Dilettante’s Dilemma

As Editors Keep Specializing, Are Generalists Going Extinct?

Call it a healthy dose of editorial realism, or call it the Dilbert-ization of publishing. However you spin it, over the last few decades, it seems, that formerly abundant creature of the book-business veld — the free-ranging generalist editor, dismissive of pigeonholes and crossing categories at will — has been heading for extinction. Endangered by a rising per-title sales bar at many large houses, and pushed aside by a growing appreciation of the power of niche publishing, the old-school generalist is ceding ground as a new breed of category-focused editors grows more prominent, and perhaps more profitable, than ever. “A great publisher should have a vast curiosity and want to know something about a great many subjects,” says Richard Pine, President of Arthur Pine Associates. “An editor’s job is increasingly to know a lot about certain specific subject areas. I think that in the best of all circumstances the editorial team feeds the curiosity of the publisher.”

Yet in today’s world even publishers are finding themselves defending a narrowing patch of turf. “As a publisher, one can no longer be all things to all people,” explains Bill Shinker, Senior VP and Publisher at Gotham Books, the new Penguin Putnam imprint. “For a startup, it’s important to articulate to literary agents, authors, and one’s own sales force what you’re setting out to do.” Having created two lists from scratch (first at Broadway, now at Gotham), Shinker has been a pioneer of the custom-built imprint, and his first Gotham list lays down a carefully conceived program: “a very focused commercial list of general nonfiction in a number of categories.” Dilettantism clearly isn’t on the menu, and Shinker has brought in editors with complementary expertise. Executive Editor Lauren Marino focuses on health, fitness, and spirituality, while Brendan Cahill handles current affairs, history, and narrative nonfiction. “In almost any category, it helps to be an editor who understands that category and is conversant with the literature in that field,” Shinker adds. “If you’re editing a new book on affirmative action, you better know damn well what you’re doing.”

In a larger sense, specialization has been a response to a more niche-oriented marketplace. “It’s increasingly relevant for the editor to be connected to the community” of both authors and their target audience, says Kitt Allan, Publisher of General Books for Wiley. Allan believes that the move toward targeted publishing — “trying to find the right book for a specific set of people” — is crucial for a fragmented marketplace. Wiley’s trade program has grown out of the organizing principles of its professional and education groups, which tend to cluster more tightly around topic areas. Some editors focus on one or more categories (in the bookstore-defined sense of the word). Others target particular niches, which are more attuned to a certain kind of reader or demographic, such as the educational market, targeted to teachers and motivated parents. Niches such as education, children’s, and religion/spirituality are also organized into category teams that go across imprints, sharing market intelligence as they collect it.

Typecasting the Editor

Perhaps nowhere in the general trade has specialization taken root more firmly than in the world of cookbooks, whose jigsaw-puzzle-like production requirements call for both illustrated book savvy and recipe-writing chops. Wiley, for instance, has a whole cookbook division that publishes books for professional cooks, as well as general titles from brands such as Betty Crocker and Weight Watchers. “It’s a whole world unto itself,” adds Jennifer Josephy, Executive Editor for Cookbooks at Broadway. “It’s a question of going deep instead of broad.” Josephy had done cookbooks as a sideline for years at houses such as Holt and Little, Brown. But two-and-a-half years ago, the full-time cookbook slot at Broadway was too good to pass up. She now works with a half dozen Broadway editors, most of whom specialize in one or two areas. Still, reluctant to stay too narrowly focused, Josephy keeps the door open for other projects, which have included John P. Cooke’s The Cardiovascular Cure and several parenting titles. “But once you make this leap, you are typecast,” she says with a laugh. “I try and tell agents to send me some things that aren’t cookbook related.”

Of course, some publishers have always played up their category role. Storey, for instance, specializes in gardening (it actually owns the trademark “America’s Gardening Publisher”), while also holding a strong presence in horses, building, crafts, and cooking, plus a new juvenile imprint that publishes into the same categories. “Our editors live the Storey lifestyle, and it comes through in the books’ editorial content,” says Janet Harris, Storey’s Publisher. Editor Gwen Steege, who acquires both gardening and crafts books, is a master gardener and weaver, and pulls writers and photographers to Storey because of her connections and expertise. And category focus doesn’t hurt the bottom line, either. Harriet Pierce, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Harper Design International program at HarperCollins, says a strong specialty focus can only help keep the ship afloat during rough economic weather. “Whether it’s an economic downturn or not depends on what your list is these days,” she says. “Certainly, if you’ve got the right list, right now you’re not experiencing a downturn at all.”

As others are quick to note, the closing of the wide-angle editorial lens can also be chalked up to consolidation. “Because of the size of houses now, many editors have less and less hands-on connection with the mechanics of how books are sold,” says Dan Green, President of the Pom agency. “Since they’re no longer cheek-by-jowl with the people who sell books or market books, many of them will stay with only that kind of book that they know about.” Others agree that consolidation has taken a toll on the generalist ranks. “In the past, you might have eight or ten editors in a department who all worked on a variety of projects,” says Zack Schisgal, who was recently named Senior Editor at Ballantine. “Today, you’ve got 80 or 150 editors in a dozen imprints in a publishing house. Having some of them specialize might be the best way to make sure people aren’t stepping all over each other for the same kinds of things.”

Bumping up sales expectations at the major houses has also forced some editors to more closely heed the bottom line. “I think the main limiting factor for what editors acquire and publish has to do with what their publishing house can publish well and how that house defines ‘well,’” says Keith Kahla, Senior Editor at St. Martin’s. “A number of the majors aren’t interested in publishing anything of which they are likely to sell less than 50,000 hardcover copies.” At St. Martin’s, editors can publish books that sell in quantities of 6,000 on up, as long as the advance and other expenses are kept in line with the expectations of the book. “A broader range of types of books are immediately available to an editor,” Kahla says, adding that eclecticism has plenty of virtues. “From a publisher’s point of few, the advantage is sheer agility — a staff that is both eclectic and generalist allows them to shift away from certain kinds of publishing when the market for that type of book begins to recede, and move on to another area that might be on the rise without major disruptive shifts in the staff.”

‘No Limits Whatsoever’

The specter of specialization is not too welcome over at Bloomsbury, either. “We certainly don’t fit that paradigm,” says Karen Rinaldi, Editorial Director at Bloomsbury USA. “I always think that it provides a false sense of security when one tries too hard to control the way publishing should happen.” That philosophy is helping drive aggressive plans to broaden the program at Bloomsbury’s US operation, where the current catalog now spans memoir, cultural history, first fiction, and gift books. A gregarious editorial outlook can help reel in off-the-beaten-path projects, while outfoxing larger publishing houses. “The two editors we have do both fiction and nonfiction,” says Alan Wherry, Director of Bloomsbury USA. “There are no limits on them whatsoever. Our mandate is to make profits by building a successful publishing house where editorial drives the ship with strong marketing backup, and where editors are encouraged to pursue their passions and to follow their instincts.”

