The Franchise Fix

Lucrative, Licensed Book Lines Are Looking Better All the Time

As book publishers search in an ever-widening gyre for “consumer equity,” “points of differentiation,” and authors pre-packaged with their own “platforms,” it may be no shock that the concept of franchise publishing — partnering to publish licensed, branded, or co-branded titles, or even signing up mega-authors who are multimedia franchises in their own right — is being revisited with a vengeance. Branded books, not so long ago dismissed by some in the book business as downmarket fodder for the mass merch accounts, are getting increasingly talked about as strategic, long-term, profitable enterprises that can capitalize on some of the hottest trends of the day (South Beach Diet, anyone?) and forge close relationships with consumers while cracking open new nontraditional retail channels — big-box outlets, Disney stores, Petco shops, even Hustler emporia — that may be more profitable. And as publishers aggressively seek out licensed or branded content, they’re being ardently courted by licensors in turn. “Consumer brands are realizing how important it is to have a cornerstone for their brand in print,” says Susan Maruyama of Round Mountain Media, which works with brands to strategically develop publishing programs. “In today’s multimedia society, a lot of what we see comes and goes pretty quickly. Without a book in print, there’s no place for that customer or loyal audience to go to revisit that brand experience.”

At the same time, however, brand-building publishers “are just coming to the party,” says Chris Lederer, co-founder of Helios Consulting Group, which has worked on growth strategies for publishing companies and other firms. “Trade publishers in particular haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about brand combinations as a way to build their business,” he says. “It’s an incredibly fertile area that publishers need to think about in a strategic way, and not just as a one-off revenue play.”

NOT YOUR MOTHER’S MEREDITH

At some of the major players in the branded book biz, fresh strategic turf is squarely in the sights. “We’re looking to expand our licensing effort into any arena that makes sense,” says Todd Davis, Executive Director for New Business Development at Meredith Books. “As long as a property has equity with the consumer, then you can have a strong publishing program. You need that hook with the consumer, because that’s what the retailer is looking for.” Meredith, which has long worked with partners such as Ortho, Scotts, and Home Depot, is now pushing its hardworking house-and-home brands in a splashier direction by partnering with The Learning Channel’s Trading Spaces show to publish Trading Spaces: Behind the Scenes (over 750,000 copies shipped), plus two decorating titles (both with more than 300,000 copies in print). Then there’s Paige By Paige, a year in the life of Trading Spaces diva Paige Davis which has shipped at least 250,000 copies and hit #3 on the NYT bestseller list for paperbacks. All development work on the titles is done in-house, in close cooperation with the licensor. The line has been sold in nontraditional outlets such as Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens ’n Things, while also giving the publisher reach into markets it had never tapped before, such as college book stores. In a similar vein, Meredith is publishing new titles with home-and-garden channel HGTV, and just rolled out the Food Network Kitchens Cookbook. “The Food Network has been on the air for 10 years and reaches 78 million households,” Davis says. “We did focus groups and research to make sure we understood their brand before we even started the book.” On the other hand, Monster Garage (over 300,000 units shipped), based on the Discovery Channel show, is breaking out of the service journalism mold and “giving us an opportunity to go after automotive channels that we’ve never gotten to before.”

“It’s not your mother’s Better Homes and Gardens,” adds Linda Cunningham, Meredith Books Editor-in-Chief, who points out that Meredith’s history as a magazine publisher has given the house an edge when pitching ideas for licensed projects. “The whole company is oriented toward clients or advertisers,” she says. That gives Meredith the chops to work with demanding licensors, and also a natural grasp of how to extend brands such as Trading Spaces (originally a one-book deal) into a full-on publishing business. “What we acquired with Monster Garage and Trading Spaces was the logo. There was no proposal, no visual idea of what these would look like,” she says. “We created these from scratch.” The labor-intensive process pays off not only as an ongoing line for Meredith, but for its licensor as well. “I certainly feel we’ve helped bring credibility to Trading Spaces as a viable license,” says Cunningham, noting that other deals for the show have followed. “The book does anchor the brand.”

Other publishers in the licensing world say they’ve seen a paradigm shift as well. “Licensing has become the siren call,” says Sarah Malarkey, Executive Editor at Chronicle Books, who has been stewarding the category for six years. “When I started, I had to hunt down properties. Now I get proposals every week.” The proportion of licensed titles has remained steady at about 5% of Chronicle’s list, sustained by ongoing programs with companies such as DC Comics and Pixar, the latter spawning coffee-table titles such as The Art of Finding Nemo. Nonetheless, those five or seven titles per year “will often be our lead titles. It’s a select group, but it has a lot of muscle for its size.” It’s a truism in the licensing world that a brand must fit well with a publisher’s list, and Chronicle’s disciplined approach is a good example. “I think about less where it comes from — it could be a TV show, it could be an old toy,” Malarkey says. “I’m not concerned about the medium. But I am concerned about the intuitive fit with our list.” That fit may be getting a stretch with this season’s Playboy: 50 Years, The Photographs, a $50 tome taking the publisher into decidedly new retail territory. “Usually there’s one account that cracks open with any kind of license,” says Malarkey. “We’ve never sold a book to a Hustler Store before.” Next year will see a follow-up of Playboy cartoons.

WHEN BRANDING BACKFIRES

But branding can ambush a title in the wrong circumstances. “For cookbooks, corporate brands aren’t necessarily an advantage,” says Bill LeBlond, Chronicle’s Editorial Director, Cookbooks, who has published two titles with the Weber line of grills and other branded books with Saveur. “The bookstores in general don’t want to be seen as promoting products. Yet some brands transcend that, and Weber is certainly one of them.” Chronicle is also working with TV chefs Martin Yan and Michael Chiarello, whose platforms “can make all the difference in the world.” Still, says LeBlond: “Platforms and brands will not save you if you’re publishing a bad book. Brands can give you exposure, but that’s all they can do.” Other publishers have had to grapple even more delicately with how to finesse a franchise-in-the-making so that it retains its integrity, as in the case of The South Beach Diet, whose author, Dr. Arthur Agatston, has publicly shied away from becoming the next Atkins, despite having 5 million books in print, with two more titles on the way and a website with a reported 100,000 subscribers. (Publisher Rodale said it would be premature to comment on South Beach branding strategies.)

And some caution that while branded titles may unlock the door to distribution nirvana, big-time licensing can be a financial disaster. “Licensing is very important for the sell-in in the mass merchant world,” says one licensing executive, noting that a hot Nickelodeon product, for example, is a must-have for any major retailer. The downside is that those hot licenses (especially in the children’s arena) can cost a bundle, eating into profit margins as retail price points hit the well-defined mass merch ceiling. “At the end of the day a license gives you clout to bring the rest of the books from your list to the customer, and to create an image for your publishing program,” this executive says. “But it all comes at a price. And that’s a price most publishers cannot afford anymore.” Perhaps as a result of some notorious licensing mishaps, it should be noted, licensors are no longer in a position to dictate their terms.

Spending heavily for licenses can be a fool’s game in other respects. “You only have your licensed good or your branded asset until someone else buys it,” says Jeff Stone, founder of Chic Simple and partner in new branding firm mdash. Stone has done consulting work for Unilever, Wells Fargo, and Ford, the latter project involving a 14-month-long analysis of Ford’s trademark “blue oval” in terms of brand value. “If the company isn’t sure what the brand means, then it is very hard for consumers to get a clear message.” Stone argues for much deeper thinking about the value of publishers’ own houses as brands, rather than those of their authors or partners. Wiley’s work building the Dummies brand (see article) is a good case of a clear value chain, he says. “From a consumer’s point of view, the Wiley name speaks to technical expertise. If you happen to notice ‘John Wiley’ on the title page, you think, I can trust this.” And that trust is ever important in an age of mosquito-like product lifespans and dizzying choices confronting customers in Barnes & Noble (where, to make matters worse, they’re getting pitched B&N’s own branded products). “Every time a publisher can help a consumer with their branding program, everybody wins: the consumer wins, the publisher wins, and the author wins.”

