Book View, December 2002

PEOPLE


Simon & Schuster’s various imprints have been trimmed over the past few weeks: Rachel Klayman has been laid off from The Free Press, Jeff Neuman has left S&S (and may be reached at [email protected]), and Rosemary Ahern (who arrived from Dutton less than two years ago), and Kim Kanner and an assistant have departed WSP/Pocket Books.

Kris Kliemann has been named VP, Director of Global Rights at Wiley. She had been Associate Publisher at Fodor’s. In other Wiley news, Helen Witsenhausen will be retiring after 20 years at the company. . . . In children’s books, more turmoil as Random House Children’s experiences a bout of layoffs in its various imprints, with VP Marketing Andrew Smith and 8 others in art and editorial leaving the company. Daisy Kline was named as Smith’s successor. The division will move to the new Random building on December 20th. The first group from 1540 Broadway just moved over and the final stragglers will arrive in January. Meanwhile, word is that Random is a potential bidder for Houghton’s trade division, and is rumored to be looking at a Japanese venture, possibly with Kodansha. . . . Little, Brown Children’s announces that Jennifer Hunt has been hired as an Editor. She was at Lee and Low Books.

Bookspan has hired Linda Andersen, formerly VP Marketing development at Columbia House, as Senior VP, Marketing. She will report to Seth Radwell, President of the Bookspan group. No news yet on the new head of Children’s BOMC, but look for an announcement in early December.

Harper Design International has named Ali Kokmen as Sales and Marketing Manager, reporting to Harriet Pierce, Director of Sales and Marketing. He was previously at Watson-Guptill, as was Pierce. . . Walt Bode has recently left Harcourt, where he was Senior Editor.

PROMOTIONS


Lots of promotions at Random House: Libby McGuire has been named Associate Publisher, Director of Marketing of the Random House Trade Group, responsible for overseeing all marketing, publicity, advertising, and promotion for the group. Ivan Held, who previously filled the dual role of Associate Publisher of the trade group and Publisher of Random House Trade Paperbacks, will now focus on the paperback program. And Crown has promoted two executive editors. Kristin Kiser is now Crown Editorial Director, while Becky Cabaza is Editorial Director for Three Rivers.

DECEMBER DATES


On Wed., December 4, HarperCollins’ Larry Ashmead, bookseller Roxanne Coady, PW’s Daisy Maryles, Little, Brown’s Michael Pietsch, and moderator Gayle Feldman will discuss “Best and Worst of Times: Best Books vs. Bestsellers in a Changing Business.” The event, which takes place at Columbia Journalism School (Lecture Hall, 3rd Floor) at 116th and Broadway, is sponsored by the National Arts Journalism Program at the Columbia Journalism School, and co-sponsored by the Women’s Media Group. C-Span will record the panel for later broadcast on “Booknotes.” Admission is free; no RSVP is necessary. Email Gayle Feldman at [email protected] if you would like to pose a topic or question to be discussed at the panel.

On December 5 literary agent at Donadio & Olson and man-about-town Ira Silverberg will throw a 40th birthday event that will help raise funds for The Council Of Literary Magazines and Presses through a silent auction and donations. The festivities will take place from 9pm – midnight at Estate (formerly the Limelight, where Silverberg once worked as the doorman of the “VIP Room”), at 6th Avenue & 20th Street. Rsvp via [email protected] or (212) 741-9110 x 18. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to: CLMP, 154 Christopher Street, Suite 3C, New York, NY 10014.

The Small Press Center hosts its annual Benefit Cocktail Reception in honor of Mark Twain from 5:30-8 on December 5 at the Small Press Center. Tax deductible tickets are $65. Call (212) 764-7021 for details. On December 12 it will sponsor another workshop: “Do It Yourself Design for Books and Websites.” Held with the support of PW, the workshop takes place between 6-8 pm, also at the Small Press Center on 20 W. 44th. For further information go to www.smallpress.org.

DULY NOTED


Crain’s New York Business has published its annual “The Private 200” list of top privately held companies in the New York area (November 25 issue). Barnes & Noble’s College stores are listed at #26, with revenues of $1.25 billion. Norton is the only book publisher listed, at #174, and with revenues of $100 million, though Crain’s admits the company did not fill out the survey. Presumably Workman and Sterling never got one.

• Chris Kerr, commission rep and founder of Parson Weems under the auspices of the venerable Association of Book Travelers, organized a commemorative lunch for Coliseum Books and its managers. Our correspondent reports that former owner George Leibson is in the throes of putting together a deal to reopen this much missed bookstore formerly at Broadway and 57th Street. What he really needs now is a youthful investor who’s willing to work hard. Anyone with any ideas or inclinations can reach Leibson at (212) 749-3833.

• Mike Campbell, who has left Carlton and is now an independent sales and marketing consultant, sends PT the following report from the shores of Lake Tahoe: “This year’s National Conference of the Publishers Association of the West was held from Nov. 21 to Nov. 23 at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe. PubWest, which began in 1977 as the Rocky Mountain Book Publishers Association, has grown to a trade organization serving over 200 mid-size publishers west of the Mississippi. Holly Brady, Director of Stanford University’s Professional Publishing Course, kicked off the weekend with a review of the last decade’s “roller coaster ride.” Miriam Bass from National Book Network joined Marcella Smith from Barnes & Noble and Dave Edinger from Books West to share secrets of getting bigger advances at the chains, while Bill Cartwright from Inland Press and James Butcher from R.R. Donnelly looked at evolving tools in production, including digital asset management and print-on-demand. Other seminars covered printing in Asia and managing authors through the publishing process. Traffic was strong in the adjoining trade show, perhaps because many feel that pennies saved with short-run printing might make the difference in the current market. Overall, attendees reported that these were tough times indeed for the industry; the competition is fierce, with it seems ever-fewer customers beating down the door. Yet publishers such as Mike Jones at Wilderness Press, Helen Cherullo at Mountaineers, and Gibbs M. Smith reported hopes for a good year overall.

• Larry Ashmead, continuing his “farewell tour,” spoke at the PAMA luncheon in November, and told this story, edited for space: In 1977 when Lippincott merged with Harper + Row, then-Publisher Ed Burlingame told Ashmead to dump authors Patricia Highsmith (whom Joan Kahn had originally bought), Dick Francis, and Tony Hillerman. On Hillerman, Burlingame said, “We are barely earning out a $3,000 advance and there’s no increment in sales. Get him off Indians or off our list!” Ashmead concludes, “When Bill Shinker came on board as a marketing genius he agreed with me,” and the rest is publishing history.