In the end, what may be new isn’t specialization per se, but how one balances the sometimes conflicting demands of modern publishing. “Editors have always developed specialties of one kind or another,” says Peter Ginna, Editorial Director for the trade division at Oxford University Press. “You snowball-like develop a list in areas where you have a certain expertise.” Ginna has gravitated toward American History, partly due to the fact that within the larger history category, the American market is vastly larger than, say, the market for works on medieval France. His colleagues on the academic side, he notes, are even more prone to specialize, as most OUP titles need to have surefire backlist appeal as textbooks. The problem is that too much specialization can “cause you to be too conservative or to think in pigeonholes.” But that drawback is not enough, he argues, to counter the benefits of knowing precisely what one is publishing. Chasing after wayward enthusiasms can mean failing the ultimate litmus test of a good editor: the ability to read a manuscript and know instantly what kind of reader will get excited about that book and why. Says Ginna, “That’s the danger of dilettantism.”

Book View, October 2002

PEOPLE


Two major magazine publishers announce new hires: Linda Cunningham, most recently Publisher of Questia Media, has been named Editor-in-Chief of Meredith Books in Des Moines. . . Sara Levinson has been named to the newly created position of President of the Women’s Group at Rodale. She will oversee magazines, books, and websites in this group. She was previously CEO and Chairman of ClubMom, Inc., and before that, at the NFL.

Crown President and Publisher Jenny Frost has announced a re-org: Associate Publisher Andrew Martin and Harmony Executive Director Linda Loewenthal are leaving the company. (Email Martin at [email protected].) Steve Ross has been promoted to SVP, Publisher of Crown, Crown Business, Three Rivers Press, and Prima Lifestyles, and Lauren Shakely to the same title at Clarkson Potter. Shaye Areheart has been promoted to VP, Publisher, Harmony Books. Philip Patrick has been named to the newly created position of VP, Director of Marketing, Crown Publishing Group. All will report to Frost. . . Terence Cheng is leaving Random House, where he was Director of Corporate Website Marketing, and will work on his next book, “partially set during the Japanese occupation of China during the 1930s,” he tells PT. He can be reached via his website, www.sonsofheaven.com. No word yet whether the position will be filled. And Leda Liounis is also leaving Random, where she was Executive Director, Operations for the Children’s Division. She may be reached at [email protected]. . . Harriet Dorsen has left Random, where she was SVP, Secretary and Treasurer. Kathy Trager has been appointed SVP, General Counsel, Random House, Inc., referred to in every press release — while it’s still true — as “the world’s largest publisher.”

Philip Rappaport has gone to Bantam as Senior Editor, working for Tony Burbank. He had been Senior Editor at the Free Press. . . Adrienne Moucheraud has been named Director of Marketing for Bulfinch. She was in charge of marketing for museum publications at Abrams.

In children’s books, personnel changes continue apace: Scott Chambers has been hired by Sesame Street Workshop to oversee its publishing licenses, and to develop new business opportunities. He had been at Disney Publishing. . . Richard Dobbs has been named Director of Sales for HarperCollins Children’s Books. He was most recently doing co-editions with the Met Museum. Coincidentally, his other half, Sharon Hancock, has left Hyperion to join Holt as Director of Children’s Marketing, replacing Lori Benton. . . Joan DeMayo has been named VP, Director of Random House Children’s Sales, replacing Jack St. Mary. DeMayo was previously at Crown. . . Susan Van Metre has been named Senior Editor of Abrams Books for Young Readers. She had been at Dutton Children’s Books. . . Paula Wiseman moves from Harcourt to S&S Books for Young Readers.

HarperCollins has announced that it has expanded its newly named Harper Design International publishing program (formerly known as HBI) into the US market. Harriet Pierce has been hired as Director of Sales and Marketing in the US, reporting to Roland Algrant, SVP and Publisher, HarperCollins International. Pierce was formerly VP Marketing, Assoc. Publisher at Watson-Guptill.

As reported elsewhere, Gerry Howard, Broadway Editorial Director, resigned from his current job to serve as Executive Editor at large for Doubleday Broadway, reporting to Steve Rubin. Bill Thomas, Editor-in-Chief at Doubleday, will add this job to his current one. Stacy Creamer, whom he named Deputy Editorial Director, will continue to serve as Executive Editor at Doubleday. . . Running Press announced the appointment of Michael Ward as Editorial Director, succeeding Jennifer Worick, who resigned. Ward most recently served as Associate Publisher of Regnery’s Lifeline Books division. . . Several new hires at Abrams include Stan Redfern, who has been named VP Production. He had been with several publishers including Reader’s Digest; Tony Ponzo has been named controller. He had been at Penguin and Troll, among other publishers.

Penelope Chaplin, ex-Special Sales Director of Kingfisher and Rights/ Licensing Director of DK, has set up “Buy the Book,” a sales service for packagers and publishers in the UK, Canada, and the US who want to access sales channels but do not have the resources. She may be reached at [email protected].

Perry Janoski, who sells book-page advertising for Harper’s, among others, will add ad sales for The Economist to his roster at Allston Cherry Ltd.

Mary Sunden, VP Penguin International, will be leaving the company at the end of October. She may be reached at [email protected].

WHAT THEY’RE DOING NOW


Andrea Chambers, whose editing career has spanned both books and magazines (Time, People, Penguin Putnam, and Primedia) has a new venture: She has turned a “longstanding interest in education” into The Study Center, an after-school homework center for kids in the fourth grade and above. The Center opened September 23 at 106 East 86th Street. Later in the year, The Study Center also plans to offer writing workshops and an introduction to newspaper and magazine editing for high-school students. For more information, call (212) 831-5343 or email [email protected].

Joe Esposito, onetime President of Encyclopedia Britannica, and prior to that, head of Random’s Reference Division, was appointed President and CEO of SRI Consulting, a for-profit subsidiary of SRI International, a not-for-profit research organization. He can be reached at [email protected].

PROMOTIONS


Anne-Lise Spitzer has been named VP Creative Marketing Director for Knopf. She was VP Director of Sales Promotion
. . . Harcourt announces that Jennifer Gilmore has been promoted to Publicity Director, Adult Books, replacing Arlene Kriv who has left the company. . . Michael Fragnito has moved from BN.com to Alan Kahn’s new Barnes & Noble publishing division.

OCTOBER DATES


Small Press Center holds its first workshop of the season, “Today’s Best Book Promotion Options — Online” on October 3. On October 8, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt will interview Jason Epstein at the Small Press Center, at 20 W. 44th Street. Go to www.smallpress.org.

The Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the AAP Journals Committee presents a Luncheon Roundtable: “To Renew or Not to Renew…And What to Renew,” on October 17 from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the AAP’s NY office, 71 Fifth Avenue (between 14th & 15th Streets). Among those participating are Virginia Massey-Borzio from the Eisenhower Library at Johns Hopkins; Nathan Baum, Digital Resources Librarian, Stony Brook University; Carol Bekar, Group Director, Bristol-Myers Squibb; and Suzanne Fedunok, head of Coles Science Center, NYU. Contact Sara Brandwein at (212) 255-0200 ext. 257.