As book publishers search in an ever-widening gyre for “consumer equity,” “points of differentiation,” and authors pre-packaged with their own “platforms,” it may be no shock that the concept of franchise publishing — partnering to publish licensed, branded, or co-branded titles, or even signing up mega-authors who are multimedia franchises in their own right — is being revisited with a vengeance. Branded books, not so long ago dismissed by some in the book business as downmarket fodder for the mass merch accounts, are getting increasingly talked about as strategic, long-term, profitable enterprises that can capitalize on some of the hottest trends of the day (South Beach Diet, anyone?) and forge close relationships with consumers while cracking open new nontraditional retail channels — big-box outlets, Disney stores, Petco shops, even Hustler emporia — that may be more profitable. And as publishers aggressively seek out licensed or branded content, they’re being ardently courted by licensors in turn. “Consumer brands are realizing how important it is to have a cornerstone for their brand in print,” says Susan Maruyama of Round Mountain Media, which works with brands to strategically develop publishing programs. “In today’s multimedia society, a lot of what we see comes and goes pretty quickly. Without a book in print, there’s no place for that customer or loyal audience to go to revisit that brand experience.”

At the same time, however, brand-building publishers “are just coming to the party,” says Chris Lederer, co-founder of Helios Consulting Group, which has worked on growth strategies for publishing companies and other firms. “Trade publishers in particular haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about brand combinations as a way to build their business,” he says. “It’s an incredibly fertile area that publishers need to think about in a strategic way, and not just as a one-off revenue play.”

Not Your Mother’s Meredith

At some of the major players in the branded book biz, fresh strategic turf is squarely in the sights. “We’re looking to expand our licensing effort into any arena that makes sense,” says Todd Davis, Executive Director for New Business Development at Meredith Books. “As long as a property has equity with the consumer, then you can have a strong publishing program. You need that hook with the consumer, because that’s what the retailer is looking for.” Meredith, which has long worked with partners such as Ortho, Scotts, and Home Depot, is now pushing its hardworking house-and-home brands in a splashier direction by partnering with The Learning Channel’s Trading Spaces show to publish Trading Spaces: Behind the Scenes (over 750,000 copies shipped), plus two decorating titles (both with more than 300,000 copies in print). Then there’s Paige By Paige, a year in the life of Trading Spaces diva Paige Davis which has shipped at least 250,000 copies and hit #3 on the NYT bestseller list for paperbacks. All development work on the titles is done in-house, in close cooperation with the licensor. The line has been sold in nontraditional outlets such as Bed, Bath & Beyond and Linens ’n Things, while also giving the publisher reach into markets it had never tapped before, such as college book stores. In a similar vein, Meredith is publishing new titles with home-and-garden channel HGTV, and just rolled out the Food Network Kitchens Cookbook. “The Food Network has been on the air for 10 years and reaches 78 million households,” Davis says. “We did focus groups and research to make sure we understood their brand before we even started the book.” On the other hand, Monster Garage (over 300,000 units shipped), based on the Discovery Channel show, is breaking out of the service journalism mold and “giving us an opportunity to go after automotive channels that we’ve never gotten to before.”

“It’s not your mother’s Better Homes and Gardens,” adds Linda Cunningham, Meredith Books Editor-in-Chief, who points out that Meredith’s history as a magazine publisher has given the house an edge when pitching ideas for licensed projects. “The whole company is oriented toward clients or advertisers,” she says. That gives Meredith the chops to work with demanding licensors, and also a natural grasp of how to extend brands such as Trading Spaces (originally a one-book deal) into a full-on publishing business. “What we acquired with Monster Garage and Trading Spaces was the logo. There was no proposal, no visual idea of what these would look like,” she says. “We created these from scratch.” The labor-intensive process pays off not only as an ongoing line for Meredith, but for its licensor as well. “I certainly feel we’ve helped bring credibility to Trading Spaces as a viable license,” says Cunningham, noting that other deals for the show have followed. “The book does anchor the brand.”

Other publishers in the licensing world say they’ve seen a paradigm shift as well. “Licensing has become the siren call,” says Sarah Malarkey, Executive Editor at Chronicle Books, who has been stewarding the category for six years. “When I started, I had to hunt down properties. Now I get proposals every week.” The proportion of licensed titles has remained steady at about 5% of Chronicle’s list, sustained by ongoing programs with companies such as DC Comics and Pixar, the latter spawning coffee-table titles such as The Art of Finding Nemo. Nonetheless, those five or seven titles per year “will often be our lead titles. It’s a select group, but it has a lot of muscle for its size.” It’s a truism in the licensing world that a brand must fit well with a publisher’s list, and Chronicle’s disciplined approach is a good example. “I think about less where it comes from — it could be a TV show, it could be an old toy,” Malarkey says. “I’m not concerned about the medium. But I am concerned about the intuitive fit with our list.” That fit may be getting a stretch with this season’s Playboy: 50 Years, The Photographs, a $50 tome taking the publisher into decidedly new retail territory. “Usually there’s one account that cracks open with any kind of license,” says Malarkey. “We’ve never sold a book to a Hustler Store before.” Next year will see a follow-up of Playboy cartoons.

When Branding Backfires

But branding can ambush a title in the wrong circumstances. “For cookbooks, corporate brands aren’t necessarily an advantage,” says Bill LeBlond, Chronicle’s Editorial Director, Cookbooks, who has published two titles with the Weber line of grills and other branded books with Saveur. “The bookstores in general don’t want to be seen as promoting products. Yet some brands transcend that, and Weber is certainly one of them.” Chronicle is also working with TV chefs Martin Yan and Michael Chiarello, whose platforms “can make all the difference in the world.” Still, says LeBlond: “Platforms and brands will not save you if you’re publishing a bad book. Brands can give you exposure, but that’s all they can do.” Other publishers have had to grapple even more delicately with how to finesse a franchise-in-the-making so that it retains its integrity, as in the case of The South Beach Diet, whose author, Dr. Arthur Agatston, has publicly shied away from becoming the next Atkins, despite having 5 million books in print, with two more titles on the way and a website with a reported 100,000 subscribers. (Publisher Rodale said it would be premature to comment on South Beach branding strategies.)

And some caution that while branded titles may unlock the door to distribution nirvana, big-time licensing can be a financial disaster. “Licensing is very important for the sell-in in the mass merchant world,” says one licensing executive, noting that a hot Nickelodeon product, for example, is a must-have for any major retailer. The downside is that those hot licenses (especially in the children’s arena) can cost a bundle, eating into profit margins as retail price points hit the well-defined mass merch ceiling. “At the end of the day a license gives you clout to bring the rest of the books from your list to the customer, and to create an image for your publishing program,” this executive says. “But it all comes at a price. And that’s a price most publishers cannot afford anymore.” Perhaps as a result of some notorious licensing mishaps, it should be noted, licensors are no longer in a position to dictate their terms.