PARTIES & EVENTS


November was a big month for anniversaries and parties: The Literary Guild celebrated its 75th anniversary at Bookspan’s annual party at the Waldorf on November 6th, and AMS celebrated its 20th anniversary at The New York Stock Exchange on November 7th. S&S had a big bash for Mary Higgins Clark and daughter Carol at the New York Athletic Club on November 20th — the night of the National Book Awards. HarperCollins threw a party at Vue for the publication of Michael Crichton’s Prey on Nov. 25.

MAZEL TOV


To Bloomberg Press’s Sales & Marketing Director John Crutcher and wife Beth on the November 19th birth of Kira Evangeline.

Belated congrats to Riverhead’s Julie Grau on her Venetian nuptials to Adam Stern, right after Frankfurt.

The Book Beat

Amid Booming Book Biz Coverage, Critics See ‘Gaping’ News Holes

First there was Keith Kelly at the New York Post. Then there were the hot-shots at Inside.com, and thus dawned a new era of frenzied jockeying among daily media scribes to fling arrows into the side of the homely book publishing business. While stalwarts such as Kelly have been in the trenches since the days when editors from Condé Nast and Random House were kissing cousins, it was the late ’90s promise of electronic publishing — and the seductive story of Amazon.com and all those other high-flying digerati — that brought klieg lights shining down from every media outlet on earth.

Ironically, however, you can blame the latest boom in book-biz gossip on the demise of Inside, for when the talent-packed media site backed by Kurt Andersen went kaput in 2001, it drove a mini-diaspora of hungry media reporters into the business pages, two of whom landed at the New York TimesDavid Carr as Media Reporter and Lorne Manly as Deputy Media Editor — and another two of whom hit the New York Observer, which is intently beefing up its book page. But despite the tooth-and-nail rivalries among outlets like the Post’s Kelly and Paul Colford at the Daily News, or among startups such as Publishers Weekly’s daily email and Michael Cader’s Publishers Lunch, some observers are wont to notice big-time holes in industry coverage, not to mention shrinking book review space, what with all those ad-poor book sections on the newsroom floor. Still, one reporter’s news hole is another’s opportunity, and there’s no shortage of book-centric commentators on the prowl for buzz.

Inside the Times

But where’s the Gray Lady in this book-media blitz? Those scanning the New York Times for book coverage in recent months will have noticed that over the summer, book beat reporter David Kirkpatrick abandoned his alternating Dave Eggers and Bertelsmann fixations to delve into the daunting conglomerate-scape of AOL Time Warner — and he’s now serving up (most recently) news on regulatory inquiries into beleaguered e-tailer Homestore.com. Kirkpatrick (not himself an Inside alum) gets credit for ramping up what some considered a lackluster beat. “For the first time in a long time on that beat, David came in and really made something of it at the Times,” says one publicity executive. “There was no human being on earth who was going to out-work David Kirkpatrick.” In Kirkpatrick’s stead, Times media scribe Felicity Barringer has been filling in, writing on the plethora of political books, and Bill Goldstein has written on book launches that emulate opening day at the movies. Meanwhile, the Times arts section has been cranking up its books features. Recent arts-section front pages have seen correspondent Stephen Kinzer covering the Poetry magazine bequest from Ruth Lilly; culture writer Dinitia Smith on the George Orwell parody Snowball’s Chance; and Mirta Ojito on the twentieth anniversary of Florida retail stalwart Books & Books. The Times declined to comment on plans for its book coverage, but we’re told Richard Bernstein is leaving the paper’s daily book review section to become Berlin bureau chief, replacing Steven Erlanger, who will be heading up the culture desk.

Sniffing an opportunity, perhaps, the New York Observer has unleashed several reporters on the industry, after a bit of a publishing-beat hiatus in the wake of Elizabeth Manus’ departure in late 2000. Inside alum Joe Hagan, who joined the paper last summer, is now the Observer’s lead book reporter (he was the first to write about the Langewiesche/blue jeans at ground zero controversy), while former Inside books editor Sara Nelson is contributing a biweekly column called “Between Covers,” which she describes as “more impressionistic and opinionated” as opposed to the “real beat reporting” of her colleagues (a third reporter, Rebecca Traister, has also been covering book stories). According to Maria Russo, the Observer Senior Editor who oversees publishing coverage, a mandate has come down from Editor Peter Kaplan to put the book biz in the same league as the paper’s media coverage. “Obviously we have to break news whenever we can,” says Russo, who came over from the New York Times Book Review, and, before that, was books editor at Salon. “But we can also give people more of a broad view of the culture of publishing and its place in the city. There’s no one doing that anymore. Hopefully we’ve got a one-two punch that will get people reading.” Indeed, it’s precisely those punches that have made publishing veterans leery of the Observer’s cutting style, even as they lap up its juicy tidbits. “It’s fun to read. It’s less fun to be in,” says one executive. “They’re always going to go for the more personal detail, or the more unflatteringly revealing fact.”

Even the Wall Street Journal has increasingly tuned in to pop culture where books are concerned. Witness Journal editorial board member Nancy deWolf Smith’s recent trashing of the Kurt Cobain journals, in which she crinkled her nose at their “icky” content and browbeat the mainstream press for sanitizing his writings for public consumption. Meanwhile, book beat reporter and news editor Jeffrey Trachtenberg files stories such as the recent “Hogs, Liz Taylor’s Baubles Are Big Subjects in Book World” (a look at the holiday crop of coffee-table books), while also contributing occasional reviews. “I’m looking for larger stories that would interest people who aren’t in the book industry, where there’s a good cross-section between culture and business,” says Trachtenberg, who took over Matthew Rose’s beat early this year. Since Trachtenberg is also an editor in the media and marketing group, books are not a 40-hour-per-week affair. “I spend a lot of time with other reporters, so whatever spare time I have, I fill in on the book beat,” he says.

It’s a similar case over at Business Week, where Books Editor Hardy Green has been keeping the flame burning with recent short profiles of George Gibson at Walker & Co., and Adrian Zackheim’s Portfolio imprint. But don’t expect a cover story on Judith Regan any time soon. “The bottom line is that we don’t do a lot of coverage of book publishing per se,” Green tells PT. “I have been writing these small stories. But my primary responsibility is for book reviews and overseeing the business bestseller list. Most of the other coverage comes by way of reporting on larger media companies.” Of course, the magazine gets mileage out of books for other articles, such as Senior Writer Catherine Arnst’s story based on recent books about working women, including Bitch in the House (the William Morrow book about the plight of career-oriented moms). Books get in there one way or another, Green says. “But there’s no expectation that we’re doing a comprehensive job of covering publishing.”

Then there’s the Washington Post, where Linton Weeks has been working book angles for the Style section since 1995. “The Washington Post is more intrigued by the cultural aspects of books — and of reading and writing (which are national and international enterprises) — than by the economics of publishing,” Weeks comments. “Publishing is a New York business. We don’t really track the comings and goings of editors and publishers. On the rare occasion that there is publishing news that is of vital interest to Washingtonians, however, we are more than interested — we are competitive.”

