eLusive eStats

Digital Publishing Goes Mainstream. PT Attempts To Make a Meal Out of the Proverbial ePie

This month we decided to tackle the Sisyphean task of coming up with eNumbers – stats for the digital side of the biz. For the Book Publishing industry, eBooks are the most literal digital translation – books, in every sense of the term, simply supplanting paper with screens. The past seven rollercoaster years however – with the steady vacillation between eBooks as savior and eBooks as failed hype – have left publishers with a collective stomach ache. Ever device-conscious, eBooks are once again on an upswing with the Sony Reader dancing on the horizon, but publishers have learned to temper their enthusiasm.

“I avoid the word eBook like a plague,” Meg Fisher, Director of Domestic Rights at Oxford University Press said during an eBook panel at Book Tech. “I like to call it digital media.” Fisher’s viewpoint – moving away from looking at eBooks as the digital publishing market to looking at eBooks as comprising a part of the digital publishing market – is one that more and more publishers are starting to share. Digital audio, PDF downloads, online reference, mobile licensing, pay-per-use, monetized search, podcasts, chunking – the digital publishing market as a burgeoning profitable force is just warming up.

“When it comes to the delivery of digital content, the industry is still at the blind man and the elephant phase,” says Lightspeed‘s Jim Lichtenberg. “eBooks? Online Journals? Part of the problem is that nobody really owns it as a whole – it’s springing up in different ways and everyone is looking at different parts of the beast.”

Disparate definitions breed specious statistics and reports vary widely as to digital publishing’s pull. Ask any publisher in the digital media division to talk about their slice of the industry and they all start off the same way – “We’re still really new…what did everyone else say?” Take eBooks for instance: Current estimates of the overall eBook market range from $3 million to upwards of $30 million. Officially, Nick Bogaty, Executive Director of the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), estimates the eBook market to be between $12-$15 million, with eBooks defined as downloadable DRM-ed complete books encrypted by the publisher and functioning similar to an i-Tune.

Vincent Janoski, Business Manager at SparkNotes, ventures a higher estimate, placing the industry around $21 million based on a 40-50% growth rate (generally cited as the estimated increase of both revenue and offerings) from $10 million in 2003. According to Janoski, limiting the market to DRM-ed eBooks narrows the field quite a bit by excluding non-encoded PDF downloads like SparkNotes Literature guides, downloadable directly from both their website (www.sparknotes.com), and partner sites like MBS. “Our PDF downloads are fast approaching $500,000 in sales,” he said. “In the context of a $15-20 million market, that is a pretty big share that is not captured in the IDPF stats.” Going even further, if one were to expand the definition of eBooks to include the more loosely defined eDocument (or eDoc) numbers would dramatically increase, at least in terms of units and titles (Amazon has over 1 million eDocs up for sale).

Digital Audiobook downloads comprise another well-publicized and growing piece of digital publishing. Again, overall revenue is difficult to track, but according to the Audio Publisher’s Association, downloadable audio (or eAudio, as some publishers are referring to it) accounts for about 6% of the overall audiobook market that currently hovers somewhere around the $1 billion mark.

While eBooks and eAudio are the most obvious manifestations of print media in a digital age – whole “books” sold through the e-equivalent of traditional retail channels – other parts of the digital publishing market, like online reference, represent the growing trend of “chunking” information – breaking it apart and allowing consumers to become the architects, rather than leaving construction to publishers. Since consumers don’t buy chunks in the same way they buy whole content (although up-and-coming programs like Amazon Pages, and Random House’s initiative to monetize individual pages are testing this fact) other models such as subscription, rental, pay per view, and ad-supported content have cropped up.

As business models shift and settle, one of the most difficult dividing lines to draw in order to estimate the overall digital publishing market is the line between monetization and marketing, according to Lichtenberg. “Since the market is in its infancy and on a quest to convert print consumers into digital consumers, business models are still emerging,” he said. For now, marketing and merchandising spill into each other – free Podcasts advertising pay audiobooks, Holtzbrinck‘s up-and-coming RSS-delivered Chapter Feeds enticing customers to buy both print and digital, the innumerable bundled digital incentives educational publishers are using to gain leverage.

Offically, no one collects statistics about the overall digital publishing market. Unofficially, we’ve attempted to clarify the emerging market, in order to begin to define the digital pie, the pieces of the elephant, the elusive estats. Take a look.

