International Fiction Bestsellers

Damsels In Distress
Calmel in Aquitaine, Hermann Does Damascus, And Norway’s Queen of Crime

Druids, troubadours, wenches, and the golden-haired, green-eyed Duchess of Aquitaine make for a rambunctious menagerie who all wind up in Eleanor’s Bed, a first novel that’s had ladies-in-waiting sighing all over France. This medieval coming-of-age story from Mireille Calmel unfolds in Poitiers in 1137, as young Eleanor of Aquitaine strikes up a fast friendship with her fetching new lady-in-waiting, Loanna. Unbeknownst to Eleanor, however, doe-eyed Loanna descends from a line of druids — sired by Merlin, no less — and has a few alchemical tricks of her own buried in that plunging bodice. A dizzying decade of intrigue, passion, and Crusades ends in the triumphal marriage of Eleanor to Henry, destined to be King of England. The 38-year-old Calmel, who hails from Aquitaine herself, ransacked the historical record for her portrait of fabled Eleanor (the book was five years in the making), and seems to have Merlin on her side: she was stricken with a mysterious, leukemia-like illness and pronounced hopeless at the age of eight, but fully recovered 15 years later, conquering her affliction by “living in the world of books.” The novel has been sold far and wide in Germany, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Poland, among other territories, but we’re told no deals have been made in the US or UK. See Valerie-Anne Giscard d’Estaing at XO Editions.

Meanwhile, marital discord strikes in Denmark, where Bjarne Reuter’s novel The Barolo Quartet details the jarring matrimony of thirtysomething journalist Anne and acclaimed concert pianist David. The tempo takes a sharp swerve when debonair globe-trotter Lau comes on the scene (he drops by to fix Anne’s flat tire one day), and it soon becomes clear that hubby David’s headed for a little “accident” involving a long flight of stairs. Marital musicologists take note: as Anne tells her new beau, “I get all my things back after a divorce, which means a picnic hamper, a watercolor from Hué, and Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Stan Getz.” Author Reuter is a prolific Danish literary star who has written more than 40 books, many of them for teens. Rights to the latest have been sold only to Germany (Heyne). Get yours today from Esthi Kunz at Gyldendal.

Also in Denmark, Where the Moon Lies Down by Iselin C. Hermann is a novel “of the modern Middle East stretched out between the past and the present.” Samia, an American journalist, drops boyfriend Isaac and ships out to Syria, where she was conceived while her father was stationed there as a diplomat. Before long a triangular game of fate is engaged, with the narrative passed on like a baton among the main characters, including a famous Arab Sufic musician named Jameel, for whom Samia soon has the hots. Hermann’s first novel, Priority, was considered “one of the most successful first novels in Danish literature ever,” and became an international hit published in 14 countries (including a Grove edition in the US). That one chronicled “the sensuous, poetic journey of two lovers who have never met, but are on an inevitable collision course with destiny.” Some 3,800 copies of the new one are in print, and all rights are available from Ingelise Korsholm at Rosinante Publishers.

Sweden’s insatiable thirst for mayhem has been temporarily slaked with Karin Alvtegen’s latest crime novel, Missing. Police tracking a string of horrific murders carried out by a bloodthirsty, possibly cannibalistic maniac turn up prime suspect Sibylla: a beautiful and witty young woman persecuted by the media and sent into a slough of despond as a wrongfully accused pariah. How she manages to outrun the cops and collar the killer is a “truly cunning medico-legal puzzle,” with a bonus subplot about the world of homelessness and the Swedish welfare state. Dubbed the Nordic “Queen of Crime Writing,” Alvtegen is set to be published in France (Plon), Italy (Rizzoli), and Spain (Mondadori), among other nations, and the author will be published in English for the first time by Canongate in 2003. Alvtegen’s great aunt, incidentally, was the late Swedish children’s author Astrid Lindgren. See Niclas Salomonsson at the Salomonsson Agency for rights.

In the Netherlands, a “compelling road novel” about one man’s travels on the seamy side of the street has been hooking readers, though it’s just below the top ten this month. Six Stars opens with Uncle Siem and faithful nephew Justus, who run a magazine about hotels in Holland. In their exploits among the nation’s hostelries, however, Siem turns into a rampant adulterer, veering from boutique bedrooms to roadside brothels and eventually turning up dead in his apartment. Alas, the good nephew’s frantic efforts to keep up appearances soon go awry. Author Joost Zwagerman has published 14 books, with several selling in excess of 100,000 copies, and critics call his work “extremely smart and well put.” About 30,000 copies of the new one have been sold, with a deal on tap in Germany. See Laura Susijn at the Susijn Agency for rights.

Further to Katarzyna Grochola’s ruthless siege of the Polish list (see PT, 3/02), we’re told her latest, Heart in a Sling, has just been published as the second salvo in the hugely popular Frogs and Angels series. The first volume, Never Again!, has now sold 100,000 copies (with rights sold to ATS in Russia, Heyne in Germany, and the Bertelsmann club in Poland), while Heart in a Sling is up to 75,000 and counting. That book extends the author’s “landscape of femininity” as inhabited by journalist-heroine Judyta, who must grapple with a topsy-turvy love life and fend off her daughter’s teenage tantrums, all while battling workaday anomie. Critics cited the first volume’s “vibrant colloquial language” and deemed it “chatty in the feminine fashion, yet not overly talkative.” (A third Grochola title on the list recently, Application for Love, is a collection of the author’s stories written for women’s magazines.) See Wojtek Wodz at WAB for rights.

And a final note from Spain, where two enigmatic love stories intertwine for the “exceptional and irresistible” title The Daydreamer by Gustavo Martín Garzo. On one hand, a young architect in Barcelona dumps his babe for his blueprints, leaving the jilted lover adrift, while on the other, the beautiful Adela is plunged into tragedy in a Castilian town in the 1930s. The hyper-literate Garzo won the Nadal Prize in 1999 for The History of Marta and Fernando, and has been praised for his “personal style, extreme sensitivity, and devotion to the world of letters.” English-language rights to the new one are open from Carmen Pinilla at the Balcells agency.

Dial-A-Rep

As Field Sales Forces Retreat, Will Telereps Take Up the Slack?

Opened nearly a quarter-century ago, Auntie’s Bookstore is a solid fixture on the corner of Main and Washington Streets in downtown Spokane, Washington, a bustling burg of almost 200,000 that boasts the largest book-buying population between Seattle and Minneapolis. Judging by the number of publisher sales reps spotted in recent years, however, Auntie’s may as well be in midtown Siberia. “We’re out in the middle of close to nowhere,” owner Chris O’Harra says. “We even have commission reps now who don’t come out. You know things are seriously changing in the business.” It’s a sign of the times, then, that on a recent morning head buyer Julie Smith logged nearly three hours on the phone with Publishers Group West, working through the list of new titles after the store’s regular PGW rep was reassigned. “We really have a lot of trouble now with the mid-size companies like Abrams who just kind of vanish,” O’Harra explains. “They used to be with a commission rep, but we don’t see anybody now.”