Spending heavily for licenses can be a fool’s game in other respects. “You only have your licensed good or your branded asset until someone else buys it,” says Jeff Stone, founder of Chic Simple and partner in new branding firm mdash. Stone has done consulting work for Unilever, Wells Fargo, and Ford, the latter project involving a 14-month-long analysis of Ford’s trademark “blue oval” in terms of brand value. “If the company isn’t sure what the brand means, then it is very hard for consumers to get a clear message.” Stone argues for much deeper thinking about the value of publishers’ own houses as brands, rather than those of their authors or partners. Wiley’s work building the Dummies brand (see article) is a good case of a clear value chain, he says. “From a consumer’s point of view, the Wiley name speaks to technical expertise. If you happen to notice ‘John Wiley’ on the title page, you think, I can trust this.” And that trust is ever important in an age of mosquito-like product lifespans and dizzying choices confronting customers in Barnes & Noble (where, to make matters worse, they’re getting pitched B&N’s own branded products). “Every time a publisher can help a consumer with their branding program, everybody wins: the consumer wins, the publisher wins, and the author wins.”

Browsing the Big Boxes

With trusty correspondents fanned out over the big-box landscape this October, word comes back that while bestsellers and brand names are alive and well, who controls those brands varies depending on the venue. At Sam’s Club, for instance, the publisher of record for Williams-Sonoma is Simon & Schuster (The Williams-Sonoma Collection), while at Costco, it’s Oxmoor House. The classics — and bibles — are now represented by a broad range of houses, both in-store and online. Where Parragon and DK once dominated the Target shelves — and DK and Silver Dolphin (the AMS imprint) dominated the Costco tables — now it’s a free-for-all as everyone grabs for a piece of the action.

On the juvenile front, children’s titles dominate at Target and Costco, and an informal poll of publishers shows that some, like Scholastic and S&S, have been increasingly focused on getting their licensed product sold in. Scholastic’s Michael Jacobs says that two years ago the publisher focused specifically on the market, and has “scored big” with Clifford, thanks to the TV exposure, while the license for Shrek 2 is also expected to do well. Meanwhile, S&S’s Simon Spotlight’s sales have increased in the past year as Dora, Bob the Builder, SpongeBob SquarePants, and even Blue’s Clues show strength at all big-box outlets. Children’s boxed sets and treasuries are favorites in the price clubs, and they obscure the need to offer big discounts. HarperCollins has been publishing significantly more for the marketplace as well, according to Andrea Pappenheimer, who heads children’s sales. While there have always been golden oldies on the tables — Goodnight Moon and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (both board book only) — Harper has been making a concerted effort to get into the price clubs, and the coup was getting them to buy the latest Lemony Snicket title on its own. The licensed arena has also been heating up with My Little Pony, Berenstain Bears, and movie tie-ins such as The Incredible Hulk and Spiderman. Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries have been a big success in both cloth and paperback. The first title sold well because of the movie tie-in, but the series has had sustained sales thereafter and is now up to five titles.

Across the board, trade paperback classics from East of Eden to To Kill a Mockingbird are featured prominently. In other categories, Wal-Mart of course sells massive quantities of romance and religion (the retailer’s online religious book offerings are prodigious, especially in the bible segment). George Bick, SVP Sales in charge of the mass market across all HarperCollins lines, confirms that Wal-Mart is going gangbusters in the inspirational field: a recent promotion with the retailer just dropped the price on The Purpose Driven Life, fueling an exponential increase in sales. Zondervan has helped it along by urging its customers to take advantage of the special discount. Bick also reports a big leap in mass market romance — the publisher added its own mass-market house sales force two years ago, having formerly distributed via Hearst — which sells across all lines into the mass merch accounts, to a much improved bottom line. Avon’s trade paper chick lit line has been a hit (market share at Target and Walmart has been bumped up by several points this year), and next year will see efforts to target Albertsons, Kroger, and the like with a number of chick lit titles; they’ll drop the price to $10.95 from $13.95 on a trial basis.

Needless to say, everyone sells the top bestsellers. Prices at the two price clubs — Sam’s and Costco — are mostly in lockstep: Blow Fly is $14.76 at Sam’s and $14.79 at Costco. The trade paperback of Seabiscuit is $9.29 at Costco and $9.22 at Sam’s. Wal-Mart is, relatively speaking, no bargain: Barbara Bush’s Reflections is $17.64, while Costco sells it for $15.49. On some titles, such as Grisham’s $19.95 Bleachers, Sam’s and Target are at $12.57. Now that B&N sells SparkNotes, Target and Wal-Mart seem intent on preaching the CliffsNotes way (see Wiley article). And everyone still wants Oprah books.

Book View, November 2003

PEOPLE


CDSStanley Cohen has taken a leave of absence and Steve Black has stepped in as Acting Sales Director. David Wilk, VP of Client Services and Business Development, has taken over some responsibilities and a new Client Services Manager, Kerry Liebling, has been hired.

Erin McHugh has been named Director of Creative Services, Trade at Scholastic. She was most recently at Franklin Spier. Meanwhile, Michelle Lewy, formerly VP Sales & Marketing at Scholastic, has left the company and may be reached at [email protected].

Larry Hughes has moved to HarperBusiness as Publicity Director. He was previously at Penguin. Meanwhile, Dave Conti, Executive Editor of HarperBusiness for the last seven years, will be leaving HarperCollins on November 14. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (973) 650-2076. Lisa Berkowitz, also of HarperBusiness, has left the company and has formed Berkowitz & Assoc., specializing in strategic business communications. She may be reached at [email protected], or (212) 922-2811.

Alan Smagler has left S&S Children’s, where he held the title of SVP Assoc. Publisher. He may be reached at (917) 912-8050 or [email protected].

Heather Jackson from St. Martin’s has gone to Rodale as Cookbook Editor, reporting to Tami Booth. Louise Braverman has joined Rodale as Assistant Director of Publicity for trade books. Most recently, she held the same title at Atria Books. Nana Greller was recently named Associate Director of Publicity at Atria. She was most recently at Bantam.

Former publisher of Perseus Publishing David Goehring has been named VP and Director of Harvard Business School Press, effective Oct. 27. He will report to David Wan. He succeeds Carol Franco, who has become Editor-at-Large for HBS Publishing.

As previously noted in PT, the NY office of Peters, Fraser and Dunlop (PFD) has added another agent, as Mark Reiter joins the agency. He was previously at IMG.

Laurie Barnett, SparkNotes’ Editorial Director, announces Amy Hegarty has joined the editorial team as test-prep Editor. Most recently she edited multiple volumes in the Road Guide USA series for Fodor’s. Andrew Littell has also joined as Editor. He was previously at McGraw-Hill. The newly launched imprint, FlashKids, announces that Kerrie Baldwin has joined as an Editor. She comes from Scholastic, where she worked as a Production Editor.

Marian Brown has joined Bloomsbury as Director of Publicity. She has worked on a freelance basis for several publishers.

Paul Dinas has joined Penguin’s Alpha Books imprint as a Senior Editor. Dinas was most recently Executive Editor at
Reader’s Digest. He will be based in Alpha’s New York office. (PW)

PROMOTIONS


HarperCollins’ Ardy Khazaei and David Steinberger announce Leslie Hulse’s promotion to Senior Director, Internet Development, from Director, Online Business Development. Sean Abbott has been promoted to Editorial Director, International, for PerfectBound ebooks and to Senior Editor of HC General Books.

Chris Lynch has been promoted to Executive Vice President, Publisher of S&S Audio. Lynch replaces Gilles Dana, who is leaving the company.

Emily Forland has been appointed agent at the Wendy Weil Agency in addition to her duties handling sub rights.

DULY NOTED


DM News reports that Amazon is giving marketers their first crack at Amazon customers on Nov. 17 when it begins a package insert program. The program will start with 500,000 pieces. DM News estimates this will bring in $1.95 million in the next year. In 2004 2.5 million monthly packages will be available, for an annual total of 30 million. Amazon does not rent its postal or email lists.

Word from Frankfurt officials: No more late hours Friday night. Now we can all rest easy.