Dominoes and Superheroes: Graphic Novels Pressing Forward

2006 is promising to be another banner year for graphic novels. Marjane Satrapi‘s PERSEPOLIS (Pantheon) was named this year’s featured work in the Seattle Reads series and Alan Moore’s V FOR VENDETTA (Vertigo), which opened as the No. 1 movie in the U.S., brought the original graphic novel to No. 9 on Barnes & Noble.com’s Hourly Top 100 that weekend. “Having backlist titles reactivate is an important source of strength for the graphic novel category,” says Milton Griepp, president of pop culture publishing and consulting company ICv2. “The biggest opportunities are for the media tie-in titles.”

In 2005, the U.S. and Canadian graphic novel market reached $245 million in retail according to ICv2. Although the rate of growth declined in comparison to the previous two years, there was still more than an 18% increase in sales from 2004’s $207 million in retail. “The market is maturing,” says agent Bob Mecoy of Creative Book Services. “But what was significant for me was that there was not a single standout title last year, and despite that, the market rose in the double digits.”

There are three important contributors to the rising popularity of graphic novels according to graphic novelist Matt Madden, (whose 99 WAYS TO TELL A STORY: EXERCISES IN STYLE was voted one of The Village Voice’s 25 favorite novels of 2005): Hollywood franchises of superhero properties boost comic book sales in mainstream bookstores, literary comics – Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, Joe Sacco, Marjane Satrapi – are gaining a higher profile and bringing in a wider variety of book readers who don’t normally read comics, and manga has brought in a deluge of young readers, most significantly, girls. This strong growth has caught the attention of major houses, many of which are starting graphic novel imprints.

Recently, HarperCollins announced a partnership with manga distributor Tokyopop to publish co-branded manga titles. Beginning this June, the arrangement will give the News Corp. publishing division distribution rights for all Tokyopop books in North America.

This month, Roaring Brook is launching First Second, its new graphic novel imprint which Editorial Director Mark Siegel believes will have an impressive range of readers – a key to future sales growth. “With THE LOST COLONY [a graphic novel about a mysterious island in nineteenth century America], we are getting incredible feedback from not even yet 10-year-old girls. One of them carries it around. Another sleeps with it under her pillow. Then 40 and 50-year-old men are reading it and finding that there is this incredible subtext about racism and slavery at this other level. You could compare that to The Simpsons. A graphic novel has the ability to be read at many levels. That’s something that First Second is very much dedicated to providing.”

Author Madden says that First Second’s program “is the most ambitious project to capitalize on the growing mainstream popularity of comics.”

While literary comics are building a reputation reaching the widest range of readers, James Killen, buyer for B&N, reports that “the bestselling genres are still manga and the superhero related graphic novels. Manga has turned into a genre that dominates the category bringing in a younger audience. With the older, more male-centric readership superheroes remain strong.”

With continued success from imprints like Pantheon and new players like First Second, competition to publish high-quality graphic novels is rising. “Production, art direction, and editorial are three practical ways we are working very hard to upgrade,” Siegel said. “Over many seasons, I hope we’ll be setting the bar a little higher, not in terms of making things more slick, but in terms of the artistry and the quality of the story.”

Mecoy said, “I think that there is something happening here that is going to endure, because what you are seeing with manga and with deeper penetration into the market, with the feed into games and movies, is a new vocabulary. It’s visual narrative.”

While fingers are crossed for a breakthrough title that will place graphic novels permanently in the mainstream, the real news is that graphic novels are a steadily growing market worth the financial investments required to publish these works. It will take more than a movie blockbuster or single-title campaign to bring the genre to its full potential audience. “It’s a slower thing that’s going to do that,” Siegel says. “We are going to try everything we can on the marketing end, but it’s ultimately about content. Persepolis has opened doors for a lot of people, because you have someone who is clearly a true author; she just happens to be working in this medium. The more that those kinds of works get out, the more people will get the idea.”

“What we have had are little tipping points, dominoes falling one after another,” says Mecoy. “We are only just now getting to the point where we can rise up and look down and see all those dominoes form a pattern that’s as large as traditional publishing.”

As publishers consider investing more of their resources in graphic novels, they might be motivated by Killen’s experience in the market. “We continue to reevaluate the business and after the last few years I still ask myself ‘how high is the sky?’ Whenever I think I’m ready to see a ‘peak’ in the business something like V FOR VENDETTA happens and sets off a whole new wave of attention, press, and sales.”

