So far Coca Cola and the 2002 Olympics have signed up, at a cost of $1,000 per month, following a six-month trial period. (Both licensor and licensee pay the fee, but retailers log on for free.)

As glitzy as they were, such Internet initiatives failed to satisfy an e-commerce panel sponsored by LIMA (Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Association), where there was much comment on the likelihood that, if the US does not become more proactive, it will lag behind Europe in adopting PC-less technology. Panel member Nigel Huddleston, manager of the business consulting division of Arthur Andersen, told those assembled that his Mum, who lives in the UK, did her food shopping, made her travel arrangements, and did myriad other things all from home without benefit of a computer — via interactive TV. Others cited the phone as a successful tool for interactive commerce across Europe. Incidentally, the panel, billed as “E-Commerce: The Way We Are Is Not the Way We Were,” was chaired by John Barbour, whose amusingly self-deprecating manner was explained by the fact that he is CEO and President of — a notable e-commerce failure to which Barbour frequently alluded.

For a final irony, we’ll have to wait for next year’s show to see whether or not licenses for all those imported megahit TV programs, from Survivor (UK) to Big Brother (Holland) to Iron Chefs (Japan) — and let’s not forget Who Wants To Be a Millionaire (UK) — share the spotlight with the longer-lived and undeniably classier imports: Dick Bruna, Jean de Brunhoff, J.R.R. Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis, to name just a few.

Sidebar: By the Numbers

It’s comforting to see that meaningful licensing figures are almost as difficult to arrive at as are book publishing ones, though for different reasons. A June 12 New York Times Business Day article features a chart under the presumably ironic heading “Literary License,” showing publishing royalty revenues at $40 million for 1999. However, LIMA’s own figures, presented at BEA, put that figure at $30 million. In addition, the presentation notes that “some users of this survey would want to also arrive at an estimate of Retail Sales of Licensed Goods. Industry practices suggest that in order to obtain retail sales of licensed goods, a good multiplier is 20,” but their own presentation has Publishing Licensing Revenue in Retail Dollars at $5.25 billion. The Times uses The Licensing Letter’s more conservative $1.3 billion number, which is, according to publisher Ira Mayer, a consensus figure based on sales estimates by publishers, retailers, property owners, and agents. Moreover, says Mayer “their sample is biased toward the entertainment world.” It is complicated, he explains, to break out publishing revenues on properties that may begin as books, but go on to become television and movie megahits with independent licensing programs and with merchandise that is sometimes only peripherally related to the underlying property.

International Fiction Bestsellers

French Lessons
Napoleon’s Deluge in France, Coelho in Teheran, and Italy’s Wayward Professor

A fiendishly degenerate account of a dead academic leads off in France this month, as the pseudonymous author San Antonio (the late Frédéric Dard) tramples all cultural propriety in his delirious novel Napoléon Pommier. Here’s the pitch: The august Professor Titan Ma Gloire is found “more or less murdered” after he had subcontracted out his great tome on Napoleon. Shortly thereafter, a perverse cast of characters assembles on the scene, including women disguised as Josephine de Beauharnais, an army of gay mechanics, and a nymphomaniac female cop by the name of Marie Bizarre. Fortunately, gumshoe San Antonio is on the case, accompanied by faithful basset hound Salami, who happens to speak French. The book wreaks havoc with Napoleonic history, among other things, and as far as we can tell, the title refers to Napoleon IV and his taste for Calvados. Dard, who died at age 78 on June 6, wrote his first San Antonio book in 1949, and went on to publish over 150 detective novels in the series. Widely admired for his Rabelaisian ingenuity (his obituary noted that Dard used over 200 different words for the male sexual anatomy), Dard was praised by President Jacques Chirac as one of the “magicians” of the French language.

Elsewhere in France, The Education of a Fairy is Goncourt-winning Didier van Cauwelaert’s novel about a chap who falls in love with a young woman he meets on a plane, and proceeds to settle in with her and her young son. Unfortunately, his new wife up and leaves him, but peace and love are restored after the unlikely intervention of a Baghdad-born supermarket cashier and a liberal dose of fairy dust. Van Cauwelaert won the Goncourt in 1994 for The Easy Way, which sold a million copies. Though not currently on the list, the new book is said to have made a strong showing in France (“It goes down like candy and it’ll make a great movie,” according to one reviewer). See Albin Michel for rights.

Meanwhile, Spain has embarked upon a journey to The Corners of the Air, said to be a disquieting blend of fiction and biography built around the life of the Barcelona-born Ana Maria Martinez Sagi, who passed away last year. A poet, journalist, and elite athlete, Martinez Sagi was a national javelin champion and a pioneering feminist who co-founded the Womens’ Sports Club, the first popular feminist organization of its kind in Spain. The book circles around Martinez Sagi’s reputed homosexuality, and even casts doubt on the reality of her existence. Author Juan Manuel de Prada, said to be “a brilliant and subtle writer in the early stages of his career,” has published two books of short stories and three novels, the last of which, Tempest, was published in the UK by Sceptre (he has never been published in the US). Foreign rights have gone to France (Seuil), Italy (Ediziones E-O), and Germany (Klett-Cotta); see agent Mònica Martin of MB Agencia Literaria.