DULY NOTED


New York Is Book Country celebrated its 24th anniversary on September 29, with record crowds and 190 exhibitors. After a hiatus of a year (the show had been cancelled last September), and despite competing fairs and events (including the New Yorker’s literary festival), initial research suggests that many more books were sold this year than in previous years. This is in part due to the number of attendees, says new Executive Director Courtney Muller, but also because more exhibitors chose to sell books directly at their booths. In addition, there were a broad range of high profile writers and celebrities on hand: Target, the fair’s sponsor, had a performance stage where Julie Andrews and R.L. Stein were among those autographing; Barnes & Noble had Isabella Rossellini; Mysterious Bookshop featured Mary Higgins Clark, Lawrence Block, and Harlan Coben; the NYPL booth featured Art Spiegelman (a major attraction); and Bank Street had John Lithgow on hand.

PW and Bookseller contributor Gayle Feldman is doing a bio of Bennett Cerf, to be published by — you got it — Random House. Feldman tells PT, “The idea for doing a biography came during my National Arts Journalism research fellowship year at Columbia, when I spent some time going through a fraction of his papers and found them hugely entertaining. So I did a proposal and sent it myself to Bob Loomis for his advice. Loomis was hired by Cerf in 1957 and also has a particular interest in publishing history.” Loomis will edit the book, and Betsy Lerner is the agent.

PARTIES & EVENTS


Otto Penzler and Thomas Cook co-hosted a party with Vintage to celebrate the publication of Best American Crime Writing on September 17 at the Lotos Club. Vintage honcho Marty Asher was present, along with several of the writers from the anthology, and various publishing and media types, including PW’s Jeff Zaleski, Michele Slung, and Lynn Goldberg.

NYIBC’s Mayor’s Reception, which kicked off the organization’s events, took place at the imposing Surrogate’s Court on September 24. Mike Bloomberg himself was there, though he barely had time to take his flak jacket off after his trip to Afghanistan. Also present were retiring NYIBC President Linda Exman, and Courtney Muller, who takes over October 1; Alyse Myers, Chair of the organization; and a slew of authors including Judy Blume, Nelson DeMille, Dominick Dunne, Leonard Lopate, and Malachy McCourt.

MAZEL TOV


To Ballantine, at 50 and to AMS, turning twenty later this year. Meanwhile, according to the press release, “Fifteen years ago — on September 30, 1987 — Dominique Raccah invested $17,000 from the 401K she accumulated during her 7 years at advertising giant Leo Burnett. She started a publishing company in an upstairs bedroom of her home with the publication of one title: Financial Sourcebooks Sources. That one title blossomed into more, and today Sourcebooks publishes approximately 120 books per year in nearly every shape, size, format, and subject.”

What, Me Retrench?

Your Guide to Cost-Cutting Without Lopping Off Heads

Now that synergy’s been debunked, and good old Thomas Middelhoff has been spun off, the publishing world has settled down to the rather more prosaic task of whittling away at its already bare-bones cost structure. “It’s clear there is retrenchment,” as one public relations executive says, but it’s not always clear — as in the case of Random House’s belatedly acknowledged “companywide cost-restructuring program” — what trenches are getting hacked across whose budgetary back yard. For many publishers, creative cost-cutting has become something of a fine art these days, as they snip their expense reports into origami in search of those elusive economies, all the while trying deftly not to lop off their own colleagues’ heads.

“All of us here are very carefully looking at every line on our operating expenses,” explains Stephen Rubin, President and Publisher of the Doubleday Broadway division of Random House. For starters, he’s cut back dramatically on the free copies he sends out to what he dubs his “big mouth” list, which can save some considerable pennies in postage, plus the cost of the books themselves, over a year’s time. Taking aim at the unit’s many magazine subscriptions was a no-brainer, he adds, and the number of people deployed to conventions has been reeled in as well. The belt-tightening is closely monitored by the group’s business manager, who dispatches monthly reports to each department, and to date the division is “way ahead” of its self-imposed targets. “The best news in all of this is that no one feels put upon,” Rubin says. “On the contrary, it’s a little bit like dieting. We all feel better, to say nothing of virtuous.”

Other publishers are doing more than just nipping and tucking. Simon & Schuster, for example, has outsourced its returns operation to Arnold Logistics, according to VP Corporate Communications Adam Rothberg. “They not only have a state-of-the-art facility for processing returns, doing it more efficiently and economically than we could, but they also have a better system for reconciliation of invoices,” he says, admitting that this system was “somewhat of a black hole before.” The company has also signed a long-term agreement with Quebecor for exclusive production of a number of book formats, which is expected to bring “significant savings” on production costs, as well as adding further savings when the partnership is rolled out to S&S’s supply chain operation. Filling up that capacious Bristol, PA distribution center has been another target, and in the last six months S&S has added distribution clients Andrews, McMeel and Millbrook Press to the roster (for fulfillment and billing only). Finally, tighter timelines for sales conferences have allowed the publisher to eliminate more than a week’s worth of time over the course of the year. As Rothberg says, “That’s a significant chunk of change.” Alas, heads will occasionally roll. The announced restructuring of S&S’s Touchstone and Fireside imprints has eliminated one senior editor and three associate editor positions. Under Executive VP and Publisher Mark Gompertz, the group will now publish original trade paperbacks and hardcovers — as well as reprints from other houses — almost exclusively. Paperback conversions previously handled by the Trade Paperback Group are now to be published under their own name by the publisher’s four hardcover imprints.

Meanwhile, over at Holtzbrinck, some fancy digital footwork has helped the publisher save a bundle on sales conference costs. Alison Lazarus, SVP and President of the Sales Division, reports that St. Martin’s has nearly zapped the entire cost of one of its three annual sales conferences by converting it into an entirely long-distance affair. Equipped with Power Point marketing presentations, CD slide shows of jacket art, and audio tapes of editorial pitches — along with the usual gamut of catalogs, tip-sheets, and manuscripts mailed to reps prior to the conference date — the company now schedules a time for field reps to phone into the home office, where a core team of publishing, marketing, and sales personnel runs through the program (no editors allowed, though). Those phoning in are told to have their laptops cued up, and are instructed to hit the mute button on their headsets (no barking dogs allowed, either), and with speakerphones at the ready, “the technology works very well,” Lazarus says. Since materials have been digested before-hand, discussion centers around marketing tactics and not on desperate note-taking, as is too often the case at conferences. The tele-linked congregation whips through 700 titles in three days, starting at 10 am so that West Coast reps have time for an eye-opener or two. The phone conferences cost a mere 5% of a regular sales conference, and though reps still crave their “face time” at the other two annual dates, Lazarus reports that “everyone is enormously relieved.” What’s more, reps seem to be more talkative over the phone than when lolling in front of a conference center podium, which improves productivity all around.