November Events
AAP presents “Publishing Latino Voices” on November 7. AAP President & CEO Pat Schroeder will welcome participants and speakers, who include Rene Alegria, Editorial Director of Rayo, Rueben Martinez, Founder and Owner of Libreria Books & Art in LA, and numerous panelists. Contact Kathryn Blough at (212) 255-0200, ext. 263, or [email protected].

• 192 Books announces that beginning in November actors, artists, and illustrators will read children’s books on Saturday mornings at 11 am. Actress Blair Brown will inaugurate the children’s reading series on November 1st and read selections from books by Roald Dahl and Eric Carle; artist William Wegman will come with his dogs on November 15 and present some of his titles, including the recently published Chip Wants a Dog.

• Small Press Center presents “Better than Bookstores: Sales and Distribution,” on Thursday, November 21 from 6 to 8 pm. Panelists include Nancy Kranich, Past President, ALA; Martin Schamus, SVP, Special Sales, Sterling; and Tom Woll, President, Cross River Publishing Consultants. For details go to www.smallpress.org.

On November 18 The Mercantile Library hosts “Rare Books, Fine Wines” at the Century Club, and presents James Salter with the annual Clifton Fadiman medal. For more information about the evening, call (212) 755-6710.

The National Book Awards are slated for November 19, at the Marriott Marquis. This will be Neil Baldwin’s last year as Director of the NBF. Walter Mosley is the MC. For information call Maryann Jacob at (212) 685-0261.

Mazel Tov
To FSG’s Elisabeth Sifton on the publication of her book The Serenity Prayer (Norton). A party held in her honor included Joe Lelyveld, the Schlesingers, new CJ school dean Nick Lemann, Osborn Elliott, Chip McGrath, and Victor Navasky.


“Books for a Better Life” will hold its eighth annual event on February 23, in New York. Meredith Vieira will once again emcee the evening at which Wayne Dyer will be inducted into the “Ardath Rodale Books for a Better Life Hall of Fame.” Money raised goes to the National MS Society’s NYC chapter.

Thirty-five finalists in seven categories have been selected from the 300+ books that were submitted. They are:

First Book: A Million Little Pieces, James Frey, Doubleday; Another Place at the Table, Kathy Harrison, Tarcher/Penguin; Escape from Slavery, Francis Bok, St. Martin’s; Laughing Allegra, Anne Ford, Newmarket; The Essential 55, Ron Clark, Hyperion. Inspirational Memoir: Ambulance Girl, Jane Stern, Crown; Honor Lost, Norma Khouri, Atria; Lost in America, Sherwin Nuland, Alfred A. Knopf; Rescuing Patty Hearst, Virginia Holman, S&S; The Stuff of Life, Karen Karbo, Bloomsbury. Motivational: Seeing Lessons, Tom Sullivan, John Wiley & Sons; There Are No Shortcuts, Rafe Esquith, Pantheon; The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp, S&S; The Essential 55, Ron Clark, Hyperion; The Joy Diet, Martha Beck, Crown. Psychology: The Anxiety Book, Jonathan Davidson with Henry Dreher, Riverhead; Dante’s Path, Booney Gulino Schaub & Richard Schaub, Gotham Books; Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek & Friends, Rodale; The Emotional Energy Factor, Mira Kirshenbaum, Bantam; The New Brain, Richard Restak, Rodale. Relationships: Find a Husband After 35, Rachel Greenwald, Ballantine; Not “Just Friends”, Shirley P. Glass with Jean Coppock Staeheli, Free Press; Saving Beauty from the Beast, Vicky Cropmton & Ellen Zelda Kessner, Little, Brown; The Bully, the Bullied & the Bystander, Barbara Coloroso, HarperCollins; You Have to Say I’m Pretty, You’re My Mother, Stephanie Pierson & Phyllis Cohen, S&S. Spiritual: Beyond Belief, Elaine Pagels, Random House; Not Fade Away, Laurence Shames & Peter Barton, Rodale; Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach, Bantam; Seeking Enlightenment, Nevada Barr, G.P Putnam’s; The Art of Happiness at Work, Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler, Riverhead. Wellness: Honoring the Medicine, Kenneth Cohen, Ballantine; The Macrobiotic Plan to Total Health, Micho Kushi & Alex Jack, Ballantine; The No Grain Diet, Dr. Joseph Mercola with Alison Rose Levy, Dutton; The Truth About Chronic Pain, Arthur Rosenfeld, Basic Books; Ultraprevention, Mark Hyman & Mark Liponis, Scribner.

For more information go to msnyc.org.

The Velvet (Reading) Revolution

As Publishing Trends rolls out its bestseller lists for the Czech and Slovak Republics, we herewith offer a brief survey of this modest but dynamic literary landscape, as sales rise in Wal-Mart-esque chains, and pivot sharply toward nonfiction.

Though Czech readers have long lapped up the likes of Stephen King, Danielle Steel, and Tom Clancy, a minor reading revolution is under way in the nation: the demand for fiction in the Czech Republic has drastically slackened of late, and most publishers there are now concentrating on nonfiction, according to a pre-Frankfurt market report on conditions in the Czech and Slovak book markets just released by Prague-based literary agent Kristin Olson. Some publishers have cut fiction to only 20% or less of their list, as demand ramps up for illustrated books on crafts, hobbies, and do-it-yourself home projects. The total market now breaks down to about 60% general nonfiction, 25% fiction, 11% textbooks, and 4% children’s titles. (Original Czech language publications amount to 70%, translations 30%.) Olson, who represents publishers from the US and UK, and sells translation rights for their books to Czech and Slovak publishers, adds that concentration in the retail market continues, as successful booksellers continue to expand into chains, while book superstores set up shop in Prague and Wal-Mart-esque commercial chains like Tesco start to sell more books as well.

On the bright side, though swaths of the Czech Republic were engulfed by some of the worst floods to hit Europe in over 200 years last summer, book production for 2002 remained impressively resilient. The industry kicked out 10,412 titles, according to Jaroslav Cisar, Secretary of the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers, which is nearly identical to previous years in which the Czech book sector recorded its highest ever number of published titles. Unfortunately, by most accounts print runs are continuing to drop (averaging 2,500 copies for both fiction and nonfiction; up to 6,000 for solid bestsellers), leading publishers to put out more titles in smaller print runs in an attempt to maintain the same financial turnover. Reorders are rare, and a new title can be fated for remainderdom within weeks or months of publication.

Perhaps the most notable change in the past year has taken place in the Czech children’s book market. While last year there were only two children’s publishers focusing on nonfiction titles, and two tackling fiction, Harry Potter novels have helped open up the market a bit, with publishers starting to take an interest in contemporary series fiction, fantasy for children, and contemporary novels. With the average retail price of a children’s book hovering around $2.50, there is little hope that a market will emerge for children’s picture books, as production costs are simply too burdensome. Publishers rely heavily on original Czech or Slovak writers and illustrators because it is often too expensive to license translations. In another growing segment, expect to see more successes along the lines of Bridget Jones’ Diary, as Czech publishers continue to build marketing strategies for film tie-ins, with posters promoting both the book and the film.

English accounts for the largest share of any translated language in the Czech Republic (over 50%), with German and French next in line. While translations from Polish are on the rise, interest is waning for Slovak books. By all accounts, Czech and Slovak are closely related, and are understandable to speakers of either language. As Lucie Straková of Andrew Nurnberg Associates in Prague reports, the “Czech market is of course much bigger and stronger so that’s where we make most of our deals.” Other factors are diminishing the prospects for Slovak publishing as well. As day-to-day communication between the two countries gets less frequent, Czechs are becoming less comfortable reading in Slovak. And because Czech editions are widely distributed and sold in Slovakia, a Slovak edition has little chance of succeeding if a Czech edition has been published first. (Incidentally, most contracts negotiated before the split of Czechoslovakia have expired by now, but even before the split, separate contracts were concluded for each language.) Unemployment in the Slovak Republic is up to 18.5%, making conditions there worse than ever. However, Vienna-based agent Ilene Kreshka of Transnet Contracts Ltd. reports that she notices a perhaps hopeful shift toward “higher quality commercial fiction and literary fiction.”