This just in from Tehran: Following Paulo Coelho’s recent visit to Iran, we’re told the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has declared Caravan Books Coelho’s official publisher in that nation, thereby putting an end to a frenzied trade in pirated editions of the author’s work. Millions of Coelho’s books have apparently been sold in Iran, but because the country did not sign the International Copyright Agreement, no “official” edition had been published there. (Our HarperCollins source assures us, however, that rights to Coelho’s work can indeed be licensed to Iran.) For what it’s worth, Coelho is said to be the first non-Muslim writer to have officially visited Iran since 1979, due to President Mohammad Kathami’s efforts toward cultural exchange in this country of 71 million people.

In Italy, Vanilla & Chocolate is the 14th novel from bestselling Italian author Sveva Casati Modignani. The book concerns Penelope and Andrea, perfect opposites who once enjoyed matrimonial bliss. That perfect swirl of gelato, however, has soured considerably after 18 years of marriage, and Penelope leaves husband Andrea for a much-needed breather. All is reconciled when the pair reaffirm their vows over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (or something like that). Modignani has been published in Germany, France, Poland, Portugal, Russia, among other lands. See Stefania De Pasquale at Sperling & Kupfer for rights.

On a less conciliatory note in Italy, Luciano de Crescenzo’s The Distraction finds the bestselling author returning to philosophical grounds, with a decidedly non-Platonic twist. The 70-year-old hero, Professor Bellavista, prattles about philosophy to a group of teenagers. During his disquisitions on the likes of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Popper, however, the maestro takes a shine to young pupil Jessika, and a “short but dangerous” physical relationship ensues. De Crescenzo’s recent works include The Odyssey, which sold more than 200,000 copies in hardcover, with rights sold to Germany, Spain, Japan, and Korea. Thus far, rights to the new one have gone to Bertelsmann in Germany, amid much interest from abroad. See Chiara Ferrari at Grandi & Associati.

Cornelis Vreeswijk’s Writings clocks in at #3 in Sweden, with an eclectic assemblage of song lyrics, short stories, and poetry from one of Sweden’s most beloved singer/songwriters. Born in Holland in 1937, Vreeswijk moved to Sweden at age 14 and eventually became a sort of Dylan of the North. The book, edited by acclaimed Norwegian poet Jan Erik Vold, focuses on Vreeswijk as a writer and not necessarily a singer, and includes Vreeswijk’s interpretations of e.e. cummings, Victor Jara, and The Beatles, among others. Our source at Ordfront notes that the author sang the stories of “all kinds of people — prostitutes, alcoholics, politicians, and the women he loved.” Er, right. See Ordfront’s Elin Sennero.

Finally, The Happy Housewife has been cheering most of Holland this month. Written by magazine journalist Heleen van Royen, the book is said to be “an irreverently comic yet highly moving debut novel” about a blithe young woman’s nervous breakdown after the birth of her first child. The happiness part comes during her trip back to sanity. Rights have been sold to Germany (Rowohlt, on a six-figure advance pre-empt at the 2000 LBF), the UK (Virago), France (Albin Michel), Sweden (Wahlström & Widstrand), and Norway (Gyldendal Norsk, in a three-way auction that resulted in a five-figure advance). Submissions to US publishers are expected in Fall 2000 from Linda Michaels.

Fact Attack

A Quick Reference Fix for Publishers

As we were trying to find hard data on the subject of reading groups recently, we realized once again how little useful, accurate, or relevant information there is on book publishing. So we asked a few people who are in the knowledge business — reference librarians, consultants, packagers, etc. — and came up with a short list (not to be confused with an exhaustive compilation). The next time someone asks you to estimate the market share of “x” or the number of people who read “y,” check these out:

The Book Industry Study Group’s website provides useful links to resources, including sites and publications about publishing and related media fields. Click the “Industry Resources” link on the organization’s home page ( BISG members receive the annual Book Industry Trends, with the most recent statistics, analysis, and forecasts of book sales. The 1999 Consumer Research Study on Book Purchasing, which looks at book buying by market, subject category, and consumer motivation, is also available free to corporate members.

The Annual Library and Book Trade Almanac 2000 reports book industry statistics, including title output and price arranged by 23 subject categories, with the number of new titles and new editions produced in the past three years. Library statistics include the number and types of libraries in the United States and Canada, book budgets for all libraries in a state, and separate budgets for public, academic, and special libraries. The volume lists organizations, individuals, and conference dates. The almanac is available for $185 through Bowker.

The Library of Congress ( hosts a compilation of book-related resources under the Center for the Book ( There is also a Researchers’ information number, for quick questions: 202 707-6500.

The New York Public Library ( offers several types of research assistance. You can email [email protected] with questions, or call 212 340-0849 from 10 am – 3 pm for answers on questions of grammar, spelling, or for quick fact checking. NYPL has another service, NYPL Express (, where six librarians will do research for a fee of $75/hour, and $15 per item for document delivery (or 25¢ per page for print-outs). Nancy Krumholtz, the director of NYPL Express, says most of the service’s clients are businesses — lawyers, Wall Street firms, consultants, and the media. In the last year they have fielded queries from all 50 states and 37 countries. Email them at [email protected], or call 212 592-7200.

The Hanson Guide to Publishers lists 20,000 US and Canadian publishers, including smaller ones not mentioned in LMP. It offers information on their principal markets, discount structures, etc., and comes with an interactive CD-ROM. One of the most useful features is an index of publishers’ imprints. The cost is $310. The Hanson site (, now defunct) has 50 directories on a variety of businesses worldwide.

Besides publishing Book Publishing Report, Simba publishes Trade Book Publishing 2000, which breaks down sales by publisher (mostly the majors), 15 subject categories, and distribution channels. It is heavily weighted toward traditional retail outlets. The price is a hefty $1495.