Domestic Issues Abroad

Not So Foreign Family Problems Fill the Lists

The bright blue and red cover of YOU’RE JOKING, MONSIEUR TANNER (l’Olivier), French author Jean-Paul Dubois‘ most recent bestseller, shows a man on hands and knees who’s painted himself into a corner. This is Paul Tanner, a wildlife documentary filmmaker who suddenly inherits the grand family manse, but finds himself more cursed than blessed by the windfall. The short novel (198 pages) with brief snippets of chapters follows, with aplomb, Dubois’ previous phenomenon, A FRENCH LIFE, which won the Prix Femina in 2004 and sold an astounding 400,000 copies. As Monsieur Tanner embarks on his first journey into home renovation, he hires a group of oddball workers each with his own crazy set of personal tics that sets off all the others. The roofers, Pierre and Pedro, insist on bringing their ferocious dogs to the worksite while Astor, the flamboyant fashionista painter, works through the countless neuroses that keep him from concentrating on the job at hand. Igor, the Russian Catholic electrician, clashes with the boys who post the Pirelli calendar too close to where he prays. Amidst the turmoil, the house falls deeper and deeper into ruin in this French facsimile of The Money Pit. Dubois, a novelist as well as journalist (he’s currently the American correspondent for Le Nouvel Observateur) writes in the vein of Philip Roth and John Updike with similarly melancholy and disheveled male protagonists who are often attracted to more mature women and find themselves in existential predicaments. Since publication in January, the title has sold 141,000 copies. Korean rights have been sold to Balgunsesang. Contact Jennie Dorney for rights (jenniedorney@ seuil.com).

Inheriting the family home is bittersweet as well for Austrian Philipp Erlach, the protagonist of Arno Geiger‘s WE”RE DOING WELL (Hanser). His grandmother’s old house in suburban Vienna similarly falls into the lap of this passive and ambivalent 36 year-old writer. Grudgingly, Philipp begins to sort through the heaps of mementoes, heirlooms, and documents left after his estranged father, Peter, tosses much of them into the trash. As Philipp digs through the remnants, the story dips in and out of the present, moving back to 1938 when Philipp’s grandparents experience the rise of the Nazis, the annexation of Austria by the Third Reich, the death of their son, and the estrangement of their daughter, Ingrid, who insists on marrying Peter despite their wishes. Woven among the parallel stories is Ingrid’s struggle to be a successful doctor as well as maintain a household in 1950s Austria with no support from Peter or her alienated parents. Often frustrating and always flawed, the protagonists slip around each other with only the occasional, but touching moment of contact. The tightly knit storylines result in an intimate family portrait of historical events and daily life in twentieth-century Austria. Released in August, WE”RE DOING WELL recently won the German Book Prize for best novel in 2005 and has spent months on the German bestseller lists, including an unprecedented streak at number one on the Austrian list. With over 150,000 copies out, rights have been sold to Norway (Aschehoug), Netherlands (Bezige Bij), France (Gallimard), Italy (Bompiani), Spain including Catalan rights (Grup 62) and Denmark (Huset). Friederike Barakat is handling rights ([email protected]).

Despite the title, a king is only symbolically killed in THE REGICIDE (Gyldendal), a novel set in the elite “whiskey belt” north of Copenhagen during a tumultuous turnover in the government and an even more turbulent situation in the home of the losing Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gert, and his wife, Linda. The provocative title alludes to the novel’s focus on gender inequality and power imbalance, issues representative of the work of Danish author and international women’s rights advocate Hanne-Vibeke Holst whose literary work has earned her the Danish national book award and whose humanitarian efforts have qualified her to serve on the Board of Governors of the Danish Family Planning Association, UNESCO National Commission, and Face to Face. In THE REGICIDE, Holst examines the nature of power and presents an often thrilling portrait of “the mechanisms that bind assailant to victim in mutual dependence.” It is national election night in Denmark and as the results come in, it becomes clear that the Social Democratic Party will be ousted from power for the first time since 1920. In her pristine Copenhagen home, Linda bitterly watches the returns on television, drinking more Smirnoff as she realizes a humiliating political loss as well as a violent, perhaps deadly beating from her outraged husband are imminent. As she watches the concession speeches, she sees her husband grimace at the now deposed Prime Minister in the way he does during his most merciless attacks on her. The hateful grimace marks the start of not just a struggle for power, but a political blitzkrieg among current and former officials that upsets the scaffolding of Danish government and society. Part Thelma and Louise, part political thriller, THE REGICIDE seems to strike the right balance between a “spell-binding” plot and strong social commentary as it’s been at the top of the Danish bestseller list for months and sold over 75,000 copies since publication last Fall. THE CROWN PRINCESS, its predecessor, was recently launched as a TV serial in Denmark and Sweden. Rights to THE REGICIDE have been sold to Sweden (Bonnier), Norway (Piratforlaget), and Holland (Archipel). Contact Esthi Kunz for more information (Esthi_ [email protected]).