And when publishing’s foot-soldiers fall off the map, phone reps like those at PGW are left holding the line between a book order and oblivion. “Telephone sales,” as O’Harra says, “is better than nothing.” Call them what you will — telemarketers, inside sales teams, telereps, or robo-reps — for reasons of economy and efficiency, phone reps are shouldering a growing range of the repping burden, handling initial sales and reorders for many accounts, tag-teaming with field reps to cover author events and co-op snafus, and even cold-calling new stores to drum up business. While telereps still account for a small proportion of revenue — estimates range from 1% to 10% of a given publisher’s sales — it’s clear that speed-dialers are pushing out mud-spattered Subarus as the weapon of choice for book publishers, both for better and for worse.

Left Off the Hook?

Strapped for time themselves, many booksellers say they’d take a well-trained telerep over a strung-out sales visit any day. “For my schedule, it really works best to do this by phone, rather than in-person,” says Luanne Ripley Kreutzer of St. Helens Book Shop in Oregon. As the store’s owner-buyer, Kreutzer doesn’t have much leisure time for shop visits, not that many reps would show up if she did. Since the store is so far off the map she only sees one major house rep each season — “Field reps from the major houses have always been scarce in the ten years that I’ve been doing business,” she notes — the telereps take care of everything from counselling Kreutzer “oh-so-subtly” on what to buy, to “just being the one to help me navigate through co-op.” Sometimes, however, the line goes cold. “When your rep changes, you often don’t know it,” Kreutzer says, the upshot being that her orders have gotten delayed or dropped altogether. And with certain publishers, the line seems to be permanently off the hook. “I have asked for a telephone rep for at least three years from a major house, and have yet to be assigned one,” she says. “As a result, they’ve lost their sales to me.”

It’s not just out-of-the-way accounts that are getting the telerep treatment. “I used to get visited by almost every major publisher,” says Joi Afzal, co-owner of the Hue-Man Experience bookstore in Denver. “All of that has really started to diminish over the last year.” Now the only rep she sees is from Time Warner and maybe one or two other stragglers who turn up on her stoop. Nonetheless, working with Random House and HarperCollins telereps has been pretty smooth sailing. “In essence it’s the same thing,” she says. “I get the attention I would from the field sales rep.” Meanwhile, Fern Jaffe, owner of Paperbacks Plus in the Bronx, raves about her Random telerep, who has visited the store — booksellers say visits can be the major factor in a telerep’s success — and is “as good if not better than most field reps,” says Jaffe. But a telerep handling the mass market line for Simon & Schuster was quite another story. “He was a young snippy kid who was telling me, having never seen my store, what I should be buying,” Jaffe says. “After 32 years, I know how many copies of Star Wars I need. I took myself off telemarketing.”

In no mood for busy signals, buyers at the heavy-hitting independents are digging in their heels. Paul Yamazaki at City Lights, for example, says that telereps haven’t yet come ringing, and rues the day they do. “We still see the field reps and commission reps,” he says with evident relief. “I can’t imagine replacing them with phone reps, given the long-term relationships we’ve built out here.” Ditto for Kathi Kirby, Purchasing and Publisher Relations Manager at Powell’s Books in Portland, OR. “I’m assuming that phone reps loom in our future, but it hasn’t happened yet,” she says. “We don’t deal with phone reps at all. Not even in tandem. If that were to happen we’d have to really evaluate how we buy our books.” In a first step down that road, however, mid-size publishers have dumped commission reps based in the Northwest and switched to house reps who may as well be from planet Xenon. “The new house reps cover too much territory, don’t know us, and don’t care too much,” she says. Harvard, MIT, and Yale ditched a local group and went with a rep in Detroit. And service has sunk. “He’s a nice guy that we see for 20 minutes twice a year,” Kirby says. “I’m not saying we have to do business the way it’s been done for ages. But it has to be more than twice a year. It has to involve a real partnership.”

Penguin Comes Calling

That’s just the way publishers like to talk about their telesales programs. “We visualize this as a business partnership, and that is exactly how we work,” says Eleanor Jones, Corporate Director of Inside Sales for Penguin Putnam. Over 18 years the telephone sales department has more than tripled from six to its current staff of 22. Based at Penguin’s Kirkwood, NY distribution center, the tele-force mirrors field rep divisions, with the phone group split into four adult hardcover reps, four trade paperback reps, and six children’s reps. Each phone rep is teamed with two or three of the company’s 50 field reps, with the field force tackling larger accounts, and the phone force backing them up and also tending smaller or left-field accounts. The phone reps also attend sales conferences, and are encouraged to visit accounts that are within a day’s driving distance from their home base. “Part of our job is also to prospect for new business,” Jones says. “We do some cold calling as time allows. We grow and develop the smaller accounts.” The group also places a premium on familiarity with the stores. Jones recalls working as a phone rep with Doug Whiteman (now president of Penguin’s children’s division), who as a field rep in Colorado would call in almost daily, describing in novelistic detail the demographics of various towns so that Jones would have some clue how to pitch booksellers. Overall, Penguin strives for what Katya Olmsted, Director of Field Sales for Penguin’s adult hardcover group, calls “a tremendous camaraderie between our field reps and our inside force. I don’t let the field reps dump the bureaucratic work on them,” she adds. Though phone reps are paid sales commissions, they are compensated in a way that downplays competition: “We incentivize, but we look at the whole business.”

A similar logic guides Random House’s phone unit, which is based at its Westminster, MD distribution center. “Telemarketers are at the forefront of our integrated sales effort for frontlist and backlist titles,” says a Random spokesman. More than 15 full-time reps are divided by specialty and geography, so that in addition to regional responsibilities, telereps focus on areas such as African American, women’s fiction, or gay/lesbian titles. Moreover, telereps sell titles across the entire corporate spectrum, a range no other Random sales force spans. They too prospect for new accounts, and now attend regional trade shows in addition to sales conferences. One Random source estimates that telereps account for 10% of the field sales by dollar value.