Book View, October 2003

PEOPLE


Bonnie Ammer has been named to the newly created position of EVP, Publisher at Large, Random House Worldwide, reporting directly to Peter Olson. Her current job as Publisher, Fodor’s Travel Publications, and President, Random House Information Group, will be assumed by David Naggar, who will continue as President, Random House Audio and Diversified Publishing Group. Last week Scott Matthews was named Publisher of Random House Audio and Large Print. He will retain his title of President of Random’s Books on Tape.

Ruth Pomerance, formerly of USAFilms, has become EVP Production and Development for IDT Telecomm-unications, developing animated feature films and direct-to-dvd projects. She will also be starting a special division to publish books that are based on original material in development. She may be reached at Ruth.Pomerance@ corp.idt.net or (973) 438-3094. . . Avalon has hired a new Marketing Director, Sandee Roston, who was most recently at Bloomsbury. She will be based in New York.

In other Random news, Steven Pace, previously Divisional Director, Trade East at Random House, has been named to the new position of VP Director of Retail Sales at Baker & Taylor, in its North Carolina headquarters. Rachel Klayman has gone to Crown as Senior Editor. She was most recently at Free Press. And Jon Ackerman, formerly at Random, has gone to Klutz, managing national accounts.

No news on some of the searches taking place in university presses: Seven months after Bill Strachan left Columbia U. Press (he is now at Hyperion) the search for a new Director is “moving forward but not yet complete,” according to a source involved in the process. And at Harvard Business School Press the search for a successor to Director Carol Franco also continues. Franco will move to the position of Editor-at-Large for the entire HBS Publishing division as soon as a new person is named.

In agency news: October 1st marks the day that a new literary agency, Lippincott McQuilkin & Co, launched. Started by Will Lippincott (who’s keeping his job at Booz Allen part-time) and Rob McQuilkin, the agency is located at 80 Fifth Ave., Suite 1101, NY, NY 10011. Phone number is (212) 337-2045. . . Bob Diforio, Marilyn Allen and Coleen O’Shea are regrouping, with Allen and O’Shea forming the Allen O’Shea Literary Agency. The D4EO Literary Agency will continue under Bob Diforio. . . George Lucas, who recently joined Carlisle & Company, just sold his first book on behalf of Peter Robinson at Curtis Brown, London. Entitled The Rise and Fall of Carthage (by Richard Miles) it went to Wendy Wolff at Viking, for $400k+. Meanwhile, Carlisle & Company has moved its offices to 6 West 18th Street, Twelfth Floor, New York, NY 10011. Agents Christy Fletcher and Emma Parry, who left Carlisle to establish their own agency, Fletcher & Parry, have offices across town, at 121 East 17th Street. . . Wendy Sherman, of the eponymous agency, has a new associate in former Holt colleague Tracy Brown. He will develop and represent his own list of clients under the auspices of the agency. He was most recently Senior Editor at Ballantine. . . And PJ Mark has left IMG to join Collins McCormick as an agent. Word is that Mark Reiter is also leaving IMG, to go to PFD (Peters Fraser & Dunlop), but no announcement has yet been made. In other agency news: Jenny Bent, formerly with Harvey Klinger, Inc., has joined Trident Media Group. . . Tad Floridis has joined Donadio & Olson as an agent. Floridis was VP of Development at Longview Productions and Executive VP at Rightscenter.com. And Anna Stein, formerly of the Wylie Agency, has joined Donadio & Olson, as an Associate.

In Boston: Elizabeth Carduff, formerly Associate Publisher of Perseus, has been named Editorial Manager of Cook’s Illustrated. . . Gary Gentel has been named Corporate VP, Director of Houghton Mifflin’s Sales, Trade & Reference Division. He had been VP of Trade Sales for Scholastic. In other HM-related news, Eric Chinski, most recently Executive Editor at Houghton, has joined Farrar, Straus, also in an Exec. Ed. role.

As reported elsewhere, Mel Parker has left Bookspan, where he was SVP Editorial Director, to pursue publishing opportunities. He may be reached at [email protected]. Brigitte Weeks has been named SVP and Editor-in-Chief.

In children’s, Elizabeth Law moves to S&S as VP, Associate Publisher of the Books For Young Readers imprint. She had been Associate Publisher at Viking Children’s Books. There are promotions at Knopf & Crown Books For Young Readers imprints, including Nancy Hinkel, who moves from Senior Editor to Publishing Director, Nancy Siscoe, who has been promoted from Executive Editor to Associate Publishing Director, and Michelle Frey, who has been promoted to Senior Editor from Editor. Alix Reid has been promoted to VP Editorial Director and Director of Foreign Acquisitions, of HarperCollins Children’s. And at Penguin’s Philomel Books, Michael Green has been promoted to Associate Publisher, Editorial Director as Pat Gauch steps down from the role of Publisher to become Editor-at-Large. Finally, Gray Peterson has been named VP Sales, Mass Market for Scholastic. He was VP of Sales at AMS’s Dalmatian Press.

OCTOBER EVENTS


The 2003 National Book Festival takes place on Oct. 4, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. between 7th and 14th Streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (rain or shine). The third annual Festival is organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by Laura Bush and is expected to attract “more than 60,000” people.

George Plimpton, whose obituary found its way into the unlikeliest publications last week, was looking forward to the Paris Review’s 50th anniversary celebrations, centered around a gala fundraising event at Cipriani in New York on October 14th. The event — hosted by Garrison Keillor — will proceed as planned, and now will be held in Plimpton’s honor. Tickets to the benefit are still available, and, according to the PR’s editors, “supporters of the Review and admirers of George Plimpton are encouraged to attend.” All proceeds will benefit The Paris Review Foundation. Contact the Paris Review editorial office for more information: (212) 861-0016.

New York is Cookbook Country takes place from Wednesday, October 15 through Saturday, October 18. The kickoff is a Food Writers Panel at Borders Park Avenue, with Jeffrey Steingarten, Ruth Reichl, and others on Oct. 15. On Oct. 16 a chef’s panel, moderated by Judith Jones, takes place at the NY Public Library. Oct. 17 and 18 are the Guest Chef Dinners around the city, along with cookbook signings. Go to www. nyisbookcountry.org for details.

The Small Press Center presents “An Interview with Jane Friedman” on October 23 from 6 to 7:30 at 20 W. 44. The NYT’s Christopher Lehmann-Haupt will interview the HarperCollins CEO. For details go to www.smallpress.org. Small Press Center and The General Society of Mechanics (where the Small Press Center is located) host a lecture series entitled “Wit’s End on West 44th Street,” beginning October 15. Each lecture costs $15, and the series of 5 costs $60. For details go to www.generalsociety.org.

On October 29-30 WRG, in association with the International Intellectual Property Group, presents “Creating New Markets for Entertainment Copyrights: Generating Revenue with New Forms of Digital Distribution in the Face of Piracy.” It takes place at the Flatotel on West 52nd St. Numerous speakers from music, movies, television, and publishing are represented on panels during the two-day conference. Go to www.worldrg.com/fw306/request.asp for details.

IN MEMORIAM

A memorial service for Peter Schwed, the longtime S&S executive who died earlier in the summer, will be held October 17 at 4 pm at the Century Club.