Another well-known European women’s rights activist and journalist, Maria Stella Conte, has also written a provocative novel focusing on domestic violence and its repercussions. A journalist for LA REPUBBLICA, the Italian writer covers national news linked to the reality of children, teenagers, and women. Contrary to the title, THIRD PERSON SINGULAR (Baldini Castoldi Dalai) is written in the first person from the perspective of a young girl who creates a fantasy world full of fairies, dwarves, and angels to separate herself from the physical abuse she and her mother suffer at the hands of her father. Although they escape their hostile home, mother and daughter keep finding themselves in even more abusive situations until the protagonist, at thirteen, meets an almost thirty year-old police officer with whom she falls in love. Her mother breaks them up, but the girl spends years searching for him while trying to reconcile her fantasy world with reality. As one critic says, the language is “flat, without jolts, and neutral” in a way that emphasizes the girl’s naiveté. All rights are still available for Conte’s first novel. Contact Laura Molinari (laura@ bcdeditore.it).

Bookview, April 2006

PEOPLE

Brian Napack has been named President of the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. In the newly created position, Napack will share general management responsibilities with CEO John Sargent over all of Holtzbrinck’s divisions, including both trade and educational operations.

Steve Sorrentino, most recently an author (Luncheonette) has gone to B&N as Director, Author Promotions & Special Events working for Brenda Marsh.

Ken Wright, Associate Publisher of Scholastic has left the company and may be reached at [email protected] Meanwhile Alan Smagler moves to Scholastic on April 10 as VP Trade Sales. He was previously Publisher of the children’s book group at Houghton Mifflin. Smagler takes over from Gray Peterson, who will be reassigned to a senior sales position, reporting to Smagler.

At Penguin, Laurie Chittenden has left Dutton. Kendra Harpster has moved to the house as Editor. She was an associate editor at Doubleday. Kristen Weber starts next month as a Senior Editor at NAL, overseeing their mystery list and acquiring in other areas. She had been an editor at Warner, overseeing the Mysterious Press imprint. Joshua Kendall will join Viking next month as Senior Editor. He was an Editor at Picador.

Also leaving Picador is Amber Qureshi who will join Free Press as Editor on April 24. . . .Spiegel & Grau have hired away Gretchen Koss as publicity director. She has been Associate Director of Publicity at Viking.

Herb Schaffner has been named Publisher for business books at McGraw-Hill, reporting to Jeffrey Krames, VP Publisher, Business books. Schaffner was a Senior Editor at Collins Business. Don Fehr has left Smithsonian/ HarperCollins as the role of Smithsonian Books publisher has been eliminated. Elizabeth Dyssegaard will run the Smithsonian Books editorial office in New York, and Smithsonian Business Ventures has named Carolyn Gleason to the Washington, DC-based post of Director of Smithsonian Books. Tim Brazier has left HarperCollins to join Basic Books as Publicity Manager.

Virgin has hired Mary Albi to run the their US Sales & Marketing operation. She was most recently at Continuum. And David & Charles MD Sara Domville has been appointed President of the Book Division, following the retirement of Budge Wallis. She will continue responsibility for David & Charles UK, commuting from F+W‘s headquarters in Cincinnati. . . .Amy Collins has founded Cadence Marketing Group. She had been Specialty Sales Director at F+W Publications.

Judy Sjo-Gaber has joined Bloomberg Press as Director of special markets and corporate sales. Most recently she had been at Weekly Reader Publishing and was previously at Prentice Hall. Also joining Bloomberg Press is Janet Coleman as Senior Developmental Editor. Most recently she had been a freelance business writer and editor. Prior to that she worked for several publishers, including Harvard Business School Press.

Courtney Hodell is moving to Farrar, Straus as Executive Editor. She has held the same title at HarperCollins.

Meredith has hired Lisa Berkowitz as Executive Editor, reporting to Linda Cunningham. . . . Vintage has hired Furaha Norton as an editor. She had been at Oxford for the past five years, most recently as Associate Editor. She succeeds Anjali Singh who went to Houghton. . . . at Disney, Simon Tasker has been named Director of Global Retail sales. He was previously Director of National Accounts at S&S.