For publishers without their own telereps, distributors such as CDS have developed a hybrid phone/field approach, says VP Sales Stanley Cohen. To get independent stores revved up about Robert James Waller’s A Thousand Country Roads, for example, CDS partnered with the ABA’s Book Sense program to have a San Francisco–based rep phone all 1,200 or so Book Sense accounts. (Orders for the Madison County epilogue were up to some 350,000 copies.) Normally, all of the distributor’s reps play both phone and field roles, following catalog mailings up with a phone call or visit. Other options include the independent firm Phone Books, based in White Plains, NY, which has 10,000 stores in its database (searchable in categories such as children’s or specialty stores) and can deploy as many as 10 phones for a major campaign, according to Marketing Manager Ted Valand. Most reps come from retail bookstores, and they typically hold mini–sales conferences (one Phone Books rep visits a publisher sales conference, and then reports back). Orders are faxed in the same day. The company handles contingencies, too. If a publisher rep has already blown through, say, Detroit when an author drops by, “they’ll ask us to call all the bookstores in Detroit and let them know that the author’s going to be there,” Valand says.

Back in Spokane, O’Harra from Auntie’s Bookstore has a suggestion she’d like to make: Pshaw with the phones. “I’m waiting for the time when they just send us videos,” she says. “You could watch a video of the rep, and if you weren’t interested in the book, you could just fast-forward.”

Budapest in Blossom

The 9th International Budapest Book Festival was bursting at the seams this year, with 600 publishers jammed into the Budapest Convention Centre from April 18-21. As some 60,000 visitors browsed 40,000 books on display, it’s no wonder that the punchy fair organizers — those being the Hungarian Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association in partnership with the Frankfurt Book Fair — were already said to be scouting a larger venue for next year. If Hungarian President Ferenc Madl has his way, anyway, the fair should keep blooming. Madl used the fair’s opening to tout Hungary’s bid for European Union status, proudly noting “the recent successes of Hungarian literature abroad” and adding that Hungary “can thus enter the new Europe of nations as a language community” whose written word can stand on its own. (Hungary is one of 10 nations from the former Soviet bloc expected to gain EU status in 2004.)

Also abloom at the fair was the European First Novel Festival, which aims to offer young European literary talents a regular venue to introduce their works (and, of course, get a shot at new translations and publications). This year the invited first novelists included 18-year-old French writer Anne-Sophie Brasme, whose Breathe tells of a perverse complicity between two teenage girls. Another debut novelist was Annette Pehnt, a 35-year-old writer based in Freiburg, whose I Must Be Off is said to paint “an urban picture of marginalized individuals” in three-page chapters (it’s been compared with Madeleine St. John’s The Essence of Things). And the UK’s Rajeev Balasubramanyam was a pick for his work In Beautiful Disguises (it’s published in the US by Bloomsbury USA).

Though Hungary is a limited market (initial print runs are around 3,000 copies, and retail prices are much behind the western standard), the German presence was noticeably stronger this year, as was that of Italy, which, as the fest’s invited country, showcased major houses Feltrinelli, Einaudi, Mondadori, and others, plus authors such as Cesare Garboli, Claudio Magris, and Gabriella d’Ina. Many other nations offered new titles, mainly for co-printing, and more foreign agents were also seen working the stands this year. Since appointments are typically made during the festival, you can decide at the last minute to visit Budapest, and still do plenty of wheeling and dealing.

We thank Judit Hermann, Director of Andrew Nurnberg Associates in Budapest, for her contribution to this report.

Book View, May 2002

PEOPLE


Paul Gottlieb
has been named Executive Director of the Aperture Foundation. He leaves Abrams after 22 years, during which time he held the titles of Publisher, President, CEO, and most recently, Company Director and Vice Chairman of the La Martiniere Groupe. He begins August 1.

Brigitte Weeks is leaving Guideposts to become Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Bookspan’s Crossings and Black Expressions book clubs. She has been at Guideposts since 1994, and was previously at Book-of-the-Month Club, before it merged with the Doubleday Clubs. Weeks replaces Michele Rapkin, who is moving to Doubleday to become Editor-in-Chief of its religious imprints. She, in turn, is succeeding Eric Major, who is retiring to England this summer.

Linda Pennell has resigned from Random House, where she has been Director of Subsidiary Rights, effective the end of May. At that time, she may be reached via email (lpennell51@ aol.com) or at (914) 238-1608. . . Anita Diggs has left Ballantine where she was Senior Editor in charge of One World. She had moved from Warner, when she was in publicity, two years earlier. She may be reached at (212) 531-1973, or at [email protected]. . . Picador Associate Publisher Melanie Fleishman is leaving the company and may be reached at [email protected]. . . As announced elsewhere, Kris Kliemann has left Fodor’s and Alison Gross has been named Publisher. Kliemann may be reached at [email protected].

Amy Metsch, formerly of Questia, started at Random Audio as Senior Acquisitions Editor, reporting to Robert Allen (who, in turn, reports to Jenny Frost). . . Amy Gurney has joined Cowan, Liebowitz & Latman as of counsel. She has represented Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Jackson, and Jose Carreras, as well as Dreamworks SKG, Miramax Films, New Line Cinema and WalMart.

In children’s publishing: Houghton Mifflin has appointed Andrea Davis Pinkney as VP and Publisher of Houghton Mifflin’s juvenile books. She was Editoral Director of Hyperion Books for Children at Disney. . . Bernette Ford is leaving Scholastic, where she was the founder and VP/Editorial Director of Cartwheel Books for over twelve years. She will be an independent packager of children’s books, working on multicultural titles as well as books for the very young. After Memorial Day, she can be reached at her home office: (718) 434-3677 or [email protected]. In other Scholastic news, Kate Nunn has been named Editor-in-Chief of the Children’s Press and Franklin Watts imprints. She was previously editorial director of Benchmark Books, an imprint of Marshall Cavendish. . . Joyce Stein has been named marketing Communications Manager at Innovative Kids USA, a publisher of educational/ interactive books. She was most recently Marketing Director at LKC (Larousse Kingfisher Chambers). . . Meanwhile, word is that Bertelsmann/Berryville, the US printer of record for the Harry Potter books, is planning to commit 50% more capacity to producing the next Harry Potter for Scholastic.

The lure of the book: Earlier in April Rob Weisbach went to S&S as an Editor-at-Large, after a hiatus of several years. Now Marion Maneker is leaving New York Magazine to become Editorial Director of HarperBusiness and an Executive Editor of HarperCollins trade. When asked about his prospective list, he emailed PT that “the future of the imprint is to broaden the idea of what a business book can be to include reportage, histories, memoirs, and books that make a provocative argument about the economic context that surrounds our social lives, and eventually anything of interest to millions of people who subscribe to the Wall Street Journal.”

As reported earlier, Penguin president David Wan will leave his current job to become president and CEO of Harvard Business School Press. He replaces Linda Doyle, who will join the school’s faculty. Meanwhile, Harvard Business Review Editor Suzy Wetlaufer has resigned.