Secrets and ‘Outrageous Lies’

There’s nothing like competition to fuel a news feud. Some in publishing point out that the rise of electronic book news — first at Inside, and then with Michael Cader’s Publishers Lunch — has prompted Publishers Weekly to beef up the content of its daily newsletter PW Newsline (now $49.95 per year), as well as the old PW Daily. And there may be more competitors in the ether. MobyLives.com, for example, is a book commentary site founded two years ago by journalist and short story writer Dennis Loy Johnson. The site, based on his syndicated newspaper column of the same name, is “basically meant to be the kind of magazine about book culture I would like to read but felt was missing in the mainstream,” says Johnson. “One problem with covering the book beat is that everybody’s in bed together,” he adds. “The New Yorker runs stories that are excerpts of books by Random House and written by people from the New York Times. Those places can’t cover each other objectively, and I think they’re really missing the news. It’s a gaping hole and an obvious one.” Last April, the 45-year-old Johnson wrote a column about why book prices are so steep, fanning the flames after Len Riggio’s ultimatum to publishers to lower their list prices. “People ought to know that B&N is making 60% of that cover price, and the publisher is probably making less than 10%,” argues Johnson. “You have to report things like that. You can’t just report Len Riggio’s outrageous lies.”

Along with partner Valerie Merians, Johnson also runs Melville House Publishing, which recently brought out B.R. MyersA Reader’s Manifesto, the “attack on pretentiousness in American literary prose” first published in the Atlantic. (Both that title and the widely reviewed Poetry After 9/11 are up to 12,000 copies in print, and there’ll be five new titles next year.) Johnson’s syndicated column, however, has not fared quite as well, with several newspapers recently giving it the axe. “Some papers can’t pay twenty bucks to run the column any more,” he says. “These are grim times for book coverage, and that’s one of the reasons the website has become so popular. People miss that.”

Still Smokin’ at CIROBE

Take a tourniquet to the supply chain if you like, but order pads will still be scorching hot at CIROBE, the indomitable remainder and promotional book fair that hit the Chicago Hilton from Oct. 25 – 27. “Our best show yet,” crowed a show spokesperson, and indeed, no amount of inventory management can seem to dent the stockpiles here, with buyers and sellers alike chalking up steady traffic amid container-loads of remainders, overstock, hurts, and promotional goods. “We found a number of new customers,” says Deborah Hastings, Publisher of Federal Street Press, attending the fair for her second year. “It was a great show for FSP.” And it was an even greater show for Fairmount, a major Canadian remainder dealer, whose nearby booth was sacked by eager buyers the first day and hosted a constant stream of fairgoers thereafter. But after buyers had sated themselves with the inventory of the remainder dealers, Hastings reports, they warmed to promotional publishers, who could offer wares that were just as interesting, but not limited in terms of availability. “Buyers were serious and businesslike,” she adds. “They spent time discussing what they needed. And then they placed orders.”

One such buyer was Harvard Book Store’s Carole Horne, who says the store has been attending since the show’s beginning more than a decade ago. Part of the fair’s appeal, she explains, is that its timing allows her to acquire books before Thanksgiving for holiday selling. She did note, however, that she and remainder buyer Jerry Justin weren’t seeing the big books as early as they once did, especially for serious nonfiction titles. Publishers now seem to hold on to these for 18 months from publication, which gives the paperback edition some breathing room (a courtesy, we note, that used to be required by contract). Meanwhile, hurts are a larger piece of Horne’s business, now that they can be bought by title and not simply as assortments. All in all, Horne says, remainders represent a significant — and growing — share of the store’s business, and she’ll certainly be coming back for more.

Some buyers suggested that the action had slackened a wee bit compared to previous years, and Book SalesMel Shapiro pointed to the advent of two competing events that may be stealing some of CIROBE’s thunder: the ONBOARD show in Nashville (at the end of August) and the Spring Book Show in Atlanta (deemed “the nation’s second-largest remainder show,” it will kick off on February 28). Other buyers, however, declared themselves fat and happy. Book Club of America Founder Albert Haug, who invented and has exclusive arrangements with a number of suppliers — including S&S, Rodale, National Geographic, and Kensington — says he commits to a certain number of hurts and remainders based on the previous year’s sales. His take on the show? “The number of quality titles is better than ever before,” he boasts. “Business is booming.”

Book View, November 2002

PEOPLE


Change is the constant in publishing at the moment: Bookspan cut its staff by about a dozen people, including longtimers Norm Schneider, VP Marketing, and Nancy Whitin, who oversaw the Specialty Clubs, including The Good Cook, History, Crafters, Country Homes, Military, Stage & Screen, Mystery Guild, etc.

Natalie Chapman has been named VP, Publisher, Culinary Books at Wiley. She was most recently at Creative Homeowner Press. Will Kiester has been named publisher of a packaged line of coedition books at Quarto Publishing. He will be based in New York and was formerly Senior Editor at Black Dog & Leventhal. Jill Bernstein has gone to Ecco Press as Director of Publicity. She was previously VP, PR Publishing at Meredith. Mark Bryant has gone to HarperCollins as Executive Editor, reporting to Susan Weinberg. He was most recently at Men’s Journal.

Kate Folkers has left FSG and has been named Sr. Marketing manager for Adult Books at Harcourt. Both she and husband Steve Kasdin, who has been named Director of Marketing for Harcourt Children’s, will be moving to San Diego. Kasdin had been Associate Marketing Director at Scholastic. . . Chris Knutsen, who came over from the New Yorker, is leaving Riverhead. Wendy Carlton is leaving New York but not Riverhead, and will remain Nick Hornby’s editor.

Tom Stewart has been named Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Business Review, which was purportedly looking for a “thought leader” to succeed the infamous Suzy Wetlaufer. He will commute from NY to Cambridge. Most recently he wrote a column for Time Inc.’s Business 2.0 and was on the Board of Editors at Fortune. But previous to his magazine publishing, he held several positions in book publishing, including President and Publisher of Atheneum.

More on children’s: Liza Baker has been named Editorial Director, Hyperion Books for Children, replacing Andrea David Pinckney, who went to Houghton Mifflin in May as Publisher of Children’s. Carol Roeder, S&S Children’s VP, Sub. Rights and International Markets, has left the company. SVP Alan Smagler is looking for her replacement. . . HarperCollins’ Susan Katz announced “with deep regret” that Harriett Barton, VP and Creative Director of Children’s Books, has retired. Barton began at T.Y. Crowell and joined HC in 1977 when Harper bought the company. . . Following the departure of Maria Modugno, Editor-in-Chief of the children’s book division, Little, Brown VP and Publisher David Ford announced that Megan Tingley has become VP, Associate Publisher and Editor-in-Chief while continuing to acquire titles for her eponymous imprint. Bill Boedeker, currently VP Marketing, has also been named Associate Publisher . . . Gary Richardson has been named Publisher, McGraw-Hill Children’s Publishing, Education. Previously he had been at Zonderkidz. Finally, Phyllis Fogelman, longtime children’s book editor and publisher, has resigned as VP Publisher of her own imprint at Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers.