Donations in memory of Pat Sado, longtime book buyer at Coliseum who died September 19, to the Nathalie Sado Educational Fund, c/o Barbara Passy, East Hampton Business Service, 20 Park Place, East Hampton, N.Y. 11937.

Donations in memory of Miriam Bass, who spent more than 30 years in bookselling — the last ten at NBN — may be made to the National Kidney Foundation at 30 East 33rd St., Suite 1100, New York, New York 10016.

Literary Agents Go Transatlantic

Wrangling with what one observer has called “the quickening compression of the world English-language market for books,” a number of prominent literary agencies have now rolled out transatlantic offices, including ICM (which set up shop in Soho Square last March) and Janklow & Nesbit (it landed in London over two years ago), while British agency PFD opened in New York last month — all of whom join longtime cross-ponders such as William Morris and The Wylie Agency. The benefits to these beachheads may be obvious: on-the-ground access to talent, closer connections to editors, fewer co-agent commissions, and, for US agencies, a better chance at selling those midlist titles into a British market increasingly receptive only to the mega-hits. Yet the recent flurry of activity also highlights each agency’s particular angle of attack as they weather the ever-synergizing global book biz.

In the case of PFD (Peters Fraser & Dunlop), principals say the jump to New York was not driven by a mere desire to circumvent co-agents. Indeed, the group’s nine London-based agents will continue to work with a range of US agents, depending on the tastes and styles that best suit a particular project, according to Caroline Dawnay, who heads PFD’s book department in London. PFD will share office space with its parent company, sports and entertainment management group CSS Stellar. The office will be run by Zoe Pagnamenta, who had been with the Wylie Agency in New York for six years, and headed its UK office last year. She’ll be taking on her own US clients, in addition to handling certain UK authors in the US. While the London company’s translation rights are handled by Intercontinental Literary Agency, which deals direct in most territories, PFD’s New York office have decided to work with ILA on a nonexclusive basis for the time being. Rather than being of a piece with the globalizing business, Dawnay suggests, the move to New York “is almost an anti-globalization move” in that it counters the push by large publishing conglomerates to purchase world-English rights, which she feels does not serve authors well when they become just one more title in a bucketful being sold abroad. “Having a presence in New York which has our name on it,” she says, “is an attempt to make clear to New York publishing that we passionately believe in the notion of books being published indigenously in America, with the sort of care and attention that is going to satisfy our British authors, and will satisfy those American authors we look forward to handling back here in London.”

Michael Carlisle, who represents the UK authors of AM Heath, Curtis Brown, PFD, and other British agencies on a title-by-title basis, has long agreed that authors can best be served by a network of co-agent relationships rather than a one-stop-shop that represents a co-agency’s entire list. “We essentially choose the book on the book’s basis rather than on who’s sending it to us,” he explains. “The reaction among New York editors we hope is higher to our submissions, because the editor knows we’ve asked to handle it.” Carlisle & Company has sold more than 130 UK titles in the US over the last three years, many handled in conjunction with Emma Parry, who has since set up her own agency with fellow Carlisle alum Christy Fletcher. Carlisle recently hired George Lucas to coordinate the agency’s UK co-agenting business, which should benefit from Lucas’ editorial background at Hodder & Stoughton, Ballantine, and S&S.

Foreign rights were the initial focus for the London office of ICM, where department heads Amanda Urban and Esther Newberg began planning the move more than three years ago, as they realized that their list had grown large enough that representing US authors’ foreign rights through sub-agents no longer made sense. “It was not just a matter of commission,” Urban says. “It was part of our philosophy that the principal agent sells the book better than anybody.” Once on the ground in London, however, it became readily apparent that selling directly into the UK (and representing the UK market directly to the US) was the logical next step. All ICM foreign rights are now handled through London under the direction of Margaret Halton, who spent two years at ICM’s New York office. Kate Jones, a longtime Executive Editor at Penguin who subsequently consulted for the James Bond estate, heads up the office’s representation of UK authors, while Tricia Davey (formerly of ICM’s Los Angeles office) handles film and television rights.

Janklow & Nesbit, by contrast, set up shop on Adam & Eve Mews about two and a half years ago with the chief aim of representing UK authors on their own turf. “They’ve signed a very literary crew of young-ish English writers, and it’s going great guns,” says Morton Janklow of the new operation. “We’re thinking about expanding.” The office now represents about 75 UK clients, whose US rights are in turn handled out of New York. (UK rights for the agency’s US authors are handled either out of the UK office or directly from the US, depending on the particular author.) “We have discovered that many English writers would love to have the power of the big New York agency behind them, but they need a presence in town,” Janklow says. Foreign rights are handled directly from New York, so a second advantage of the London outpost was “a really thoughtful window on the UK and the continent,” Janklow adds, bolstering the agency’s intelligence as it sells translation rights throughout Europe. “We hand-sell book-by-book in every market. That gives us total control over the work of our authors all over the world.” The London office supports agents Claire Paterson and Tifanny Loehnis, who spend at least one week per quarter in the home office, while the agency’s proprietary computer system adds another layer of connectivity between the two shops.

For some observers, the rise of transatlantic agencies comes none too soon. “It’s about bloody time,” UK agent Ed Victor tells PT. “No one can represent a project as effectively, passionately, or knowledgeably as the original, primary agent. All too often, sub-agents deal with incoming books from other agents as ‘product’ — sausages in a sausage machine. It makes much more sense for the initiating agent to learn the other market and use that knowledge to sell their clients’ books in it.” Victor’s agency has long handled its own books in New York, though he grants that certain titles may need special handling by someone on the ground. “We do sometimes use the services of a very bright young agent in NYC, William Clark, when we feel that his close focus on that market will reap greater rewards for our client,” Victor says. For translation markets, the agency uses Andrew Nurnberg Associates. “One stop shopping saves on overheads, and Andrew and his people know us and our clients intimately so that they can provide a personal, highly focussed service for us.”

Phoenix Rising

Online Learning’s 600-Pound Gorilla Tangos With Textbook Publishers

The University of Phoenix, an Arizona-headquartered, for-profit institution offering degrees in adult-education staples such as business administration and information technology, may seem an odd candidate to be turning the world of higher educational publishing upside down. Yet as the nation’s largest accredited university — 163,627 current students (72,230 attending via the Internet), 17,200 instructors, 128 campuses in 26 states, and Internet delivery worldwide — there’s good reason why publishing insiders are calling Phoenix the Wal-Mart of the higher-ed world (as in: “The second biggest mistake you can make is selling to Wal-Mart. The biggest mistake? Not selling to Wal-Mart.”). “Phoenix is a major player,” explains Gordon Freedman, e-learning consultant and CEO of textbook solutions firm TextCentric. “Publishers are lining up to compete for that account.” Yet in a tale familiar to trade publishers (Barnes & Noble, anyone?), one of textbook publishers’ major customers is now in a position to become their big-time competitor, a prospect surely being contemplated at giants such as Houghton Mifflin, McGraw-Hill, and particularly Pearson, the largest educational publisher. How this predicament plays out among the established industry players — between traditional publishing models and new digital learning paradigms — will point the way, at very least, to the future of higher-ed publishing in America.

Phoenix, widely recognized as the company that invented for-profit education (and which was green-lighted last week to open a campus in New Jersey), may represent a smidgen of the 16 million students enrolled in higher-ed programs in the US. But by leveraging infrastructure across its entire student base, and centralizing curriculum development, it has become the first vertically integrated higher education company. That is, Phoenix controls both content and distribution. When it adopts a textbook or other learning materials, for instance, its curriculum design experts select the materials for all sections of a particular course. Student feedback is available and solicited continually, especially about the university’s online learning tools, which are fast becoming the centerpiece of its entire educational mission.