When it comes to promoting “cost consciousness,” it seems even corporate synergy can have a certain utility. Dan Harvey, SVP Publishing Director for Putnam, sees opportunity in a new Pearson-wide initiative to facilitate various design, production, and research functions that used to be outsourced by each division of the company. As the worldwide program is just being made available to PPI, Harvey admits that the details are still a bit fuzzy, and no one’s enumerated all the ways in which this new centralized system will work. “We’re just beginning to think of how we’re going to use it effectively,” he says. But some of the targeted areas include promotion, for which PPI will have in-house access to short-run printing facilities, which should make producing posters, sales kits, postcards, or even easels more affordable. Pearson also has licenses with a number of stock houses, making access to artwork easier and cheaper. The impact will be felt in both book jacket design and in the design and production of promotional materials. Book productions, however, will not be affected. Nor can Harvey see any change in headcount. “We’re pretty lean,” he says, “and have been for some time.” Reinforcing that sentiment, John Schline, Penguin Putnam’s VP of New Business Development, adds that the publisher has launched two new imprints — Bill Shinker’s Gotham Books and Adrian Zackheim’s Portfolio — with no increase in back-office staff.

Shipping expenses were the object of a full frontal assault at Columbia University Press, says President and Director Bill Strachan. They studied their actual shipping costs, comparing them to the flat fee they charged customers — and adjusted to make sure they were breaking even. Then they deliberately bumped shipments down from two-day to three-day delivery (when appropriate), and regularly examine the rates of UPS, Fed Ex, and the USPS to ensure they’re getting the best deal. And for those who revel in the pecuniary minutiae of office appliances, Strachan says they looked at the number of printers in the office, and as the units were replaced, bought combination copier/laser printers, thus saving substantially on — yes — toner costs.

‘Less Is Definitely More’

Those on the other side of the ledger book — especially publicity and advertising firms — are unambiguous about the falloff in business. “Marketing has really been dialed back,” says George Fertitta of advertising firm Margeotes, Fertitta + Partners, which has worked with McGraw-Hill, Hearst, and other publishers. “Almost no one has been spending even the kind of money they spent just a few years ago. It’s basically fallen off the planet in terms of anyone doing any real marketing efforts.” The clients who are spending, Fertitta says, have jettisoned the layered marketing plans of yore to focus on simple and direct tactical missions for specific titles or geographic targets. As part of the larger triage efforts hitting the media landscape, clients are also running bigger ads fewer times (a strategy working quite well for anyone with a hankering for outdoor advertising, what with the major billboard glut). The upshot is that many publishers are coming around to a “classic packaged-goods marketing approach: understanding who your target audience is, what category you’re in, and what your unique selling proposition is.” But by Fertitta’s standards, cutting out the fluff may actually improve publishers’ marketing chops. “Book publishers’ advertising has always been so cluttered,” he says. “Everybody’s trying to put in as much copy as they can. Today less is definitely more. It’s much more effective to have one simple idea.”

Radical simplification is also under way when it comes to advertising online. “Two years ago there was an Internet component to any largish budget of $75,000 and above,” says Denise Berthiaume, President of Bennett Book Advertising. The Internet contribution now? Nil. Unless it happens to be thrown in gratis with a package deal, she says, “I can’t really recommend it. The dollars are so few and so carefully husbanded now that I need to make sure my clients are getting absolutely the most bang for the buck.” That means spending is almost entirely devoted to print media, a reasonable strategy, Berthiaume says. “For literary fiction and nonfiction, honing in on the bigger urban markets and focusing on print is a wise thing to do.”

Not everyone’s digging trenches, however. “Actually, no,” says Paul Feldstein, Managing Director of Trafalgar Square, when asked if he’s been rolling up the company carpets. “We’ve been expanding, and just went to a second shift in the warehouse. I guess we’re bucking the trend.”

Price Push in the Philippines

The Philippine archipelago may comprise more than 7,000 tiny, tropical islands, but from Manila to Mindanao, the Southeast Asian nation speaks with virtually one voice where books are concerned — and it’s in English. With a population of 80 million, the Philippines is said to be the third-largest English-speaking country in the world (after the US and the UK), and English-language titles account for as much as 95% of all book sales, English being the second language of most Filipinos — and a core requirement of the nation’s school curricula.

That’s all fuel to the fire for the Philippine Book Fair, which runs from August 31 to September 8 this year in Mandaluyong City, which is part of the sprawling metro Manila thicket of more than 10 million Filipinos. About 75,000 visitors are expected to crash the fair gates this year, according to Cristina Capistrano, Exhibit Manager for the 12-year-old event. Foreign booths this year were set to include China, Germany, Iran, and Spain, but surprisingly, perhaps, booths from US publishers will be scarce. As the fair is a selling fair, geared toward public attendance, US publishers typically participate through major booksellers such as National Book Store, which is the largest chain in the country with about 60 branches. “Most major US publishers have local regional managers who are very active in the market, and who would attend the fair,” says Simon & Schuster’s Dan Vidra, who nonetheless was heading out the door for Manila himself.

Those who do land at the fair will find a variety of hot-selling categories. “Academic books in English are still the bestsellers,” says Lirio Sandoval, President of the Book Development Association of the Philippines, partly because English is used in most school subjects as the language of instruction. But Sandoval cautions that despite the number of English titles, “we cannot really expect tremendous sales” due to Filipinos’ limited purchasing power: he estimates that only about 30% of the population can afford to buy books. Trade paperbacks can cost around $12, and hardcovers up to $18, though children’s titles go for $2 or less. In recent years the weak peso has put pressure on booksellers to bump up prices, but they’ve struggled to keep them down, mindful of customers’ limited means.

The lower price-points clearly have their appeal. “Children’s books probably outsell all other categories by a huge margin,” says Rino Balatbat, Random House Regional Sales Manager for Southeast Asia and Micronesia. Nonfiction inspirational titles and reference works are also strong categories. Titles are imported from the US, and to a lesser degree the UK, but neighboring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong are getting in on the act. (Sales in the local Tagalog language are mostly romances, often selling for less than $1.) But price pressure has affected the fair as well. “The fair has increasingly become a bargain book fair,” Balatbat notes. “The booksellers are all trying to trim their inventories by offering bargains and discounts, so much so that the ratio of new titles to backlist is becoming smaller and smaller.” Inflation has also taken a toll on sales, as a mass-market paperback might sell 500 copies, with a bestseller occasionally hitting the 5,000 mark. “Five years ago, the retail prices were just 50% of the current prices,” Balatbat says, “and the quantities then were double what they are now.”

Move Over, Moscow

Look out, Moscow: there’s a new book fair on the block. That’s the word on the street, anyway, as this month’s 15th Moscow International Book Fair hits the town from September 4-9. The venerable Russian institution, expanded this year with a rights center and expected to grab record attendance atop the most recent wave of globalization, has nonetheless found itself with a rival. Enter the upstart Non/fiction Book Fair, billed as the “4th International Book Fair of high-quality fiction and nonfiction,” slated to run November 27 to December 2.

Why the new fair? “To embrace the wide diversity of the new-wave book world, to provide an alternative to mass-market culture, and to acquaint the public with the broad range of intellectual achievements of the last decade,” says Luda Frost, Project Manager for fair producer ExpoPark Exhibition Projects. An “expert council” of publishers selects the exhibitors, who are encouraged to proffer things like “conceptual book projects” and “book-actions.” Previous fairs have attracted over 30,000 visitors, and 150 exhibitors are on tap for this year’s show, more than 20% of which are foreign. The special theme is “The Literary Critics,” and heavy hitters from France, the UK, and the Ukraine have been invited for roundtables and seminars.