E-publishing veteran Elizabeth Mackey has moved to wireless content provider Motricity as VP and General Manager of their e-book web site eReader. Mackey has been VP for content business development Audible. . .iUniverse has hired another publishing vet, Judy Klein as a sub-rights consultant. Klein has worked at FSG and in book clubs.

Jay Henry has been hired as Director of Marketing at Abrams. He was Senior Marketing Manager at DK for the past six years. Lisa Sherman-Cohen takes over as Director of Publicity for Abrams and Stewart, Tabori and Chang. Most recently, she worked on buzz marketing at Buzztone. Kerry Liebling joins the company as Trade Marketing Manager. She was a Client Services Manager at CDS/Perseus Book Group. All three will report to vp of marketing, Maggie Kneip.

Lisa Benenson has been named Editor-in-Chief of Hallmark magazine. She had been editorial director at Rebus Media since June 2004 and was previously Editor-in-Chief of Working Woman and Working Mothers.

PROMOTIONS

Lots of popping champagne corks in children’s books: Josalyn Moran has been promoted to VP, Children’s Books for B&N. At Disney Publishing Jeanne Mosure has been promoted to SVP and Publisher, Global Children’s Books. Following the departure of Tracy Van Straaten, Paul Crichton has been named Director of Publicity of S&S Children’s Books. He has been acting as interim director of publicity for Simon Spotlight Entertainment and was most recently at ReganBooks. He’ll report to S&S Children’s publisher Rubin Pfeffer. And Jennifer Zatorski has been promoted to Associate Director of Publicity. . . .Karen Frangipane has been named Associate Director of Trade Marketing, she was formerly Marketing Manager, Trade.

Jess Michaels has been promoted to Director of Publicity at Penguin Young Readers Group. . . . Josh Weiss has been named Vice President, Publishing Operations for HarperCollins Children’s Books.

At Little, Brown children’s division Liza Baker has been promoted to editorial director of LB Kids, the novelty and licensed book imprint . . . Cindy Eagan has been promoted to Editorial Director of their new teen chick lit paperback imprint. . . . Andrea Spooner has been promoted to Editorial Director of core trade hardcover and paperback lists.

David Rosen newly appointed Editorial Director, has also been named Publisher of Abrams and the new Image imprint. Eric Himmel, Editor in Chief, Abrams, will launch a new, to be named imprint, whose first books will be published in the Winter/Spring 2007. Additionally, he will oversee the recently launched Abrams Studio and will continue to serve on the Pub Board and Management Committee for HNA. Deb Aaronson is promoted to the newly created role of Executive Editor, Abrams.

At Houghton Mifflin, VP and Director of trade sales Ken Carpenter has moved to the adult editorial department to take over as Director of trade paperbacks. . . . Kate Tentler has been promoted to SVP, S&S Digital.

St. Martin‘s Executive Editor Jennifer Weis has been given the additional title of Manager, Concept Development, and will “develop non-traditional book concepts.” Including “book/movie development” creating custom publishing programs with companies, branded publishing, and other special projects.

Mark Tavani has been promoted to Senior Editor at Ballantine Random House Publishing Group.

APRIL EVENTS

BISG‘s Making Information Pay takes place on Thursday April 27, 8-12 at the Millennium Broadway Hotel. Wired’s Chris Anderson is the keynote speaker. For more info contact [email protected] or call 646 336 7141.

NYT Managing Editor Jill Abramson will talk on April 18th at the General Society Library, at 20 West 44th Street. Later in the month the Second Annual New York Round Table Writers’ Conference takes place. The event, also at the Library, takes place on Friday and Saturday, April 28-29, 2006. For details go to www.smallpressorg.

EARLY MAY EVENTS

Literacy Partners celebrates An Evening of Readings on May 1 at the New York State Theater. Liz Smith will help MC, and authors Augusten Burroughs, Michael Cunningham and Nora Ephron will be on hand as well. For more information call 212 573 6933.

The UJA-Federation Publishing Division dinner takes place on May 9th, and honors Henry Hirschberg, President of McGraw-Hill Education. In addition, there will be a special celebration of the life of Byron Preiss, whose widow, Sandi Mendelson, will accept the Harry Scherman Lifetime Service Award in Byron’s memory. Peter, Paul and Mary will provide the musical entertainment. For information, call Marcy Fink at 836 1448.

DULY NOTED

The Mercantile Library has announced the creation of the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize. The award is supported by members of the Sargent family, in recognition of John Sargent Sr.’s work as President and CEO of Doubleday. The annual prize will carry with it a $10,000 cash award and will be presented for the first time on November 6, 2006 at The Mercantile Library’s Annual Gala Awards Dinner. The short-list will be announced August 2006.