Tricia Conley has joined Viking as Managing Editor. She was most recently Director of Communications at the Tilton School in NH, but had been at Penguin Putnam from 1995-1999. Tory Klose has been promoted to Executive Managing Editor at Viking. She has been at Viking since November 1997, and before that she was the President of K&N Bookworks, a small book packaging company.

DULY NOTED


According to Broadway’s Charlie Conrad, it all started with The Big Con. He and B’way Publisher Gerry Howard were discussing Howard’s republishing of the classic book by David Maurer, and Conrad happened to mention his favorite con man book, Catch Me If You Can. Looking for a copy to give Howard, Conrad discovered that it was OP. On to the web, and before long he had located the author, Frank Abagnale, and had contracted with him to reissue the book for a “reasonable” sum. Oh yes, Abagnale did mention that Dreamworks had recently optioned it, but this was one of many options that had been negotiated since its publication in 1980. Published by Broadway in August 2000, the reissue has sold almost 80,000 copies so far in its latest edition. And the movie, starring Tom Hanks, Leonardo Di Caprio, and Christopher Walken, and directed by Steven Spielberg (Abagnale has a cameo as a pilot), is scheduled for a Christmas Day release. It is currently filming in the New York area.

President and Publisher Peter Mayer announced that Overlook Press has acquired Ardis Publishers, “the leading publisher of Russian literature in the English-speaking world.” The company, with a backlist of about 300 books, was acquired from cofounder Ellendea Proffer Teasley, widow of the founder Carl Proffer. Go to www.ardisbooks.com.

Book Tech Magazine’s April issue highlights Dover Publications, which is now a part of Courier, its printer for the past 30-plus years. The publisher employs more than 180 people and has approximately 8,000 titles in print, 75 percent of them paperbacks. Over 2,000 titles are reprinted every year, in addition to 500 new titles. Book Tech mentions that Courier has significantly upgraded Dover’s technology: it has moved to computer-to-plate and operates on a digital workflow. It can produce runs as low as 1,000 but maintains efficiencies by printing multiple titles of books that have the same paper and trim size. What has not changed, though, is Dover’s nonreturnable policy — the reason, says Dover’s president Clarence Strowbridge, that its prices still run as low as a buck a book.

The early birds who have signed up for Publishing Services Network’s new F.A.S.T. service (Fair Appointments Service Team) include (according to a principal) “a US literary agent, a UK book packager, a German editorial bureau, a UK picture library and a US comic book publisher. It’s a simple and inexpensive flat fee solution to the worry of filling your diaries with profitable meetings at the world’s major book fairs: BEA, Frankfurt, Bologna and London.” Contact Jim Sutton at (301) 371-7603 or go to Booth #2822 at Javits to meet Jim and his colleagues Gwyn Headley and Alan Greene.

PARTIES


PEN held its annual Gala on April 24 at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. Among those in attendance were Lauren Bacall, Jessye Norman, Ron Howard, Dan Rather, David Byrne, Joe Klein, Sylvia Nasar, David Remnick, George Plimpton, Amy Tan, and most of the industry machers. The benefit evening was co-chaired by Larry Kirshbaum, Toni Goodale (who also served as Master of Ceremonies), and Susan Lyne.

At Carole Baron’s party for first novelist Hari Kunzru’s well-reviewed The Impressionist, on hand were B&N and B&N.com’s Jill Lamar and Brenda Marsh, BOMC’s Victoria Skurnick, BookSense’s Carl Lennertz, and new Pearson Chairman and CEO, John Makinson (formerly CFO) along with his UK and US agents and UK publisher, Simon Prosser of Hamish Hamilton.

• Lynn Goldberg hosted the event celebrating the reissue of James McCourt’s Mawrdew Czgowchwz by NY Review of Books. On hand were publisher Rea Hederman, agent Elaine Markson, press in the persons of Sarah Nelson, Celia McGee, and Marion Maneker (then at NY Magazine) and friends Joel Grey and John Waters.

Party animal Peter Mayer fêted the publication of UK writer Geoff Nicholson’s ninth novel, Bedlam Burning, at his wife Inez Bon’s restaurant, NL.

Sealing Up Digital Rights

Now that a flock of formerly high-flying technology vendors has gone down in flames (Reciprocal and Digital Goods: remember them?), it may seem odd that a 50-person business based in London should be winging toward the publishing sector. But that’s just what SealedMedia is doing, having scored $16.5 million in a third round of funding last fall to plunge into that black hole called digital rights management. As Martin Lambert, SealedMedia’s founder and CTO, made clear in a recent conversation, part of the firm’s current success may lie in an unsentimental view of where digital rights are heading. If anyone needs any hints: it’s not just toward ebooks anymore.

“I don’t think it’s very good news for the electronic version of trade books at the moment,” he says, “because it’s a high-volume, low-value market, and the technologies applied in this space are extraordinarily immature.” So much, perhaps, is obvious. But Lambert thinks the first generation of consumer ebooks took a giant step backwards, because of rights technology that locked a book to a particular computer. You could only access your ebook at work or at home (or on a dedicated device that you lugged with you), but not in both places. SealedMedia’s solution, which they’ve been developing since 1996, gets around this problem by storing user rights on a central server, meaning you can open a locked file from anywhere, as long as you have the password. (Password-swapping is discouraged, because you can’t read a file in more than one place at one time.) This technology can also protect a whole range of file types, including Adobe PDFs, HTML documents, and the whole suite of Microsoft Office formats, including PowerPoint presentations, plus audio and video files. All users need to do is download a small “unsealer” program to their computer, and they’re ready to roll. Support for mobile devices is coming soon.

Among the company’s 40 customers is Cavendish Publishing, a legal publisher in the UK which was losing sales when students couldn’t reliably find its expensive law textbooks stocked at stores. With electronic rights already covered in all its author contracts, the publisher rolled out 400 backlist ebook titles (and the first electronic customer turned out to be in Portugal). Ebooks are priced at up to 50% off the hardcover edition, and individual chapters are offered for sale. Purchasing a full license allows unlimited viewing and one-time printing, as well as access from any computer, and offline use for a specified length of time.

Other customers include Time Warner’s ipicturebooks.com, which is offering a Shrek “enhanced animated storybook”; Harcourt, which is enabling downloads of electronic reprints through aggregator sites; Pearson Education, which is making York Notes study guides available online; and Congressional Quarterly, which has launched e-delivery of its daily digest (and upped revenues by over $200,000). Now, Lambert says, he’s aiming to sign up the McGraw-Hills and Reeds of the world, which can offer DRM for trade applications. “At the end of the day, if you put yourself in the shoes of a consumer, you have zero interest in DRM,” he says. “All you want is the content at a fair price. More accurately, you can already get the content at a fair price: you can buy a printed book. Ebooks will only work when someone says, this is miles better than the printed book.”