The fair responds to a nascent shift in Russian publishing away from imported bestsellers and toward more literary fare, says Yulia Borodyanskaya, Subsidiary Rights Manager for Newmarket Publishing. Authors such as Nikolay Gumilev, Umberto Eco, and even Sartre are said to be selling, and contemporary writers include Boris Akunin (he’s been snapped up by Random’s Modern Library) and Ludmila Ulitskaya, whose novel The Funeral Party was published in the US last year by Schocken. There may even be hope for sales of Russian fiction abroad. “Russian fiction was not at all in demand until the last few years,” says Natalia Matveyeva, Rights Manager for Moscow’s Text Publishers. “Only in recent months have we felt an interest waking up. But everybody prefers something with a scandalous flavor, and not too much detail about Russian life.”

Still, traditional business is perking along, and even English titles have shown promise. “English-language book exports have grown steadily,” says Sandy Friedman, Random House’s Senior VP for International Sales. Mariann Kenedi, who manages Random’s English sales in Russia, adds that “English-language education has been getting very important,” and says that as American fiction is widely translated, Russians want to read their Grisham in the original. Unfortunately, wild currency wobbles have brought a five-fold price hike for imported goods, and a 20% VAT on book imports hasn’t helped matters. “The potential is there, but it’s a long-term seeding process,” Friedman says.

The faltering economy has given some exhibitors at the bigger Moscow fair pause. “Sales for the last few months have slumped badly,” says Bob Michel, VP and Director of International Sales for the AOL Time Warner Book Group. “It didn’t make sense for us to go this year.” But he hasn’t given up all hope. Michel says his bestsellers in Russia are mass-market paperbacks, but that — regardless of the trend toward literature — Bulfinch titles sell well, too. “A lot of wealthier Russians will think nothing of spending $100 on Ansel Adams,” he says. “Bulfinch is coming out with 100 Years of Harley Davidson, with a rubberized cover. I think we’ll get some nice orders on that from Russia.”

We thank Olga Borodyanskaya, literary agent and publishing consultant in St. Petersburg, for her contribution to this article.

Kids’ TV Tie-Ins Go Beyond Bob ‘n Barney

Now that we’ve all got our Bob the Builder lunch boxes stuffed with Bob’s licensed fruit snacks, die-cast play tools, and special-edition Playdoh, it may come as no surprise that this beloved British handyman is now broadcast in 140 countries. Or that Sears has set up Bob boutiques in 850 stores across the US. Or that in Britain Bob’s thumbs-up theme song, “Can We Fix It? Yes, We Can,” became the nation’s hottest tune since “Candle in the Wind.” Indeed, in a little over a year, 8.5 million Bob the Builder books have gone home to kids’ toolboxes everywhere, says Linda Dowdy, General Manager of Publishing for the Americas at Hit Entertainment, the production juggernaut behind the hard-hatted heart-throb.

The undeniable success of children’s television properties such as Bob and dinosaur-adversary Barney tends to overshadow an important distinction between not-for-profit, subsidized public television properties and the equally successful and as highly praised shows produced by the very commercial Nickelodeon network. In a word, it’s money. “We have no trouble competing as far as entertainment value,” says Christopher Cerf, President of Sirius Thinking and Creative Producer of Between the Lions, the critically acclaimed program about reading that will première its third PBS season on September 16. “But we’re constantly underpublicized. It’s hard to get the promotional dollars behind a show like ours to compete with some of the big studios.” Sirius Thinking’s dilemma is one faced by all children’s programming that appears on the non-commercial PBS instead of commercial networks. Acknowledged or not, the pressure to earn income from licensing looms at the outset, and may influence actions taken by the licensors, including rushing to market before the audience has a chance to build.

Positioned as the next step after Sesame Street and aimed at kids aged 4 to 7, Between the Lions chronicles a leonine family as they delve into the world of books and teach reading skills with a mix of puppetry, animation, and live action. There’s also a heady dose of celebrity appearances (Larry King, Melissa Etheridge, and Sigourney Weaver all pop in for a visit this season), but the focus is on curriculum-based reading instruction. “The important thing about our show is that it has a scientific, research-based reading curriculum,” Cerf explains. “We try to teach reading systematically in the course of entertainment. We think that will be the key to our licensing as we go forward. As parents realize that this is a project that can help their kids to read, we expect they’ll be very loyal to it.”

Betsy Groban, Managing Director of WGBH Enterprises (WGBH co-produces the series with Sirius Thinking), says that Golden Books has the show’s book license, but following Random’s takeover of Golden, “Between the Lions got lost in the shuffle. We would love to form an alliance with another trade publisher.” Others familiar with the situation point out that the Lions’ educational bent didn’t work with Golden’s mass-merch focus. And even more than most books, licensed products have to find their niche quickly or be dropped. “From a sales and marketing perspective,” adds Golden’s Associate Publisher, Amy Jarashow, “we launched a relatively large program for a show which had little consumer awareness upon the books’ initial publication.” Moving forward, a textbook line is under way with Pearson Education, which is developing a “Knowledge Box” that lets teachers call up any part of the show in class. Interest has been so strong that “we’re using the school popularity to work back into the consumer market,” Cerf says. All in all, 5.5 million viewers watch the program each week, 31% of them adults.

Of course, there are other worthy shows out there in the world of public broadcasting. Karen Gruenberg, Executive VP of Content and Operations for the nonprofit Sesame Workshop, which has publishing arrangements with Random House and Reader’s Digest, among others, reports that the group is launching a book program with Scholastic for its newest PBS series, Sagwa — “The Chinese Siamese Cat” — based on a children’s title originally written by Amy Tan and illustrated by Gretchen Schields. The project will launch with two storybooks this fall, and four titles are set for the spring, according to Sesame Publishing Director Valerie Garfield. The group’s Dragon Tales property is launching a book series with Random, and there’s Sesame Street, of course. Titles are all vetted by Sesame’s panel of researchers (who recently gathered kids’ post-Sept. 11 responses via journals, videos, and scrap books). “It’s a much different take on licensed publishing,” says Garfield.

The Big Consumer Splash

Not that publishers are complaining about Bob and company. Simon & Schuster has sold 4.2 million Bob the Builder books, plus a million copies of SpongeBob Squarepants titles, according to Tracy van Straaten, Director of Publicity for S&S Children’s Publishing. When it comes to TV properties, all those book sales — along with the branded foam furniture and the packaged underwear — are the lifeblood of a franchise, as the actual broadcast does not necessarily generate much in the way of revenue, although it does offer crucial exposure. “Broadcast supports the brand that drives the business,” explains Denise Perkins-Landry, spokeswoman for Hit Entertainment, which acquired Barney with last year’s purchase of Lyrick Studios. “There are very few preschool properties that survive without broadcast.” But without the advertising income and vast exposure that benefits commercial properties, public-television productions exist only as long as the producers can afford to tape the next season, which is often financed by grants or underwriting. For example, Between the Lions is supported in part by the US Department of Education, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Cheerios.