Bloomsbury USA Editorial Director Karen Rinaldi takes over as Publisher in December, when Alan Wherry retires. As Wherry puts it, “Enough is enough” after 43 years of working.

As announced earlier, reorganization at Random continues apace, with David Naggar moving into the position of President of Random Audio and Diversified Publishing Group, reporting to Jenny Frost, and Christine McNamara becoming VP, Publisher of Random Adult Audio. Mary Beth Roche, who was Publishing Director of Random’s Audible.com, goes to Holtzbrinck’s Audio Renaissance (which recently relocated from the West Coast) as Publisher starting November 18. Robert Allen’s position of President, Random Audio has been eliminated. To the delight of many, Don Weisberg returns as head of the Random House sales group, while remaining EVP/COO. Michael Palgon has been promoted to EVP of Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group. He was most recently SVP Deputy Publisher.

After a short stint at Scribner, Ileene Smith lands at Holt, where she’ll serve as Executive Editor, reporting to Jennifer Barth. . . Molly Lyons has been named Associate Editor at Lifetime magazine, handling all the book coverage. Lyons was previously at SELF.

As reported elsewhere, Stephen Hanselman, Publisher and Editorial Director of HarperSanFrancisco, has been promoted to SVP, Publisher of a new general books division that combines HarperSanFrancisco and HarperInformation. Hanselman announced that Mickey Maudlin is joining HSF as Editorial Director. He had been at Christianity Today International. In addition, Mark Tauber returns to HSF as Associate Publisher. He had left to be a founding partner of Internet start-up Beliefnet.com and Agora Media. Tauber will oversee marketing and sales, and assist Hanselman in running the division.

NOVEMBER DATES


The Small Press Center launches the third in its series of Interviews With Great Publishers on Nov. 12. Tom McCormack, former CEO of St. Martin’s and author of Endpapers, which just closed after a four month run, will be interviewed by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt at Small Press Center on 20 W. 44th from 6 to 7:30. Go to www.smallpress.org.

Also on November 12 is the Mercantile Library’s “Rare Books, Fine Wines” gala evening, co-hosted with Bookspan and Jeroboam Wines, at which The Clifton Fadiman Medal for Excellence in Fiction will be presented. Call (212) 755-6710 or contact [email protected].

November 20, 2002 is the date for this year’s National Book Awards gala at the New York Marriott Marquis. Tickets are $1,000, but for $100 you can sip wine and eat canapes with the best of ’em before dinner. Contact [email protected] or go to www.nationalbook.org.

LOOKING AHEAD


On Wed., December 4, HarperCollins’ Larry Ashmead, bookseller Roxanne Coady, PW’s Daisy Maryles, Little, Brown’s Michael Pietsch, and moderator Gayle Feldman will discuss “Best and Worst of Times: Best Books vs. Bestsellers in a Changing Business.” The event, which takes place at Columbia Journalism School (Lecture Hall, 3rd Floor) at 116th and Broadway, is sponsored by the National Arts Journalism Program at the Columbia Journalism School, and co-sponsored by the Women’s Media Group.

DULY NOTED


In the webbed world: Arts & Letters Daily, a site that died earlier in October, has been resurrected after the Chronicle of Higher Education acquired it, according to The Chronicle’s website, along with the assets of its parent company, which published the magazine Lingua Franca. The sale is expected to close imminently.

• comScore Networks, which tracks e-commerce, reported very strong sales for the third quarter of 2002. Total consumer online sales for the quarter reached $17.9 billion, up 35% versus the third quarter of 2001, and up 2% versus the second quarter of 2002. Year-to-date sales through Sept. 30 totaled $52.5 billion, up 41% versus the same period in 2001, and nearly equal to the $53.1 billion in spending posted in all of 2001. Books are up 10% versus last year, to $538 million, though the 4th quarter is what profitability hinges on.

PARTIES & EVENTS


Join agent Tom Wallace, publisher of Old Earth Books‘s Michael Walsh, and the Gotham Book Mart’s Andreas Brown to celebrate the republication of Edward (Ted) Whittemore’s Jerusalem Quartet — including his first novel, Quin’s Shanghai Circus, all originally published by Wallace at Holt — at the Gotham Book Mart on Monday, November 11 from 5 to 7 pm. It may be your last chance to visit the space before Brown moves.

The publication of Al Silverman’s umpteenth book, It’s Not Over Till It’s Over: The Stories Behind the Most Magnificent Heart-Stopping Sports Miracles of Our Time (Overlook Press), was held at NYU’s Fales Library where Silverman has donated his papers, which include his editorial and research notes, as well as files on the selection process at BOMC, where he presided for many years. He was introduced by the Fales’ Marvin Taylor, who confessed he had come around to sports late in life, and Peter Mayer, who referred to him as “publishing’s pater familias.” Silverman then read from the Ali/Frazier fight in ’73 chapter where he referred to Ali as “the Yo-Yo Ma of sports.”

The Systems Showdown

The words “disaster,” “nightmare,” and “terrifying” pop up when talk turns to the company-wide software systems that several large US publishers began to adopt in the last decade. In this article James Lichtenberg, President of consulting firm Lightspeed, LLC, finds that the dot-com boom may be over, but for some publishers, the information age is just beginning in earnest. Additional reporting by Publishing Trends.

The glossy brochures may trumpet “integrated business intelligence” and “real-time enterprise,” but when it comes to actually making use of today’s sprawling corporate software systems, many in the publishing world are feeling unplugged. Say “Oracle” to some managers, and their eyes roll. One executive admits that after millions of dollars in outlays, his company’s system is “still not where it needs to be.” Meanwhile, a top officer at one major house says, “After SAP arrived, the most powerful person in the company was the head of inventory management.” These are no trivial concerns. Bertelsmann’s Direct Group processes tens of thousands of orders every hour, and smaller publishers are no less at the mercy of their data lifelines. As software permeates everything from human resources to inventory control, the attack of these company-wide information systems — known as ERPs, for Enterprise Resource Planning — may be publishing’s 21st-century battle royal.