Spring Sales

The drumbeat of optimism was heard on the floor of the London Book Fair, and it is echoing in the corridors of New York publishers, as well: Sales, it appears, are improving. The AAP came out with stats that chart a “meager” growth rate in 2001 of 0.1% overall, with trade sales actually dropping 2.6%. But 2002 has started with a nice bump in sales in many categories, according to the latest Bookscan figures. The overall figures show an increase in unit sales of approximately 10% for the first eleven weeks of 2002, compared with the same period in 2001. History continues to show strength, even surpassing the jump in sales that began in the aftermath of September 11. Romance, which was very soft in the fall, has jumped up 14% over last spring’s sales. The cooking and entertaining category has softened since the fall, but is still up over last spring’s numbers by almost 12%, while gardening is down somewhat. Travel is still down, but the post-September freefall is over. The same cannot be said for computer books: the stagnating sales of PCs have taken their toll on manuals, which are down 20%.

London Times

The London Book Fair has, like its sister Reed-sponsored show, BEA, extended its dates in recent years. This year’s expo was two-and-a-half days long, but with the accompanying ebook and subrights conferences, ended up sprawling from March 14th to the 19th. The conferences had a tough time pulling the crowds that LBF continues to pack in (“over 20,000 publishing professionals from more than 100 countries,” says the press office), but given the price (£880) and topic (epublishing), ePub London still managed to fill a room for two days at Olympia.

In the go-go ’90s, and even as recently as last year, electronic publishing conferences were cropping up like crocuses, but the seminar business has been battered by the economy, the dot-com bust, and more recently, fear of flying. And now, instead of talking about a wired, paperless utopia where content is zapped to hungry hordes of eager readers, bread-and-butter issues like copyright and creating standards for metadata are the focus. Yes, epeople from HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, and Penguin each discussed how these companies are using the web, but there was an earnest attempt to address the yin and yang of epublishing — consumer ebooks versus professional subscription models; the opportunities for online promotion versus the difficulties of actually making money; and the euphoria of free downloads (when it’s Napster) versus the nightmare of piracy (when it’s books). All in all, it made for a useful update on the somewhat sorry state of this yet-emerging industry.

Meanwhile, back at the convention. . .
Alas, the same could not be said for the panel discussion assembled by the Institute of Publishing for the LBF, entitled “Who Needs Publishing,” a rehash of the whole debate over the disintermediation of publishers, which caused a lot of defensive navel-gazing in the early days of the aforementioned yet-emerging digital revolution. The star-studded lineup, which included Macmillan’s Richard Charkin, Cambridge UP’s Michael Holdsworth, Jill Patton Walsh (whose self-published book, Knowledge of Angels, has now sold close to 300,000 copies in the Transworld edition), and Curtis Brown’s Jonathan Lloyd, represented their interests: the publishers thought everyone needed publishers, while the self-published author wasn’t so sure, even as she admitted that luck played a role in her success. Still, she questioned whether conglomerates were dampening publishers’ risk-taking. Charkin disagreed, though he admitted there were too many publishers. Holdsworth put it more succinctly when he argued that the real question is: “Do we need all the publishers we’ve got? Didn’t we need some of the publishers we’ve lost?”

The same question was asked by Hrvoje Bozicevic, publisher and editor of Edicije Bozicevic Publishers in Croatia, in a post-Fair email to PT. Reflecting on Harvill’s sale to Random House, he writes, “The story of Harvill shadowed very much my impressions of the London Book Fair. If there is no place for such a publisher, what can other, even smaller European continental publishers do there?”

Meanwhile, others at the Fair had more pragmatic concerns. Efrat Lev, Foreign Rights Director at The Harris/Elon Agency in Israel, reported complaints about restrictions on entry into the rights center. “Some clerks at the desk were zealously guarding the entrance and preventing some colleagues from entering to meet other colleagues,” causing meetings to be late, or cancelled. Still, as a first-time attendee, she was surprised at the small size of the Fair (“although I was surprised that there were so many tables at the rights center!”), and that, unlike Frankfurt, “it ends just at the right time, when one gets tired and ready to stop.”

Speaking of Frankfurt, publishing consultant Bill Black questions whether Frankfurt is still necessary for trade publishers focused on English language and major translation rights, as increasingly London attracts the same players. Walker’s George Gibson agrees that the fair has become “much more continental” than in previous years, citing a greater number of meetings with non-UK publishers and agents. There were also more books that were of interest, in part because of a plethora of history titles, a subject which is “exploding.” But Gibson agreed with the concerns of several UK editors, who worry that the category will be overpublished, resulting in worthy books being lost in the avalanche.

On the floor
Regarding lost books, if anyone doubted that Abrams was now a mere imprint in a mini-conglomerate, trying to locate it on the floor of the Fair put the question to rest: it sat under the banner of its new owner — the La Martinière Group. Near it PGW and AMS had what looked like a hastily constructed sign on their booth. At the other end of the spectrum — and other end of the hall — Rodale had a larger booth (introduced last year at Frankfurt) right near the entrance to the Fair. But surely the best touch was Microsoft Press’s booth, which sported a vending machine. Slide in your credit card, push the right button, and out pops a fat technical manual. Better than a Snickers.

Publishing Trends was a co-sponsor of ePub London.

International Fiction Bestsellers

Duck and Cover
Fowl Play in Argentina, Penelope Unbound in Spain, And Birdsell’s Back in Canada

Argentina’s “official historians” are quacking away over the latest provocation from historical novelist María Esther de Miguel, titled The Palace of the Ducks. The book carries forward the author’s “generally transgressive” history of Buenos Aires and adapts a detective novel’s suspenseful structure to explore a “dark network of complicities” that unfurls behind the majestic 19th-century palace façade. The plot follows a succession of families who inhabit the structure over the course of a century, among them an alcoholic writer who angles for inspiration in the life stories he finds among the city’s watering holes, while a whole rogues’ gallery of suspects prowls the palace in the wake of a murder. The author’s Planeta-winning work of 1996, The General, The Painter and the Lady, has now sold over 150,000 copies in 21 editions, and delves into a love triangle forged amid Argentina’s wars of state formation, ultimately wringing from the tale a roiling mix of “flesh, blood, incertitude, and the doubts that are part of life.” As for the new book, publisher Alfaguara printed a first run of over 12,000 copies in November, and all rights outside of Latin America are available. See agent Mónica Herrero at the Guillermo Schavelzon agency.