To help make that all-important consumer splash, Cerf says that a licensing partner’s promotional plans can carry just as much weight as the up-front money (all of which, the producers stress, goes right back into the show’s production). And take note: a Spanish-language version of Between the Lions is on tap, in addition to a show using roots music to help preschoolers become more musical, plus a new science series. Such reader-friendly fare may never conquer Bob and Barney. But you never know. Between the Lions was the first TV show in a decade to win an endorsement from the National Education Association, and one study conducted in Kansas found that kids who watched the program performed better on almost all outcome measures of reading achievement. “In the long run,” Cerf says, “it’s a better business than a hit-driven business. The real issue is building a brand that stands for reading.”

International Fiction Bestsellers

The Flying Dutchmen
De Winter Does Hollywood, Holland’s Huck Finn,
And Bar Chickens Cluck in Spain

Hailed as the Dutch-European postwar generation’s answer to John Irving, the popular Netherlands writer Leon de Winter has scored that mega-coup all scribblers secretly dream about: his own film starring Burt Reynolds. Cued up for its theatrical première in October at the Netherlands Film Festival, de Winter’s dark comedy The Hollywood Sign tells the tale of three washed-up Hollywood heroes (played by Reynolds, Rod Steiger, and Tom Berenger) who hatch a scheme to steal a bunch of cash from a Las Vegas casino in order to finance their comebacks. Though the film has gotten a few rocky reviews — “a bit too ‘Scooby Doo’”, one critic sniffed — the author’s on a roll, as his latest novel, God’s Gym, has just hit the Dutch bestseller list with its tale of a father’s helpless love for his 17-year-old daughter after she dies at the hands of an American karate champion named “Godzilla.” The book explores an unlikely friendship between the two men, which takes on symbolic significance as “God” converts to Judaism. De Winter, who was born in 1954 as the son of Netherlands Jews, has been thrust into the ranks of Paul Auster and Philip Roth, and he took home this year’s Welt Literature Prize for his “humorously drawn anti-heroes” and literary output “as complex as it is exciting.” Since its June release, God’s Gym has sold over 60,000 copies in the Netherlands, and rights have been sold to Germany, where the Swiss-based Diogenes will publish this spring. English rights to two of the author’s novels, Sokolow’s Universe (about Russian Jews, the Gulf War, and space travel) and Zionoco (on the spiritual journey of a tippling Manhattan Rabbi), have just been sold to Welcome Rain. As for The Hollywood Sign, US and UK rights are up for grabs. See Diogenes for all rights queries.

Also in Holland, Amsterdam native Kees van Beijnum turned up a pearl or two when he chose Nam Kee, one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in Amsterdam’s fabled red-light district, as the backdrop for his fifth and latest novel. Said to be “burning with passion” and “a novel with a real backbone,” Oysters at Nam Kee is the story of Berry Kooyman, an eighteen-year-old high school student with a double life, whom critics call “a Huckleberry Finn who has lost his innocence.” From his delinquent friends he hides his affluent family life on a mansion-lined street, and from his respectable, middle-class family he hides his hooligan pals. When a bewitching dancer becomes his confidante, however, he can’t tell the pearls from the swine. With 53,000 copies in print, Oysters at Nam Kee has sparked heavy interest among teenagers, and a film version is set to première September 5. Rights for this book and the author’s earlier work The Archives (an “ingeniously constructed, intriguing novel” about a rootless, unemployed philosophy graduate living in a poor Amsterdam neighborhood) have been sold to Germany (DVA) and are available from Nijgh & Van Ditmar. And lastly in Holland, it’s time for our yearly back-to-school disclaimer: Among the top 15 titles this month, no less than 7 are those perennial Prisma dictionaries, with English-Dutch, Dutch, and, Dutch-English taking slots 3,4, and 5 (a slightly poorer showing than last year, when the Dutch dictionary surpassed all English-related titles on the list). While lexicographers everywhere are popping champagne corks, the news is actually just a reminder of the start of classes for Dutch students.

In Sweden, the Second World War saga of Kerstin Ekman’s Wolf Skin trilogy continues apace, with the latest installment, The Last String, following Hillevi Hlavarsson’s now adult daughter Myrtle as she leaves Blackwater for Stockholm with a burning little secret in her valise. Thus begins a journey stretching from Stockholm to Oslo via the Nordic mountain landscape, and from Värmland to Venice, but always keeping the homeland front and center. Ekman’s series has been praised as a “modern-day epic” and a “rich reading experience [that] deserves a large public.” This second volume has already sold 78,000 copies, no surprise as Ekman is one of the most honored Swedish literary figures of the last 50 years, and became a member of the Swedish Academy of Arts and Letters in 1978. (She was one of three members who resigned in a huff when the Academy declined to issue a strong statement of support for Salman Rushdie in 1989.) Rights to the series have been sold in Germany (Piper), Norway (Aschehoug), Denmark (Gyldendal), Italy (Il Saggiatore), and Holland (Prometheus), but US and UK rights are available for all of her books, notably The Last String and Time Before Time (a fable-like story à la Tolkien). See the Linda Michaels Agency for rights.

In Greece, Lena Divani breaks out with Singular Form, a novel spanning both generations and social strata as it tracks the fate of two orphaned children, Aris and Ira. The book opens in the summer of 1960 in Volos, a port city in eastern Greece, and moves on to the present day as the children, now adults, have moved to other parts of the globe. Aris starts out as an unkempt boy oppressed by his overbearing mother, while his low-paid father abandons his son’s life forever. On the other hand, Ira is a child of extremely wealthy means who gets ditched as her socialite parents find themselves too preoccupied with sashaying about town. In their mutual attempts to clarify the secrets of their past, the two children prove themselves scarred but unbroken survivors of their own homes. The 47-year-old Divani was born in Volos and is now Professor of Balkan and Greek Foreign Policy at the Law School of Athens, and her earlier novel The Women of Her Life was published in Spain by Alfaguara. All rights are open for the new one; contact Maria Fakinou of Kastaniotis.

And wings are vigorously flapping all over Spain as satirical writer and journalist Alfonso Ussía hits the list with Carpe Diem: Confessions of a Bar Chicken. A vociferous opinion columnist for ABC and Time magazine, Ussía has warmed the cockles of his compatriots with this picaresque chronicle of a certain Alonso de Llodio Muñoz-Dry, an arrogant sophisticate from Madrid who proclaims himself a “hybrid of fern and rush.” As it turns out, the confessions of Muñoz-Dry bear a striking resemblance to Ussía’s encounters with current members of Spain’s social set, and consequently, we’re told, the 54-year-old Ussía has been offered more than a few bribes in recent months. Call him the Spanish P.G. Wodehouse. All rights are available from Ediciones B.

Book View, September 2002

PEOPLE


After 15 years at Reader’s Digest, most recently as VP Global Director, Global Books & Home Entertainment, Alfredo Santana will be leaving the company. He may be reached via email at [email protected] or at (212) 781-0632. Santana tells PT that he will attend Frankfurt this year, his eighteenth.