Like all good combatants, publishers can be secretive about their systems (one company at first said its ERP vendor was “classified information”), but the general outlines of the software landscape are clear enough. Both Random House and Pearson have implemented SAP, but in different ways: Pearson took a baby-steps approach with oxygen tents standing by at each installation, while Random went for a “big bang” approach, with a hard start for everyone (and a hard spell for accounts; see article). Simon & Schuster also uses SAP for certain functions, with a full review in progress. HarperCollins works with Vista, which provides a smaller, publishing-centric program, and whose new Author2Reader release has been implemented by Elsevier. McGraw-Hill is working through an Oracle 9 implementation. Like the much smaller Wiley, AOL Time Warner Book Group has elected to stay with its legacy systems, some proprietary and some off the shelf. “We have simply taken what we have and built on it,” explains Phil Madans, AOL TW Director of Publishing Services. “Our philosophy is: if a good new package comes along, we integrate it with our system.”

Pure Vanilla SAP

While the mix-and-match attitude has its adherents, many publishers have tossed out their aging, ad-hoc agglomerations of different programs and made a fresh start. In that department the German company SAP has generated most of the buzz — and the backlash. Spanning up to three years and costing perhaps $100 million for implementation and training (as was the case with legal publisher West), a SAP rollout is inevitably grueling. “Rolling out an ERP involves politics as much as business processes,” affirms Cynthia Batty, VP Operational Systems at S&S. “Strong leadership with a vision of what you need makes it possible to avoid problems that otherwise become major headaches.” Companies such as GM and other manufacturing giants for whom SAP’s package was originally built can handle the price tag, as well as SAP-friendly processes that are linear, sequential, and rigidly defined. But books aren’t bobbins, and as publishers have found to their dismay, SAP is no right-brained beast. You can’t call something an ISBN number, for example: it’s “material.” So for better or worse, companies are forcing their processes to fit the software, and not vice versa. “We told our people from the beginning, no source code changes,” says Andrew Webber, Senior VP of Operations and Technology at Random House. Ditto for Charles Benante, Vice President, Ebusiness for Pearson Technology. “Customization that would make the system more familiar is not only expensive in itself, but makes the system more complex,” he says. “And it really drives up the costs of upgrades.” Pearson is now implementing SAP 4.6 for a major subsidiary, and taking a hard-line approach. “The focus is to implement pure vanilla SAP, and there is no doubt that it is causing us to rethink everything we do,” Benante adds. “It is re-engineering the way we do business.”

Others have taken a less arduous route. One happy story comes from Thomson Learning, which has been using a system from J.D. Edwards for the past eight years. Carl Urbania, Thomson Senior VP & CTO, says the system “has been very appropriate to our business, even as we grew from $500 million to $2.5 billion in annual revenues. The product is robust, has rich functionality, is user-friendly, and there’s good support.” Incidentally, in J.D. Edwards May launch of Version 5, the company took its full suite of integrated software and broke it up into 70 different components, so that customers can pick off the most relevant products in their quest for the ever-elusive “quick value.”

Technology, or Genius?

Still, some smaller businesses are finding a scarcity of options. Kevin Hamric, Director of Sales Operations for publisher Sybex, says his company uses a proprietary system: “We lease it, and it needs a complete overhaul.” In search of a replacement, Hamric is leaning toward a Vista system for its flexible, customizable modules. “It was written solely with the quirkiness of publishers in mind,” he adds. (Ironically, Sybex is the official publisher for SAP in the US, and the industry’s learning curve has been a boon. Says Hamric: “We sold a lot of books because of their mistakes.”)

For those companies sticking with their current if awkward home-grown systems, another solution may be at hand. Recent new products from IBM and Siebel appear to promise not only a flexible way (IBM) to manage content creation, but also software (Siebel) that will permit many different systems to harmonize. However, as S&S’ Batty observes, “An integrated solution is something that publishers will need in the 21st century. Either way — ERP or home-grown — it’s going to cost a lot.” In the long run, the varied approaches to ERPs may respond to a basic question about publishing itself. Is the business one in which cost accounting is the central mechanism for management? Or is it a quirky process in which past results may not be a reliable guide to the future, say, when a middling author has a breakout success that wins a Pulitzer Prize? As some see it, technology is no substitute for genius. “There’s no print-out in the world,” says David Kent, CEO of HarperCollins Canada, “that can do what Phyllis Grann did at Penguin Putnam.”

International Fiction Bestsellers

A Royal Pain
Love Child in Denmark, Going Postal in Greece, and Sweden’s John le Carré

Don’t look now, Fergie, but there’s a new royal nuisance in town: Behold the saucy, 18th-century Danish princess Louise Augusta, whose mug may not have been plastered on the cover of The Sun in her day, but who’s knocking readers silly in Denmark this month as the sultry subject of Maria Helleberg’s bestselling historical novel, Love Child. Louise Augusta (actually the illegitimate daughter of King Christian VII’s personal physician, J.F. Struensee, who later became Prime Minister only to be beheaded for treason), was not only the product of frolicsome passion but was also known for wildly erotic hoedowns with her hubby, Frederik Christian (a.k.a. the Duke of Augustenborg). His bookish, lachrymose demeanor was an unlikely match for her gay spontaneity, but their “difficult yet deeply satisfying” matrimonial life “unexpectedly comes quite close to the idea of equality.” Who knew? Called a “weighty new novel” and “an intense literary experience,” the book delves into this royal relationship while placing Denmark’s love child against a background of political intrigue. The prolific Helleberg has written children’s books, travel accounts, and reviews, and her narrative chops have spanned the fall of Troy as told by Cassandra (in The Prophetess) and a reworking of a 14th-century Swedish rhymed chronicle of King Erik (Like a Plow of Wrath). Her work has been translated in Estonia (Kunst) and Germany (Eichborn), and all rights to the new one are open from Torben Madsen of Denmark’s Samleren Publishers.

Also throwing paternity to the wind in Denmark, a seemingly well-adapted student of medicine stuns her parents with the news of her pregnancy in Anne Marie Løn’s novel Whose Child? Raised in a deeply religious home in Western Jutland, protagonist Bianca steams off to Africa as a volunteer and returns six months later with more questions than answers, the most pressing of which involves the future of her unborn child. The widely published Løn is well known for her 1998 novel The Dance of the Dwarves, a tale of love as told by a 32-year-old midget (the book’s up to 70,000 copies in print), and her 1996 novel The Princesses, the story of a landowner’s two daughters and their turbulent life in early 20th-century Jutland, has sold more than 100,000 copies. Meanwhile the author has pocketed the Bilcher Prize, Egholt Prize, Literature Prize of Weekendavisen, and The Golden Laurels — the latter the annual prize of the Danish booksellers. Rights for The Dance of the Dwarves have been sold in France (Gaïa), Sweden (Anamma), and Germany (Knaus), but rights for the new one, just published last month, are up for grabs. All translation rights for Løn are handled by the Leonhardt & Høier Literary Agency in Denmark.