Meanwhile, historical revisionism gets sassy in Spain, where Ángela Vallvey has won this year’s Nadal Prize with State of Deprivation, a hilarious homage to The Odyssey that updates Homer while satirizing the nation’s booming self-help genre. In Vallvey’s version of the classic Greek tale, top fashion designer Penelope strikes out on the wandering journey, while her once philandering hubby Ulysses hangs up his painting career for the domestic thrills of diapers and baby food as he nurses two-year-old Telemachus. Throw in a Socratic dialogue or two, and you’ve got the literary equivalent of the lotus flower. Vallvey’s 1999 work Hunting the Last Wild Man was her first novel for adults, and has been sold to France (Lattès), Germany (Krüger), Italy (Feltrinelli), the UK (Penguin), and the US (Seven Stories), among others. About 50,000 copies of the new one are now in print following the book’s launch in February, with rights sold thus far to France (Lattès). Contact Anna Vilà at the MB agency in Barcelona.

Antiquity’s also on the plate in Spain this month with Terenci Moix’s The Blind Harpist, set in mythical Thebes and pondering the friendship of three young men during the reign of Tutankhamun. The book contrasts religious chastity with erotic fetishism as it shows how King Tut “returned the gods to their rightful place after the iron grip of Akhenaten’s monotheism.” Deemed “a splendid description” of ancient Egypt by reviewers, the book has been said to paint “a melancholic frieze of the extinction” of Akhenaten’s doomed dynasty. Journalist and essayist Moix won the Planeta Prize in 1986 with Don’t Say It Was a Dream, which has sold over a million copies in 40 editions. Rights in the US and UK are available for the new one from Carmen Pinilla at the Balcells agency in Barcelona. And finally in Spain, Antonio Muñoz Molina surveys “the enigma of passion” with his latest work, Missing Blanca. The book portrays the romantic travails of Mario and his vivacious love interest, Blanca, as Mario obsessively worries that he’ll lose his gal. The 46-year-old Molina won the Crítica Prize in 1987 for A Winter in Lisbon, and took home the Planeta in 1992 for The Polish Rider. Though the book has slipped off the list this month, some 30,000 copies of the new one were sold in two months, and rights have been sold to Germany, France, Portugal, and Italy, among other nations. See agent Raquel de la Concha for rights.

In France, literary darling Alexandre Jardin gets fresh with his latest novel, Miss Liberty, wherein the married college headmaster Horace meets up with the vixenish 18-year-old Liberty Byron, and leaps at the chance to indulge her “prodigious taste for pleasure.” Liberty quickly teaches the old dog a thing or two about romantic exaltation — “the infinite is her measure, the absolute is her oxygen” — and together they traipse off to forge a perfect love, a creation that will be “a masterpiece or nothing at all.” Jardin’s 1999 novel Autobiography of a Love looked at the troubled marriage of a teacher in New Hebrides whose twin brother gallantly steps in to save the day (indeed, marriage is “the bête noir of Alexandre Jardin,” one reviewer writes), and his work The Zebra won the Femina Prize in 1988. Critics declared the new book “a cry of revolt against numbness,” and, for what it’s worth, the thirtysomething author is said to be so devoted to joie de vivre that he putts around Paris on a scooter, so as to avoid the moping faces on the subway. All rights are available from Anne-Solange Noble at Gallimard.

We’re happy to bring you the list from Denmark this month, where well-known journalist Gretelise Holm has inspired Paranoia throughout the Nordic nation with her new crime novel. The story opens on a shocking note as ace reporter Karin Sommer discovers her dead cat hanging on her front door, and soon all hell breaks loose as a “self-proclaimed superman” wreaks havoc on a small Danish town. One charged-up reviewer called the book “an excellent run for one’s money,” while another said simply: “Crème de la crème.” In addition to her journalism, Holm has written several books for children. Her crime fiction, however, is speedily gaining notice, winning the Kriminalakademis prize for the turbocharged 1998 thriller, Mercedes-Benz Syndrome. Rights to Paranoia have been sold to Sweden (Piratförlaget), Germany (List), and Norway (Cappelen). Talk to Editor-in-Chief Charlotte Jorgensen at Aschehoug.

And in Canada, Sandra Birdsell is back with her long-awaited third novel The Rüsslander, about the life of a tightly-knit Mennonite community in pre-Revolution Russia, as seen through the eyes of the teenaged Katya. Said to be “decadent with detail but frugal with sentimentality,” the book was inspired by stories Birdsell had heard about her Russian grandparents, who along with thousands of other fleeing Russian Mennonites landed in the Canadian prairies. Now an old woman in Manitoba, Katya looks back on the anarchic time after the Revolution when the pacifist Mennonites were sitting ducks for roving bands of thieves. The book was nominated for Canada’s Giller Prize, and is currently on submission in a number of markets, with buzz said to be strong in Germany. We’re told film rights are a hot item, too. See agent Bruce Westwood at Westwood Creative Artists for rights.

Battle of the Brands

In the War Over Market Share, Focus Groups Are a Secret Weapon

If you wandered into the loo of London’s Grosvenor House Hotel last month, as did plenty of attendees at the British Book Awards, you’d have found one of the more literal-minded brand campaign “roll-outs” in recent years: stickers slapped on rolls of toilet tissue and pasted on hand towels, featuring none other than Penguin UK’s latest tongue-in-cheek tagline: “What a waste of paper.” Described by its creators as “a battle cry for the Penguin brand,” the latest salvo rocketed from the Grosvenor’s privies to some of the hugest roadside billboards in the UK, hitting Glasgow, Dublin, Manchester, Birmingham, and London with sly images from the series. One such image shows a grainy close-up of a man’s face, with a bit of tissue stuck on a shaving cut. The familiar Penguin logo sits in the lower left, and the text says simply: “Anything else is a waste of paper.”

While Penguin’s brand-building bonanzas have been widely noted in recent years, what may not be apparent is that the company’s latest campaign is the fruit of ongoing focus groups that Penguin has tapped for fresh brand insights. Long a trusted weapon for consumer marketeers and magazine publishers, the focus group, along with a variety of other market research tactics, has been quietly getting results in trade publishing houses. St. Martin’s, Reader’s Digest, and Bloomberg Press, for example, have all used consumer research in recent efforts to overhaul core brands, dive into new product areas, or just tune in to reader feedback. And it’s no surprise that these publishers are finding hard data vastly preferable to hindsight.

Road-Test Your Hunches

“There was something a bit safe and cozy about Penguin,” explains Joanna Prior, Penguin’s Publicity Director. “We wanted to challenge that.” Also goaded by increased competition from paperback rivals, last fall Penguin and partner Research Business International interviewed 400 book-buying consumers, and found that Penguin’s “spontaneous awareness” (that is, the number of people giving Penguin as their first answer when asked to name publishers) had grown to 59%, up from 39% in 1998. (HarperCollins was second, with 16%, and Mills & Boon came in third with 14%. Bloomsbury measured only 3%.) Once prompted by researchers, 98% of the panel said they were aware of Penguin, up from 92% in 1998. People loved the brand. But would they like the ad campaign? To find out, Penguin road-tested various ad concepts with “core readers” between the ages of 25 and 40 who buy at least one book per month. The “Anything else…” campaign prevailed with its wry sense of humor, and now, monthly focus groups are studying everything from cover design to how people choose books to read on vacation. It’s a flexible research regime, adaptable for any marketing contingency. “That’s the beauty of doing them every month,” says Damian Horner, Account Director at ad agency Mustoe Merriman Levy, which has worked with Penguin for four years. “You can tap into every little hunch you might have, and explore it.”