Gerry Helferich, who recently left Wiley, and Teresa Nicholas, who resigned as VP Production at Crown, are moving to San Miguel de Allende in late September for a year’s sabbatical, while Helferich writes his book (see PT, 8/02). Kitt Allan, who had been Marketing Director and Associate Director of Editorial Development, is replacing Helferich as Publisher of Wiley General Books. . . Pat Strachan has been named Senior Editor at Little, Brown and will be starting there on Sept 9.

Ted Hill has been named SVP Business Development for Vista Computer Services. He had been at several dot-coms, including About.com, and was Publisher of Macmillan Digital Reference. . . As reported earlier, David Allender has gone to Workman as Senior Editor in charge of Children’s, starting after Labor Day. He was previously at BOMC. . . Ballantine’s Nancy Miller has hired Senior Editor Zack Schisgal, who was most recently at Warner/ipublish, to focus on a range of nonfiction. And Claire Tisne has been hired as Teri Henry’s replacement in the rights department. She comes via the BBC.

Mary Beth Guimaraes moves from Doubleday to HarperCollins as Rights Manager, replacing Chris McKerrow, who went to Reader’s Digest. And Pocket’s Annie Hughes has been named Senior Rights Associate at Harper, replacing Riky Stock, who left to head up the German Book Office (see PT, 8/02). Jeff Meltzer, Director of Finance and Business Operations, has left HarperCollins after four years, in a restructuring. . . Ken Brooks has added the title of President of Publishing & Media Group, a magazine and book consultancy he has taken over. He continues to run Publishing Dimensions, which digitizes and distributes ebooks and egalleys.

Deborah Sloan has been appointed by Trafalgar Square to the new position of Director of Marketing & Promotion, beginning September 17. She was previously at Candlewick Press for 11 years, most recently as Executive Director of Marketing. Prior to that she was Publicity & Advertising Director at Abbeville. She will be based in a satellite office in the Boston area.

PROMOTIONS


Peter Clifton, President of Ingram Periodicals, has taken over as head of international for Ingram Books. He was previously at PubEasy and is based in Tennessee.

Susan Weinberg announced the promotion of Alison Callahan to editor at HarperCollins and Perennial. She joined HarperCollins in August of 2000 to work for the late Robert Jones, who became Harper’s Editor-in-Chief. She will represent HarperCollins in selecting the annual winner of the Robert S. Jones Memorial Scholarship, established with the Columbia Publishing Course for a UK or Commonwealth student.

Josh Marwell announced that Kathy Smith has been promoted to VP, Sales Administration and Operations. She was Director of Sales Administration.

DULY NOTED


New York Is Book Country gears up at the end of September, with five days of events that culminate in the 24th annual Fifth Avenue fair on Sunday, Sept. 29. The first day, Sept. 25, is devoted to cookbooks, followed on Thursday by “Books Into Movies,” and “What They’re Reading in the Boroughs,” while the weekend is filled with readings, the NYT Literary Lunch and Literary Tea and, of course, the street fair itself. Meanwhile, all available booths have been taken at the fair, and an estimated 250,000-plus people are expected to attend. For further information, see NYisbookcountry.com.

The second National Book Festival will be held Saturday, October 12 on the grounds of the US Capitol. Designed to encourage a lifelong love of reading, the festival will feature nationally-recognized authors and storytellers. The first National Book Festival, held at the Library of Congress on September 8, 2001, was attended by 30,000 “enthusiastic book-lovers.” This year’s festival, again organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and Laura Bush, will include author readings, book signings, musical performances by Squeeze Bayou, the Broadcreek Dixieland Band, Mariachi Los Amigos, and more. Go to www.loc.gov/bookfest.

The Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival takes place Sept. 19-22 in the Village of Waterloo, NJ, and features the last five Poet Laureates, from Rita Dove to Billy Collins, Grace Paley, Amiri Baraka, Taha Muhammad Ali, and others. Go to www.grdodge.org/poetry1.

Now that the sale of Abrams’ 50 textbook titles (including Janson’s History of Art) to Pearson Education has been confirmed, we thought an explanation might be in order. “Textbook publishing today requires tremendous capital outlays and an editorial and marketing infrastructure on a truly military scale,” explains Eric Himmel, Abrams VP and Publisher. The decision had to be made to expand or sell. The books were actually created by Abrams for P-H under license. Now they will become P-H’s property and they will take over the task of editing, designing, and producing — and Abrams will distribute to the trade and collect a distribution fee.

Meanwhile, in another example of the big gulping down the small, The Bookseller reports that McGraw-Hill Education has acquired Open University Press, the independent social science and general academic publisher. Open UP publishes about 100 new titles a year, with a list totalling 800 books.

• Knowbetter.com and Electronic Book Web partnered to conduct a survey of ebooks and their readers, which will be periodically updated. The essentials haven’t changed much in the last year or two, but it is noteworthy that this survey found that teens “haven’t yet come to the ebook party. In fact, the vast majority (74%) of respondents are between 30 and 59 years of age, while only 14% are under 30.” Meanwhile, in looking at Barnes & Noble, Powells.com, the Gemstar eBookstore, and Palm Digital Media, to see just what titles were available for the younger audience, “Barnes & Noble lists over 37,000 paperback titles in their children’s category (which included young adult titles). Contrast that with the number of titles we found available in an electronic format. They ranged from a low of 129 (Palm Digital Media) to a high of 342 (MS Reader at B&N). In other words, ebooks in this segment account for less than 1% of the selection available in paper form.” Go to http://knowbetter.com/ebook/surveys/ 2002spring_results.asp.

• Bob Wyatt, legendary editor and publisher of eponymous imprint A Wyatt Book (which had been housed previously at St. Martin’s), returns to the fray, this time with Golden Notebook Press. The publisher tells us it happened this way: “Among the events of the first Woodstock Poetry Festival was a reading by Janice King, who I knew only as an affable bookseller at The Golden Notebook (a long-lived bookstore in the center of the village). I was spellbound by Janice’s poetry about her upbringing in rough-and-tumble Oregon and her later life here in the Hudson Valley. At a Billy Collins reading, Ellen Shapiro, who runs The Golden Notebook along with Barry Samuels, said, ‘All right, Wyatt, you think she’s so hot? Why don’t you co-publish a book of her poetry with Golden Notebook Press?’ Flush with continuing income from The Red Tent, the very last Wyatt Book in association with St. Martin’s Press, I instantly said, ‘Sure, why not?’ ” Taking Wing: Poems from the Oregon Outback to the Hudson Valley was published in July. The publisher’s next project: a history of the Coleman Theater, a landmark vaudeville theater in Miami, Oklahoma.

PARTIES & EVENTS


Newmarket Press celebrated its 20th anniversary with a garden party at the Amagansett home of founder and President Esther Margolis. Among the Hamptonites who attended the event, which included a house tour of Margolis and husband (and Newmarket author) Stan Fisher’s newly renovated weekend lair, were HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman, Columbia U’s Bill Strachan, there with wife and editor Pat Strachan (see People, above), BOMC’s Mel Parker, Scholastic’s Barbara Marcus, and author Anne Roiphe.