In Greece, Athenian journalist Stelios Koulojlou’s admonitory title Never Go to the Post Office Alone has been riveting readers with its spotlight on romance and political conspiracy during the twilight of the Soviet Union. Packed with a panoply of intriguing underworld types — a prostitute born in the gulag, a mafia don who hooks up American grooms and Russian brides, and a hardcore Italian communist — the book is based in part on the author’s toil as a political analyst and editor in Greece, and stints as a correspondent in Paris and Moscow, where he’s chronicled the radical changes sweeping the Soviet landscape over the last decade. Behold left-wing American journalist Kevin Danacher, who ripens from ’70s student activist to suspected Soviet agent after a sojourn in Moscow. With the FBI hot on his trail, Danacher’s alibis start to unravel as he explains his involvement in shady dealings of particular interest to American secret services, while also getting firmly entangled with Madlis, the beautiful East German (and suspected KGB agent) who was implicated in the events leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall. (The title derives from Madlis and Danacher’s chance meeting as he waits in line at a Moscow post office.) Called a “fascinating erotic spying thriller,” the book has sold 15,000 copies to date, and rights are available from Oceanida.

Sweden’s own grassy-knoll theory is getting a test-drive this month as Professor of Criminology Leif G.W. Persson roils the conspiratorial waters with Between the Promise of Summer and the Cold of Winter, his novel about the 1986 murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme and the near-fatal wounding of his wife, Lisbet. Hard-drinking criminal investigator Lars Johansson tots up a laundry list of far-flung suspects, including Kurdish activists, Iraqi agents, South African apartheid agitators, and even the CIA. The author, who’s been touted as a cross between Mersey Beat and John le Carré, has just returned to fiction after a 20-year hiatus, and his three previous novels based on the Johansson character (which became blockbuster films in Sweden) have been deemed “seductively racy” and “riveting reading for everyone interested in the dark side of politics and policing.” The new one has 80,000 copies in print, and rights have been sold to Denmark (Modtryk), France (Presses de la Cité), and Italy (Marsilio). Contact Niclas Salomonsson of the Salomonsson Agency.

In Spain, a group of women jailed in Franco’s prisons following the Spanish Civil War have been given their due in Dulce Chacón’s novel The Sleeping Voice. The book follows those Madrilenians who “raise the flag of dignity and courage as the only weapon against humiliation, torture and death,” and who were often summarily shot for their efforts. The haunting literary upshot is that Chacón “has been able to construct a fiction without hardly inventing anything.” With 30,000 copies sold, the book is on submission in France, Italy, Germany, and most of Europe; for US rights, contact the Antonia Kerrigan Literary Agency.

And for what it’s worth, Germany is barking up a storm about Brigitte magazine columnist Elke Heidenreich and her former husband Bernd Schroeder’s new collection of short stories, Rowing Dogs, which has apparently captivated the literary world and their canine pals. The pups referenced in the title are actually part of a bronze sculpture that the authors are said to have stumbled upon in a Parisian flea market. With much post-Frankfurt buzz — and a media-friendly story about an author involved in an intricate Halloween-night love triangle, replete with bizarre costumes — the book has become an instant, 150,000-copy bestseller. Contact Jennifer Lyons at Writers House for US rights and Tanja Howarth in the UK.

Forsaken Frankfurt?

Amid Post-Book-Fair Grumbling, London Gains on the Buchmesse

“Deplorable, but not lethal” was the official word on southbound exhibitor numbers at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair — they tumbled 4%, a figure direly reported to the trade as “the biggest decline in the fair’s 54-year history” — and it made for a condign summation of the world-weary Buchmesse as a whole. Stung from savage hotel price hikes, bummed out by a guttering German book trade, and exhausted by bivouacs in a rights center so far-flung it may as well have been in Köln, attendees winging home from this year’s fair packed along plenty of their usual post-fair grumbling, and then some.

“Of course the fair isn’t as important as before, simply because you’ve heard about the interesting stuff beforehand via email or fax,” says Merete Borre of Danish publisher Lindhardt og Ringhof, in a typical observation. “The London Book Fair is getting more and more important for us, as well as the fair in Gothenburg. We’ll need to go to all three places.” Those closer to home were in the same boat. “The general consensus is that Frankfurt is extremely expensive — the hotels, the stands, the hoopla — and the number of people attending kept small,” notes Tim Bent, Senior Editor at St. Martin’s Press. “From an editorial point of view, the London fair has taken on nearly equal importance to Frankfurt.” Then, too, Germany’s economic doldrums left many visitors feeling especially burned. “Lots of agents and foreign rights people were unpleasantly surprised that the Germans have stopped paying big money, and some have stopped buying altogether,” says German agent Michael Meller. “Quite a number of people haven’t recovered their Frankfurt expenses, and are beginning to realize that the scene has changed — whether for good or just temporarily.” Frankfurt, one publishing executive says, “doesn’t drop to the bottom line.”

With the buzz ever amping at London, and a nagging feeling that Americans may be sneaking toward the Buchmesse sidelines, that perennial post-fair question — Is Frankfurt becoming dispensable? — may pack a little more punch this time around. Frankfurt brass, for their part, are working hard to soften the blow. “We are certainly concerned about the price increases that we have seen,” Frankfurt Book Fair Director Volker Neumann tells PT, “and we are in very tough discussions with the hotels in Frankfurt about their pricing policies.” Fair planners are also working round the clock to restructure the layout of the German halls, relocate the agents’ center, and do a better job of delineating different sectors of publishing. But by no means, says Neumann, is Frankfurt ready to concede the title of the world’s best book convention. “London and BookExpo America are still confined to the English-speaking world in their relevance,” Neumann maintains, pointing to a rising international crowd at Frankfurt — 110 countries came this year — and the fact that Frankfurt has about twice as many UK exhibitors as London. Plus, with 265,000 visitors (up over last year, but still down from 2000), it’s still nearly ten times the size of BEA.

Foreign attendees may be skeptical about the number of deals going down, but they’re still behind the fair. “Frankfurt is now more a public relations book fair,” says Ornella Robbiati, Editor-in-Chief of Italian publisher Sonzogno. “We get 90% of the manuscripts by email before the fair.” Nonetheless, she adds, Italians are in no way prepared to bail out, and she says even American drop-outs would do little to affect European participation. (Robbiati’s bigger concern is the American throngs in London. “I’m worried by the constant increase in the number of Americans there — it’s impossible to see them all. In London I must see English publishers and agents, so I can only keep half a day for the US, no matter how many Americans are there.”)

For some Americans, too, the fair still packs appeal. “Frankfurt helps you get over the sound barrier,” says Nan Talese, President, Publisher, and Editorial Director of Nan A. Talese Books. She doggedly attends Frankfurt and hasn’t been to London for the last two shows, and has her own serendipitous tale: she dreamed up a book concept with Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner writing about the creation of the “Newman’s Own” line. She signed the book up just before Frankfurt, and with no written description, sold the project to Chinese publisher Rex Howe of Locus. “This would not happen in London or at BEA,” Talese says.