Meanwhile, hunches are easily road-tested at Bloomberg Press, owing to those ubiquitous Bloomberg financial information terminals (which are now, of course, available for photo-ops at Mayor Bloomberg’s City Hall bull-pen). In a unique twist on market research, John Crutcher, Co-founder and Marketing Director at Bloomberg Press, says that the terminals actually provide a rich stream of brand-building opportunities. Since editors and marketers at Bloomberg Press have access to terminal usage data for the entire Bloomberg system — and because those system users are presumably a core customer base for Bloomberg books — Crutcher and company are able to see, for example, if users are flocking to a particular type of financial chart, equity investment, or even a whole industry sector. Hence system data is used to evaluate book proposals, by checking a potential topic against what’s hot on the terminal. Bloomberg Press also reviews reader surveys done by the parent company’s magazines, such as Bloomberg Personal Finance, which in advance of its newsstand launch surveyed brand recognition of the Bloomberg name across the country. Outside major financial centers, it turned out, the brand was virtually worthless, a lesson not lost on Crutcher. “If we’re selling an entry-level book such as Investing 101, having Bloomberg on the spine wasn’t going to get the average person,” he says. “It’s important to know how valuable the name is, and when it stops being valuable. With hubris we could assume it’s valuable everywhere. And we would pay the price.”

Sally Richardson, President and Publisher of St. Martin’s trade division, was not about to risk paying that price with the January 2003 update of the flagship Let’s Go travel series. So last fall the company took a little vacation of its own to California for a round of focus groups that upended a number of basic assumptions. Readership was much more sophisticated than had been assumed of the typical sun-seeking, Kerouac-toting traveler, according to Mark Fortier, VP and Publicity Director for Goldberg McDuffie Communications, which is handling publicity for the Let’s Go relaunch. So a number of fresh features were added to the book, including highbrow essays on topics such as the advent of the euro, or about cultural traditions in Nepal. St. Martin’s was also caught off guard by the zest for volunteerism among readers, prompting more emphasis on socially conscious travel. And readers identify heavily with the series writers, so more first-person narratives were ordered up, and the media campaign will also make authors more visible than in the past.

Indeed, any amount of research can improve the shotgun approach to marketing. “Most publishers do a great job of marketing to bookstores, but reaching the reader is a different story,” says Carol Fitzgerald, Founder and President of Bookreporter.com, which surveys readers about their reading habits on an ongoing basis. “We get instantaneous feedback about what’s interesting to them.” Recently, for example, one of the site’s polls asked if readers always knew what they wanted before heading for the bookstore. Perhaps surprisingly, out of 728 responses, only 10% said they always know what they plan to buy. And a poll about online excerpts of books found that 23% of readers used them to make book selections (though 18% said they never read excerpts online). “This is not white-paper type of research,” Fitzgerald says. “It’s a snapshot. But it gives you much better information about how to promote to readers.” Sometimes snapshots are all it takes. An earlier survey on reading group guides, for instance, turned up some counter-conventional nuggets of wisdom. “We were surprised that 64% said they were not concerned with the format of the book — hardcover or paperback,” Fitzgerald says. “It was interesting to be able to share with publishers the fact that if you were going to be marketing a title to reading groups, it would be a good idea to market the hardcover instead of the paperback.”

Finding a Slice of Mind

As some researchers point out, focus groups are not necessarily a brand panacea. “Focus groups can be one of the most frustrating things when you’re looking for new ideas,” says Steve Xenakis, Managing Associate with research firm Ideas To Go. “It’s hard to expect eight to ten strangers to come together to identify a clear issue.” Xenakis, who has worked with the book program at Reader’s Digest, relies on multi-day sessions involving “Creative Consumers,” who are trained in areas such as naming or new product ideas. It helps streamline what can be a chaotic process. “Focus groups can be dangerous, because they are not quantified information,” adds Lloyd LaRousse, VP Global Market Research for Reader’s Digest. “They are merely good fodder with which to develop concepts. But there’s no gauge in a focus group to let you know whether something’s going to be a big winner or not.” To find those winners, Reader’s Digest takes concepts from the “ideation sessions,” and then tests them in larger mail or online surveys that target as many as 1,000 readers. Especially given today’s tough direct mail business, testing is crucial. “You get very big payoffs,” LaRousse says. “The stronger a concept scores, the greater the likelihood that it will be successful.”

Fishing for what Xenakis calls the elusive consumer “slice of mind,” advertising agencies that have used market research for other clients are now preparing to swivel into the book biz. Bethany Chamberlain, President and CEO of ad agency Spier New York, says that the company recently acquired the Lord Group in part “to bring some of the more typical package goods and consumer advertising planning and research to bear on publishing.” The point is to anticipate consumer desires and purchasing habits, and then buy advertising accordingly. Lord Group President Roger Chiocchi adds that he hopes to draw on the group’s proprietary “One True Thing” process, a sort of zen-like procedure which distills the essence of a brand into a single word or thought. “It has been very powerful on the consumer side, and we’re going to be looking into how powerful it can be on the publishing side as well,” he says.

Richard Laermer, CEO of RLM Public Relations and trendSpotting author, notes emphatically that test-marketing and consumer mind-meld strategies that work for other industries could save publishing from always chasing after the Last Big Thing. “I’ve often wondered why book publishers don’t do what the movie business does,” he says. “They would have found out that they wanted Chicken Soup for the Soul a long time ago.”

Book View, April 2002

PEOPLE


Laurie Brown
is leaving FSG, where she was SVP, Director Sales & Marketing. Her duties will be assumed by Jeff Seroy and Linda Rosenberg. . . Gary Gentel has been named VP Sales, Trade Division at Scholastic. He was most recently with Dorling Kindersley. . . John Schline has been made SVP, Corporate Director of Business Affairs for Penguin Putnam. . . Dan Weiss was named President of SparkNotes.com, following the departure of founder and General Manager, Sam Yagan. Robert Riger has been hired as on-site publishing consultant to the company, which is owned by Barnes & Noble. . . Following the demise of Talk/Miramax magazine, account executive Perry Janoski has moved to Harper’s Magazine where he will cover book publishing as well as travel and entertainment.