Textbooks: ‘Just Not Working’

And here’s where it starts to get interesting. “As a product, the beautiful, four-color textbook is just not working,” says Beth Aguilar, Phoenix’s VP of Academic Publishing, explaining that such an artifact offers none of the flexibility required for Phoenix’s ambitious online learning programs. So who needs textbooks? Behold “rEsource,” the first comprehensive learning platform for students and faculty, which Phoenix is rolling out after four years and more than $10 million in development. A sort of central nervous system for students and faculty, rEsource weaves together in one online location the essential course administrative tools, content, and student services. From its well-designed interface, students can check the course syllabus, download a textbook chapter, submit an essay for a free advance edit before submission, and assess their understanding of the material they are studying. It is textbook, library, departmental office, and student writing center rolled into one. Student response has been overwhelmingly positive, and though Phoenix will introduce e-commerce links directly to publishers for online purchases, experience shows that few students are interested in buying a hard copy in addition to building their digital libraries.

When selecting content, Phoenix demotes the textbook from its place at the core of the curriculum and breaks it down into modular units that can be assembled, updated, and reassembled. “In a world of digital assets, the goal should be to assemble the richest, most flexible variety of sources,” says Craig Swenson, the University of Phoenix Provost. “The textbook is an arbitrary assemblage. Digitize it and I’ll pick out the pieces I need.” Now, instead of buying a whole textbook, Phoenix negotiates for rights only to the parts it wants. Copyright ownership is “unchanged,” says Aguilar. “But we would like to own a lot more content than we do.” In January, Phoenix will take a big step in that direction by launching a “developer portal” through which it will solicit and manage content from its thousands of faculty members — or authors anywhere. As this content will be purchased directly from authors, it will also presumably cost less than content licensed through third parties with editorial and marketing overhead. “We can create a lot, but I don’t see us getting away from licensing other third party content,” Swenson says. “On the other hand, we would be silly not to leverage the intellectual capital in our faculty on a work for hire basis and own it.”

New Points on Pearson’s Compass

Educational publishers — no strangers themselves to the growing importance of digital content — are not exactly quaking in their boots. For starters, few textbooks are published today without accompanying websites and ancillary material on CD-ROMs. And while for-profit institutions have adopted a centralized curriculum, says Will Ethridge, President of Pearson Education’s Higher Education, International, and Professional Publishing Division, a similar shift by the traditional institutions is unlikely for reasons of academic freedom and educational integrity. Outside of the for-profits, “the instructor is responsible for the quality of the education, and they need to choose the content,” he says. (Not surprisingly, the for-profit leaders take a different view of the faculty role. “Of course, professors want complete flexibility in ordering books and creating curriculum,” counters Swenson. “The trade-off is the high cost of textbooks.”) Still, publishers are heeding the call for more flexible textbook formats. Ethridge sees custom publishing as a general trend, and Pearson has grown its custom publishing business significantly over the past few years, although it does not break out custom publishing revenues as a separate piece of its new textbook sales.

Yet pushed by customers such as Phoenix, publishers are adapting to the need for digital delivery, trying to retain as much control over their materials as possible. Pearson’s strategy is to “deliver the content in multiple fashions, so that we reach the market in as many ways as we can,” says Ethridge, adding that “at the end of the day, it still has to be strong content,” overseen by editors who maintain the vision of the work, and then accommodate the customer’s particular needs for formats or other specifications. Moreover, Pearson has introduced Compass, its own student portal, as its bid for the electronic, disaggregated future. Compatible with Blackboard (the most commonly used course management platform), Compass integrates what its website describes as “pre-loaded quality content” from textbooks, learning objectives, and assessments in one place. Professors have the option of buying Compass separately, or bundled with a textbook. Ethridge acknowledges that Compass aspires to the same goals as rEsource, though he cautions that “we’re not in the content management business. We want to stay in the business we are in now. But this meets a need.” In his view, the portable and readable textbook will remain an essential component of classroom teaching until “devices become so light, screen resolution so strong, that the reader experience will be better.”

But there are other factors shoving the industry toward a leaner, digital future. Times are tough these days on many college campuses. Although enrollments are growing, institutions are struggling to maintain services and instructional programs as state budgets for education shrink. “This is the first time in my career that I’ve seen budget issues affect academic programs in higher education,” observes industry veteran June Smith, Executive Vice President of Houghton Mifflin’s College Division. Calls for reform from Washington are growing louder, as the No Child Left Behind Act begins to force educators toward technology-based assessment and accountability. Perhaps most importantly, competition in higher education is stronger than it has ever been. Online learning programs are gaining academic credibility. Established large programs at public institutions such as Penn State, U. of Maryland University College, and U. of Massachusetts have been joined by for-profit players such as Capella University and others to push towards more than 1.6 million online students this year. Thomson’s Universitas 21, the global network of 17 universities in 10 countries, including U. of Virginia, McGill, U. of Edinburgh, and U. of Hong Kong, is already planning to pilot a series of “high-profile electronic books.” All the while, textbook publishers are getting blasted over pricing, as the cost of educational books and supplies has soared 238% over the past two decades, the New York Times recently reported. Now that 20% of students are no longer buying all their required texts, groups such as the California State Assembly’s Higher Education Committee are looking into “the possibility of using the collective buying power of California’s state colleges and universities to negotiate with publishers for lower prices.”

Industry experts agree that the shift to a digital curriculum will take years, even decades. At what point will the balance tip from publishers to their customers — and, dare we say it, the textbook fade away? “That’s just a point on the continuum,” says Kaplan College President Robert Greenberg. “We’re certainly moving towards that point. At some places, the textbook has already been removed, whereas at others, it remains. The ball’s in play.”

Ann Kirschner is the founder of education, media, and technology consultancy Comma International.

International Fiction Bestsellers

The New Czech Comet
Legatova Aloft, Sabach Soused in the Czech Republic, Plus Russia’s Own ‘Magic Mountain’

Streaking across the firmament on her way to the #1 spot in the Czech Republic this month, 84-year-old Kveta Legatova is a “new meteor in the Czech literary skies” who burst on the scene at the age of 80 after a career as an independent-minded teacher in the Czech countryside (where she routinely tangled with the Communist authorities). Legatova’s first short-story collection Zelary debuted in 2001 with an ultra-modest first print run of 400 copies, but has since soared to over 25,000 sold and been praised as a work of “full-blooded, passionate, and tragic” tales from the turn of the 20th century “yet with a flourish, pace, and composition a hundred years younger.” Named for its setting in a remote Czech village during WWII, the book has bounced back to the bestseller list as the Czech film adaptation of its sequel, the novella Joe’s Annie, premieres this month (the film, however, bears the title of the earlier volume). Both books envelop the reader with the “cruel charm” of the Beskides, the mountainous region near the Polish border where the author taught in small schoolhouses, a setting lush with “immense richness in spite of omnipresent poverty.” Joe’s Annie takes up the story of Eliska, a young female teacher-turned-doctor hiding in the mountains from Nazi persecution, who falls hopelessly in love with a man from the region. Legatova won the State Literary Prize (the nation’s highest such honor) last year, and critics have declared Zelary “a breathtaking, naturalistic, and beautiful read from start to finish.” Joe’s Annie, meanwhile, has sold 17,000 copies since its publication in 2002. Contact Milan Machacek at Paseka for rights to both titles. (Our Czech bestseller list, we’re pleased to note, is graciously provided by Jaroslav Cisar, Editor of the bi-weekly magazine Book News — the PW of the Czech Republic — and Secretary of the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers. See our full report on the Czech and Slovak publishing markets.)