Got Propaganda?

While much of the literary world mopes about sluggish trade book sales and a flat-lined readership, an industry group in Holland has jettisoned their melancholy and mounted a frontal assault on blasé book buying. Aggressively luring readers and making bestsellers in the bargain, this Dutch treat just might be a model for other nations in need of a literacy wake-up call.

Affectionately known as the Collective Propaganda for the Dutch Book (CPNB), and armed with an array of book events and publicity-sparking pitches, the Amsterdam-based group has helped hike sales of Dutch literature more than 40% over the last decade, to around $400 million — with the number of copies sold marching upward as well. That’s not bad for a nation of 16 million people. And it’s due in part to CPNB’s approach to riveting Holland’s attention on books. “The program is successful because there is no competition with other diversions,” CPNB Director Henk Kraima says about his eyeball-grabbing events. “It is the best way to fight the music and film industries.”

On the front lines of Kraima’s strategic campaign is a 10-day blowout called Book Week. Held every March, Book Week is chockablock with media magnets such as the Book Ball, a gala affair packed with authors, publishers, booksellers, and assorted debutantes that has become one of the nation’s best-known annual events. One year, sponsors were put out because they were only able to cram eight TV camera crews into the bash. (“The arrival of the authors has turned into an event comparable with the entry of gladiators into an arena,” according to Kraima, who is clearly tickled with the spectacle.) But Book Week’s stealth ingredient is a short novel commissioned from major authors such as Salman Rushdie, Cees Noteboom, and Anna Enquist. Each year a new novel, running to about 100 pages, is offered exclusively as a free gift to customers who spend at least €11.11 — around $11 — on a general book. In recent years print runs for these “gift books” have soared to 750,000 copies, each one of them guaranteeing the sale of a regular trade book — and ensuring that 750,000 customers have come through booksellers’ doors. (Retailers place orders for the gift book, which is sold to them at a nominal cost, and then the print run is determined.) Gift book authors dominate the nation’s bestseller list, and the Dutch boost can turn into major play elsewhere. Noteboom’s 1992 short novel The Following Story, for example, first appeared as a gift book and was subsequently translated into more than 15 languages, hitting the top ten in Germany. Moreover, each year highlights a different category or theme (this year’s was “Love in Literature,” while others have been “Latin America,” “Family Ties,” and “The Classical Age”), which helps publishers brush off their backlists and roll out special reprints or promotional campaigns.

Beyond Book Week, other CPNB programs target children’s books, travel writing, and the teen market (see www.cpnb.nl for more details). Then there’s Thriller Month, every June, for which CPNB has published a promotional newspaper with a print run of over a million copies, funded by ads from publishers. As with Book Week, a special short story is commissioned from name authors (Stephen King, Elizabeth George, and Robin Cook have all offered their wares) and given away with a purchase. Thrillers now account for about 18% of Dutch trade book sales.

Propaganda doesn’t come for free, of course, as the architects of the AAP’s consumer campaign, Get Caught Reading, are well aware. With a staff of 20, the CPNB collects a yearly contribution of about $370,000 each from booksellers, publishers, and libraries. (Each of these three groups also selects three of the nine CPNB board members.) On top of that, revenues from the sale of promotional materials and ads in CPNB publications rack up another $5 million each year — each campaign must generate its own revenue via point-of-sale materials — supporting an annual operating budget of up to $6 million. With this cash in hand, and a gladiatorial swagger or two, the group has apparently pushed reading into the heady upper precincts of Dutch glitterati. “Other branches of industry,” as the CPNB boasts, “look on the book trade with envy.”

Odysseus Rising

As globalization and its discontents continue to rumble across European book markets, among those nations bidding earnestly for a share of multinational manna is that one-time world titan, Greece. Casting its former Hellenocentric viewpoint to the Aegean winds, this nation has set a steady course for cosmopolitan literary exchange — or at least that’s the official word on the matter. “In the last three years, interest in Greek literature on the part of foreign publishers has increased significantly,” Christos Lazos, Director of the National Book Centre of Greece, recently declared, talking up a whole host of efforts to boost foreign exports of its literary goods — including government funding of translations, collaborations with foreign publishers, and a broad burst of literary initiatives flowing from Greece’s 1980 entry into the European Union. As one publication recently announced, the entire tide of Greek fiction has turned “from local history to the global individual.”

And that individual, some contend, is a ferocious reader. “The Greek reading public is seriously underestimated,” says former Oceanida Publisher Nikos Megapanos, “both in its size and its quality.” He estimates that at least 300,000 Greeks are out there reading an average of eight books each year. Though initial print runs tend to be around 3,000 copies, bestsellers will top the 8,000-copy mark, with some titles selling over 150,000. “If a publisher reprints within the year, he is more than happy,” Megapanos adds.

Over the last decade, however, Greek publishing has been reaching maturity, and hitting some roadbumps along the way. Small publishers have been falling off the shelf, while large media groups such as Lambrakis are jumping into book publishing and “bringing a lot of confusion to the market with their aggressive marketing,” according to Megapanos, who’s launching a new magazine for books this fall. “But my judgment is that they are in for a few surprises. Small publishers with clearly defined markets have nothing to fear so far.”

Regarding the ever-sensitive issue of pricing, Tassos Papanastassiou at publisher Ellinika Grammata tells us that, in line with EU recommendations, retail discounting in the nation is held to a maximum of 10% for the first two years after a book’s publication, but following that period (and assuming there is no reprint), prices may be freely slashed. The tax-man looms, however, as the government is currently working on a law that would tax booksellers according to their inventory, and not according to sales. Publishers fear such a law would force retailers to return truckloads of stock to publishers during the Christmas holidays, when the fiscal period essentially ends, causing pandemonium for the whole business.

Where sales are concerned, it seems foreign publishers are well positioned: children’s books and translated foreign fiction are among the bestselling categories in Greece (and the majority of children’s books are imported, prized for their high-quality illustrations). Interestingly, study guides have also been top-sellers, vacuumed up by frantic students as new requirements for university entrance exams have sent them scurrying for the Greek version of Cliffs Notes. All in all, says Costas Voukelatos, publisher of the statistical magazine Ichneftis, 35% of the 6,500 titles published in Greece are translated from other EU countries or the US. And English is by far the most-translated language, accounting for 60% of translated titles.

But Oceanida’s scout, Mary Anne Thompson, observes that the Greeks are not as aggressive as Holland, Germany, or the UK in snapping up American titles. And according to Cullen Stanley at Janklow & Nesbit, “Greek publishers are more concerned about buying big hits rather than creating a solid backlist, which would help them build a stronger market.” That may be changing, however. Marcella Berger, VP Sub. Rights at Simon & Schuster, notes that apart from the obvious bestsellers, Greeks seem to be buying more backlist classics à la Norman Vincent Peale and Dale Carnegie, indicating a more cautious approach. Whatever their rationale, it seems to be paying off: Berger’s sales to Greece have increased in the last three to five years.