As announced earlier, Chris McInerney is closing her scouting agency, McInerney International, at the end of June, after 28 years in business. Barbara Tolley will lead the agency (with a name change in the wings) as of July 1. Jayne Pliner plans to remain with the firm. . . HarperCollins has appointed Maureen O’Brien as Executive Editor at Morrow/Avon, where she will acquire commercial fiction and nonfiction for HarperEntertainment as well as the entire Morrow/Avon division. She was most recently at Hyperion. . . Joel Conarroe has been named the PEN Center’s new President. Conarroe, who will step down in December from the presidency of the Guggenheim Foundation after eighteen years in the post, was formerly Chairman of the National Book Foundation and served several terms on the PEN Board.

Greg Anastas has been named the new Director of National Field & Online Sales at Simon & Schuster. (We reported last month that he had left the company — our apologies.)

DULY NOTED


Despite well-documented troubles in book publishing, there has been a lot of M & A activity recently, with deals for Klutz Press, Berlitz, Running Press, PGW and Bonus Books announced in the last month. According to one knowledgeable source, all of them were sold for sums that were “satisfactory or better than satisfactory” for the sellers. For those who are still looking to scoop up a publisher, Prentice Hall Direct is still on the block. Merriam-Webster and North-South have been taken off the market, though. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, Random House has signed an agreement to purchase The Harvill Press. Founded in 1946 and acquired in the ’80s by Christopher Maclehose, it will remain an independent imprint. Harvill’s paperback list will be published by Vintage.

In the industry professionals-turned-writers column we can now add Toinette Lippe, editor of Bell Tower books, whose Nothing Left Over has just been issued by Tarcher. She may be seen and heard on April 23 at the 82nd and Broadway Barnes & Noble at 7:30 pm. Then to California for the rest of her tour. Agent Emma Sweeney’s As Always, Jack from Little, Brown will be launched with an appearance on the CBS Early Show on April 10 and followed by numerous autograph sessions in New York and environs as well as Texas, Maryland, DC, and North Carolina.

Meanwhile, BOMC’s Victoria Skurnick and co-writer Cynthia Katz team up for the seventh Cynthia Victor book, The Three of Us. At times funny and other times thoughtful and poignant,” PW says, “this inspirational story is the perfect elixir for any middle-aged woman who has ever battled with weight gain, a particularly difficult relationship or suffered an identity crisis.”

• Amazon had 30.1 million unique visitors in January, compared with Yahoo! Shopping (25.8 million), and Barnes & Noble, the #3 site, at 8.2 million, according to Jupiter Media Metrix. BN.com is the heaviest advertiser in the books, movies, and music category, followed by Columbia House and Amazon. Together they represent 71% of all advertising in this category. Online book shopping expenditures in 2002 are estimated at $2.6 billion. There will be 82 million people shopping online this year, which represents 52% of the online population, and an average dollar expenditure per online buyer of $481.

The Daily News reports that the New York Times has online revenues of $700,000 from its 35,000 subscribers to Premium Crosswords, and that fees for archive material now amount to a seven-figure business. Topic-specific content is also being assembled and sold, including Thomas Friedman’s columns.

• PubEasy introduced Central Services at the London Book Fair, and US rep John Phillips tells PT it will launch first in the UK. The service allows booksellers around the world to check any participating publisher’s stock, the status of an order, or to place an order, by going to the site and entering the title’s ISBN. There are currently 9,000 booksellers in 112 countries using PubEasy, with 40% of those in the US, and 35% in the UK.

APRIL DATES


The National Book Foundation sponsors an evening of poetry for National Poetry Month on April 9 at 6:30 pm at the Blue Heron Arts Center. Tickets will be sold at the door. Go to www.nationalbook.org. (Separately, NBF said it had received a $100,000 gift from Microsoft to support the organization’s “continued recognition of books in electronic formats.”)

The Koret Foundation’s Jewish Book Awards are presented 5:30-7:30 pm on April 15 at the Harvard Club. Call (212) 629-0500 for information.

• Small Press Center and PW host a “Publishing Predictions” Roundtable at the Algonquin at 6:00 – 8:00 pm on April 17. Panelists include Bob Miller, Dominique Raccah, Peter Mayer, and PT’s own Lorraine Shanley. For information  call (212) 764-7021.

• University of Virginia & Library of Congress host “Publishing in the 21st Century: Blue Sky to Black Ink,” a seminar on the “alliance of electronic and print publishing.” Larry Kirshbaum is the keynote speaker, with “Blue Sky to Red Ink: Painful Lessons Learned on the Digital Publishing Highway.” It’s on April 18 – 20 in Washington, DC. Contact Beverly Jane Loo at (434) 982-5345.

The LA Times Festival of Books will be held April 27-28 on the UCLA campus. The LA Times Book Awards will be held on April 27 at UCLA’s Royce Hall. Go to: www.latimes.com/festivalofbooks.

PARTIES


Big parties in March, warming publishers up for the BEA onslaught (see PT, p. 3). First there was the elegant Poets & Writers gala at the Tribeca Rooftop, then there was the National Book Critics Circle awards and reception at NYU, and then, on to London. HarperCollins and Fourth Estate threw a cocktail party at Home House on Portman Square, where a multinational crowd drank champagne. The same night Duncan Baird celebrated his 10th anniversary as an independent publisher at the Groucho Club in Soho.

Back in the US, Roundtable’s Marsha Melnick and Julie Merberg hosted a farewell retirement party for Susan Meyer, who is launching a new career: studying NYC history at NYU and planning to write full time. Attending were VNU North American Chairman Jerry Hobbs and Georgina Challis, Corporate Communications and HR, Penguin Putnam’s Rick Kot, HarperCollins’ Susan Friedland, Disney’s Wendy Lefkon, and packager Paul Fargis, among others.

Publishing Trends celebrated its 8th anniversary and the 12th anniversary of its owner, Market Partners International, on March 25 at the Mercantile Library.

MAZEL TOV


To Barbara Marcus, who was honored by the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund at a luncheon on March 21 at the Waldorf. She was one of five women to receive the 2002 Aiming High Award.

To the Library of America, which turns 20 in April (the year of its first publication — it was founded in 1979 by Jason Epstein, who was just presented with the NBCC Lifetime Achievement Award). And to another spring baby, HarperSan Francisco, which turned 25 in March.

To Reader’s Digest’s Alfredo Santana, and Lisa Tatsuuma, proud parents of Camilla Sayuri Santana, born Feb 4.

IN MEMORIAM


Gwenda David, legendary UK scout for Viking and Book-of-the-Month Club for more than five decades, has died in London. She will be remembered for bringing Iris Murdoch and Muriel Spark to US readers.