Also in the Czech Republic, Petr Sabach is back in play with his seventh and latest offering: Four Men Afloat, or, Drunk Bananas Are Coming Back (the title was #2 last month, but has slipped just below the top ten). A sequel to his earlier ode to punchy produce, Drunk Bananas (about the coming-of-age exploits of four young men in the twilight of the Communist era), Sabach’s newest book tracks the men down 20 years later as they realize that some things in life can never be regained. Inspired by memories of pre-1989 Czechoslovakia, as well as tales spun down at the local pub, Sabach writes in the tradition of Czech greats Jaroslav Hasek and Bohumil Hrabal, and found his greatest success in 1994 with the bluntly titled Shit Burns, a collection of three stories about the collision of male and female world views. The book has sold more than 50,000 copies and is the basis of Cozy Dens, one of the most successful recent Czech films. Sabach will be published in Hungary (Europa), Italy (Marsilio), and France (L’Aventurine); keep an eye out for his other works, which include Grannies, a story of two old ladies with political chips on their shoulders, and The Strange Problem of Francis S., the story of a young man’s drug-induced hallucinatory experience inspired by the life of that bare-footed radical, St. Francis of Assisi. See Paseka for rights.

With Russia fêted as the guest of honor at Frankfurt this year, buzz is sure to build over critic and columnist Dmitry Bykov’s latest offering, Orthography, regarded as a “novel-opera in three acts,” and even “Russia’s answer to The Magic Mountain.” The scene: Bolsheviks hatch a plan in 1918 to reinvent Russian orthography, shipping unemployed linguists and writers to a Petrograd commune to revamp the alphabet. A cadre of young avant-gardists forms its own commune in response, however, and budding reporter Yat is torn between the two camps: fired from his job at a newspaper that was shuttered for being counter-revolutionary, Yat is cast off from society like the letters of the old alphabet, yet caught in the crush of the new order. Bykov’s parable of Russian history and his grand metaphor for revolution are said to be fired by “a tremendous will to transform not only the literary but primarily the social landscape.” His previous book, The Acquittal, an anti-utopian account of a brilliant professor’s arrest and disappearance after a mysterious phone call, has been published in France (Denoël). All rights for Orthography are available from Nibbe & Wiedling in Germany.

Crime-loving Sweden gets a new fix this month as Björn Hellberg brings to life a fictitious Swedish metropolis with a pulsating street life and deep-rooted social gaps in Pariah. The most blighted area in Loviken — aptly nicknamed the “Sewer Rat” — is home to dodgy characters known as the pariahs. One evening in May, the police are summoned to this odious place, where a routine task turns into a nightmare. Hellberg is no stranger to crime writing (he’s written 11 detective stories on top of 23 books about tennis, and “beats Mankell in three straight sets, to use tennis terms”). His new electrifying police squad features Carina Keller, a mother of three; her outspoken partner Stig-Allan Jönsson; and sexy crime scene investigator Mona Ceder. Earlier works have been published in Germany (Argon) and Holland (DeGeus), but all rights are available for this one, which has “all the potential of becoming just as popular as his previous series.” Contact Bengt Nordin.

Lastly, the international press is going gaga over a young Jewish French woman writing under the pseudonym Nima Zamar and her account of six intense years in the Israeli army. I Also Had to Kill, which climbed to number 5 on the nonfiction list in l’Express, tells Zamar’s story of emigrating to Israel at the age of 22, where she joined the army after her skills as a computer programmer caught the attention of the Israeli secret service. Following months of torture-resistance training, she infiltrated Hezbollah camps in Libya, Syria, and Lebanon, posing as a Swiss-reared Palestinian with money to spare. While training at terrorist camps, her mission was to introduce bugs into computer networks so that the systems could be accessed by Israelis back home. Now working in information technology in Paris and raising her 18-month-old daughter (whose father was a colleague in the Israeli army killed during a mission in Iran), she stands by her account without naming names for fear of endangering her associates. Called “a page-turner to the end,” Zamar’s book was published by Albin Michel in France; rights are available from Lucinda Karter at the French Publishers Agency.

El-Hi Any Which Way

As the world of higher education continues to grapple with distance learning and its effect upon educational publishers (see article), textbook publishers, while sizing up the online onslaught, are protecting their flanks with a variety of forays into the consumer market at the elementary and high-school levels:

• Dan Farley, President of Harcourt Trade, is working to bring the content of the various subsidiaries of Harcourt Education to the consumer market. One of the first fruits of this initiative is a deal with Barnes & Noble Publishing’s Sparknotes to repurpose some of Steck-Vaughn’s educational material for the consumer market. It will create a series of workbooks that will be published by Sparknotes’ younger sibling, Flashkids (aimed at the K-8 age group), beginning in June 2004. Sparknotes is “refreshing and augmenting” S-V’s material and will sell it exclusively through Barnes & Noble.

• Riverdeep Inc., which is one of the largest educational software producers (it owns Edmark, Broderbund, and Learning Company), recently launched Learning Company Books, which will publish and distribute (through CDS) workbooks based on their successful Reader Rabbit software and ClueFinders program. Vivian Antonangeli, who had been Publisher of Reader’s Digest Children’s Books, is its Director of Retail Sales.

When McGraw-Hill bought Tribune Education, they lost no time in using its assets — including licenses and authors — to develop workbooks and activity books. Vince Douglas, who had been co-founder of Landoll, took over as President of the renamed McGraw-Hill Children’s Publishing, which nevertheless remains a tiny part of McGraw-Hill Education’s $2.35 billion empire.

• Pearson’s Marjorie Scardino bought Dorling Kindersley with one objective of repurposing its photo and art archive for its education market. But Pearson has moved into the edutainment market, with Family Education Network, a website that combines educational materials with consumer offerings, and traditional books with downloadable POD titles.

Where the Pipeline Ends

At the nethermost end of the pipeline — that being the remainder and overstock dealers — the jury is still out on whether publisher supply chain initiatives are drying up their business. “More publishers have tightened up than not,” says Mel Shapiro, President of publisher and overstock dealer Book Sales Inc. “Some of them have cut their print runs down considerably, which is not exactly making us thrilled.” Publishers that once tossed off six-figure fiction remainders are policing their print runs more closely, he says. But never fear: “The remainder business is going to go on and on as long as publishers have to print to satisfy author advances, and so on.” Others are perhaps more bullish on the subject. “Probably the hurt level has taken off more than remainders in the last few years,” offers CIROBE co-founder Brad Jonas, explaining that returns seem to be gaining momentum over titles remaindered by publishers. Jonas says returns are happening “more quickly and in a larger volume” than in the past — as publishers tighten up inventory, so booksellers return books with greater haste.

For a dealer of higher-end remainders, publishers’ efforts are receiving a blunt appraisal. “Things are the same as they’ve always been,” says Robin Moody, President of Daedalus Books. “There’s always talk that publishers need to tighten up their print runs and that they’re going to be more economical. But we’ve never really seen a major change.” Lower first print runs, he says, require speedier decisions about a second print run, which are made with less market feedback — “And at that point you’re just as liable to make a mistake.” Moody also attributes hefty remainder numbers to the growing use of overseas printers — “You can’t call up Hong Kong and say, ‘Give me a reprint,’” he says — in addition to more publishers buying packaged titles, which may only be offered in substantial quantities. Then there are the mysterious ways of the corporate publishing world. Moody tells of publishers changing the price on a title (the old one gets remaindered) or changing the cover (ditto). The pièce de résistance: a movie tie-in with a new cover gets rolled out (the old cover gets remaindered), then the movie ends and the tie-ins are all remaindered — as the publisher reprints the first cover again. As Moody dryly observes: “It’s all done according to huge corporation rules.”