Even in the world of children’s publishing, Frankfurt is holding its own against the Bologna Children’s Book Fair, the major confab of the kids’ business. Maureen Golden, a partner in children’s packager Orange Avenue, notes that the four-year-old company regularly exhibits at Frankfurt and finds a much stronger response from prospective publishers than at Bologna. However, Bologna boasted an 8% increase in foreign children’s publisher visitors last year, placing both fairs in an apparent win-win relationship. “My advice would be to go to Bologna for children’s, go to Frankfurt for children’s, and go to London for children’s,” adds Susan Katz, President and Publisher of the Children’s Division at HarperCollins. “I think you learn things from the adult market, and you see things that might work in the children’s market. I can’t tell you how many times while I was at Frankfurt I said to myself: If I learn nothing else, this one thing would be worth it.”

‘Massive’ Growth at London

While Frankfurt may still be the biggest, it’s not necessarily the best, say London partisans. And the numbers are impressive. Exhibitor space at the last London Book Fair was up 6%. Bookseller attendance rose 9.6%. Visitors were up 1.4%. And press attendance shot up a whopping 36%. “For a number of years now we’ve been getting more and more support, especially from America but also from countries around the world,” says Alistair Burtenshaw, Exhibition Director for the London Book Fair. “European attendance has been increasing rapidly. International collectives of overseas publishers have also grown massively.” The collective stand from France now counts as the show’s largest exhibiting company, he says. Moreover, next year’s gig will see “very large new presences” from Belgium and Greece, while China has also been growing its presence year-over-year. Then there’s the fair’s International Rights Centre, which drew 114 North American companies last year, up 28%. And as for LBF 2003, coming March 16? It’s already 93% sold.

“With the continuing success of London, and with ever more year-round rights business, people are realizing that there doesn’t have to be a single show where you get all your business done,” says packager and Publishers Lunch founder Michael Cader. “The lesson of London has been that if you work from a place where there is already a natural concentration of publishing, you’ve got a great nucleus to build on.” To that end Cader, along with industry consultant Mike Shatzkin, has been working on the rights show tentatively titled “Publishing in New York” (formerly “Frankfurt in New York”), which would bring agents, editors, packagers, and others together in New York in May, at a time when many of them swing through the city on their usual rounds. Organizers are currently in discussions with BEA parent company Reed Exhibitions, among other parties, about sponsoring the show, though they underscore that reports elsewhere of firm plans are premature. Cader says that while mega-events on the scale of Frankfurt will always have their value, smaller, more concentrated forums make economic sense. “We may find that we don’t have to have supershows for certain communities to get good business done,” he adds. “Should we be successful in staging the New York show, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more efforts popping up elsewhere as well.”

Indeed, the rise in international participation has helped boost other fairs too. Christian Booksellers Association President Bill Anderson tells PT that the group’s international convention in Anaheim last July was a pleasant surprise. “Given that some trade shows have been off as much as 50%, we were extremely pleased with 13,129. We had people from 50 countries and our highest international attendance ever, with 1,039 people from outside the US.” The group’s CBA Expo is on tap for January 29-31 in Indianapolis, and interest is so strong that 30 exhibitors have been placed on a waiting list. Plus, a glance at conventions in the technology sector makes Frankfurt look like hog heaven. “Book conventions have held up very well,” says Courtney Muller, Executive Director at New York Is Book Country and veteran of industry conferences at Penton Media (producers of Internet World) and Reed Exhibitions. “COMDEX is one quarter the size it was two years ago. Internet World is one tenth the size it was two years ago. Book shows are staying steady, which in this climate for the trade show and event industry is great news.”

Some international observers were wont to read a political subtext into the Americans’ cold shoulder. “Surely US chief executives are just following Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft’s lead in ignoring what the rest of the world is thinking,” charges UK agent Toby Eady. “America is out of step and even more so by missing a year.” Everyone knows, Eady says, that English-language business gets sent straight to New York. But with a client list of 60% foreign writers, Eady calls Frankfurt “the one time I feel I do something interesting. We sold Wei Hui’s Shanghai Baby in 30 languages, Xinran in 21 so far, and Jung Chang in 31. Frankfurt is a circle of publishers who buy one another’s taste, as the London Book Fair is becoming,” Eady adds. “And so twice a year we sell.”

Disappearing Act at DMA?

“The Place for Face-to-Face” was the tagline for the 85th Direct Marketing Association annual conference and exhibition, which landed at San Francisco’s Moscone Center on October 19 with its customary thunk of “telco-verified” telemarketing lists and scads of “permission-based email data.” But despite candid moments with Senator Joseph Lieberman (he blasted Bush and preened as a pro-business alternative for the White House in ’04), and a tête-à-tête with Postmaster General John E. Potter (his address was the craggily titled “A Critical Juncture for Crucial Partnership”), there was little doubt that at “the world’s largest gathering of direct and interactive marketers,” book publishers may as well be missing-in-action.

True, roving teams from Bookspan and continuity publisher International Masters were taking their usual reconnaissance flyovers, while government-giveaways guru (and Free Money author) Matthew Lesko could be found sashaying about in his daffy, question-mark covered suit. PT’s correspondent glumly reported sighting only one booth-inhabiting trade publisher, however — that being Publications International, which gave a big thumbs up for sales of its diabetes books (a hot topic for baby boomers with Type 2 diabetes) and its line of inspirational titles. “The days of this being a big show for book publishers,” our observer flatly declared, “are over.”

That might be a shame, because by some measures the direct marketplace actually showed a pulse this year. Anthrax jitters (remember those?) went the way of Cipro stockpiles as sales revenue from direct and interactive marketing in the US last year popped up 9% to $1.86 trillion, the DMA reported, and is expected to top $2 trillion this year. Moreover, the organization is betting that over the next five years direct marketing sales growth will outpace overall sales in the US by 3.5 percentage points — with industries such as health services, securities brokers, and — yes — electrical equipment purveyors leading the charge. Even plucking a silver lining from everyone’s dismally plummeting advertising budgets, the DMA’s press releases said that the inclement ad climate was driving dollars into direct marketing as a “cost effective, measurable way to boost sales.”

So much for the good news. DMA President and CEO H. Robert Wientzen quick-changed into his grim reaper’s getup to share results from the DMA’s new quarterly business review: the inaugural index found that, for the third quarter of 2002, DMA members reported a performance of 36 compared to what they had projected for the quarter — that’s 36 on a scale of 100. And among the group’s direct marketing users, 60% said their quarter was “somewhat” or “significantly worse” than they had projected. (The group had cheerier hopes for the fourth quarter, but still expected to spend less on direct mail.)

And that brings us to spam, which one study says now accounts for over a third of all email traffic on the Internet. Even though consumers are desperately banging on their delete keys, a DMA report on the “State of Postal and E-Mail Marketing” said that 71% of those surveyed indicated that they boosted the quantity of their marketing email, citing rising postal costs, among other factors. Email use was up even though 59% of email marketers said gross responses were flat from 2000 to 2001. (Snail mail response rates were even worse, with 53% reporting flat responses and 21% citing a decrease.) All of which was further fuel to the DMA’s “about-face decision” to support anti-spam legislation, which the group had once vehemently opposed. It’s too little too late, declared critics, who noted that 27 states now have do-not-call registries (a defensive DMA even rolled out its own do-not-call list for cell phones) with the backlash against telemarketing agents steadily mounting. So what’s enemy number one for direct marketers? State and federal privacy legislation that could put a national do-not-email list — and even a dreaded nationwide do-not-mail list — on the table. And if that ever comes to pass, expect plenty more disappearing acts at DMA.

The ONIX Odyssey

Twelve bucks a title. That’s how much Barnes & Noble has suggested it will charge publishers if they don’t beef up their title information feeds to the nation’s largest bookseller. Over the summer, B&N, having announced its data-streamlining partnership with Bowker, marched 40 of its largest suppliers into its offices and delivered the dreaded ultimatum: by November 1, transmit 11 key data points via Bowker, six months before a pub date, or pay the piper for the service of key-punching that missing data. “I don’t anticipate that we’re going to turn on the switch on that date,” explains Joseph Gonnella, B&N’s VP of Inventory Management and Publisher Relations. “Our impression is that most of the publishers have the ability to get us what we’re looking for six months in advance.”

Supposing Riggio and company make good on their word, they may be collecting a tidy pile of cash. That’s because B&N has made a strong case for transmitting title data via ONIX — short for Online Information Exchange — and to date, only about 25 publishers are distributing ONIX files. Perhaps that explains the air of desperate befuddlement at last month’s full-day seminar on the ONIX standard, sponsored by the Book Industry Study Group and NYU. Much wild scribbling was in evidence when Andrew Porter, Manager of Digital Content for Harcourt’s trade division, told the crowd about his two-year-old ONIX odyssey, which meant consolidating 40 databases around the company, and, despite much progress, remains an ongoing effort. The really unfortunate news? Judging by the audience’s queries, Harcourt may be light years ahead of other major publishers.

Better news is that when finally deployed, ONIX actually works. As a system for transferring descriptive information from publisher to retailer/wholesaler to consumer, ONIX is an expansion of the original BISAC/BASIC code, designed to transmit information needed to sell a title, from author, ISBN, and price to more complex data such as jacket art, author bio, and reviews. And with the release of ONIX Version 2.0, the available information fields have been expanded. The university presses represented at the session were relieved to find that listing a work with multiple editions, multiple volumes, and Greek on one page and English on another was within the standard’s scope.

In his introduction, Fran Toolan of Quality Solutions, a provider of software and services to the publishing industry, noted disappointment that ONIX adoption has moved slowly since Pat Schroeder declared almost three years ago that this was to be an AAP priority. As B&N’s Gonnella tells PT, however: “The structure should be consistent with the ONIX standard, but we’ve made it clear that we’d take things by carrier pigeon.” He also stresses, “We’ve been pleased to see the degree that publishers have embraced ONIX.” As they struggle toward compliance, some publishers have happily farmed out their data headache. Toolan’s company processes ONIX files for about 8 publishers, and one such client is Scholastic, whose databases are currently undergoing a major overhaul with the possible aim of using ONIX in-house. “We’re trying to design our databases so that they can capture the information ONIX needs,” says Neil De Young, Scholastic’s Business Information Manager. “For the most part, everyone recognizes the concept and the need.” Given the challenge of dragging one’s troops into line so that title information is entered uniformly from the moment a book is signed up, one might well ask: Is ONIX worth the effort? “In the long run, I’m not necessarily sure it’s going to save anyone money,” says De Young. “But it’s going to present information the right way, which in theory should make more money.”

Whirlwind at NEBA

A gulf hurricane’s leading edge was the only unwelcome guest at the New England Booksellers Association’s annual meeting and trade show, which blew into Providence, Rhode Island on September 27. But the winds and heavy rains were blamed for the thinner stream of booksellers on the floor. Perhaps because of weather (or because of flat sales), some stores stayed home or brought fewer staff. It was a shame, because those on hand regarded the programs as among the best ever. “We appreciate the creative ideas NEBA stores use to capture market share in the world of ever-increasing conglomeratization,” said Sheri Strickland, Sales Manager for NEBA Publisher of the Year, the University Press of New England. “We appreciate the work of these stores with smaller presses like UPNE to represent a broader range of books to sell — which alone will help both the stores and us to survive.”

In any case, survival seemed well within reach for attendees such as Stan Hynds, Senior Buyer at Northshire Books, who noted that “sales are up slightly so far this year, thanks to a better than expected August. There seems to be a lot of good fiction this fall and for the holidays, which makes the end of the year look promising.” Also, “with BEA so early this year,” said Hynds, “many fall books that were not ready for display then are available for perusal in Providence.” Hynds happened to be eagerly awaiting the “Jump Starting Your Business” session, in which Jeffrey Stamp, co-author with Doug Hall of Measurably Smarter, led booksellers through ten ideas developed by a group of independent booksellers from around the country. In another session, Jenny Lawton, the new owner of famed Greenwich store Just Books (and the recently opened Just Books II) joined a Sunday panel on succession issues. “We need to bring more young people into the business, so owners can have someone to whom they can hand their business,” said Lawton.

The immensely popular Nanci McCrackin received the Gilman Award for being this year’s “Outstanding New England Sales Representative,” and Judy Blume stopped by to speak out against post-9/11 censorship in a Saturday session. NEBA reported that the Cromwell School District in Connecticut is facing a petition drive to remove Elizabeth Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia from the district (two residents believe the books promote witchcraft). Meanwhile, the panel “Sex and Drugs and Children’s Books” nicely complemented talk of censorship. “How do you sell a book to a teenager without scaring their parents away?” asked Alison Morris, of Wellesley Booksmith.

The New England Book Awards were presented Sunday, and went to Chris Bohjalian, Leonard Everett Fisher, and Howard Zinn. Back on the exhibit floor, the most popular new product appeared to be the LightWedge, introduced by Jamey Bennett, best known for his Book Wire role. But by all accounts the award for in-booth author appearances went to Kensington’s Holly Chamberlin, feverishly signing Living Single while regaling visitors with her struggle to look like her jacket photo.

We thank Chris Kerr of Parson Weems for this report.