Syndication Stagnation?

Has Online Syndication Killed the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg?

Back in the day, syndication not only sold papers, but was a booming business that built up audiences for everything from columnists’ and comic strip-pers’ books (with excerpts) to television audiences (with Gemstar numbers and listings). And, of course, the syndicated columns and strips could then be collected together and published. Today, book excerpting is all but dead, and no one under the age of 30 has ever heard of a Gemstar number. Many columnists and cartoonists retain enthusiastic followings, but as newspaper space continues to shrink along with ad dollars, and content continues its steady migration onto the web, syndication – as it was once known – is a dying form. The local newspaper, where a third party sources information, has given way to the idea of the “personal newspaper” with people using blogs, RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication– something of a misnomer), and search engines to aggregate content in what Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch refers to as “viral syndication.”

“Online services have not produced big revenues for most newspaper syndication products,” David Hendin, former SVP of United Media/United Feature Syndicate, and current literary agent for a few syndicated cartoonists and columnists, said. “Although newspaper syndicates are still selling features, and licensing product, they’ve lost a lot of their other business.”

Still, the major players remain the same (see chart on page 6), and are looking at creative ways to drum up revenue and redefine the business. Until now, syndicates have been inextricably tied to print media, but many recent innovations are beginning to build on that relationship. Unable to generate advertising? Barter. Newspapers outmoded? Deliver cartoons to cell phones. Undaunted, there are even some new syndicates that see the current flux not as a deterrent, but as an opportunity to get into the game.

The Way Things Work.

Traditionally, newspaper syndication went like this: newspapers acquired a property (be it a comic, column, or puzzle), put it under an exclusive contract, and split the net with the author 50/50. In the case of Miss Manners, written by Judith Martin (one of Hendin’s long-term clients) and syndicated by United Feature Syndicate (the syndication arm of United Media), Martin now owns all of her content. This wasn’t always the case. Over the last 15-20 years ownership has shifted from the syndicates to the writers themselves. Whereas many syndicates used to have a blanket copyright, now the syndicate is often listed as a distributor.

Every week, Martin writes a Miss Manners column for the Microsoft network (on an exclusive basis, not to be syndicated), and three for UFS which are syndicated into about 250 newspapers. Martin holds all of the non-syndication rights, including all electronic rights, except for the e-rights to online newspapers which remain with the syndicate. She has written eleven Miss Manners books, most recently an updated version of MISS MANNERS’ GUIDE TO EXCRUCIATINGLY CORRECT BEHAVIOR (WW Norton, April 2005). Syndicates with publishing divisions (e.g. Andrews McMeel) usually have first option for book deals, but – as with everything in the new order – it depends.

The contracts differ for each creator, but in general, the relationship between syndicate and creator remains the same – creators produce and syndicates manage and promote (and on a dwindling basis, edit) the work. John McMeel, Chairman & Founder of Andrews McMeel’s Universal Press Syndicate, refers to his company as a “talent provider” managing the content, and exploring new arenas for syndication beyond newspapers such as online and mobile carriers.

Randy Cohen, who writes The Ethicist, a weekly column for the NY Times Magazine, is currently syndicated into 48 papers. Officially a freelance writer for the NYT, Cohen owns the rights to his work. “Since I’m freelance, I’m free to take the column anywhere,” he said (provided that it appears in the NYT first – syndicated papers can run the article either simultaneously or anytime after the fact).

Cohen was syndicated through the New York Times Syndicate for about three or four years before switching over to Universal two years ago. “For me, it was how effectively and aggressively they’d go out and sell the column,” Cohen said. “Syndication money is free money – I mean, it’s nice that a check comes in, but it’s not exactly lifestyle changing. It’s more about the audience building.”

With approximately 1.67 million people reading the Sunday NYT every week alone, there’s a fair amount of familiarity with both The Ethicist as a brand (which is owned by the NYT) and Cohen himself. In 2002, when Doubleday published Cohen’s THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE DIFFERENCE : HOW TO TELL THE RIGHT FROM WRONG IN EVERYDAY SITUATIONS, Cohen’s alter ego was prominently displayed.

Cohen said the most he makes off of a single syndicated piece is (maybe) a couple hundred dollars a week, but that some pieces bring in as little as $10 (depending on circulation). Universal compiles the money each month and then cuts a single check. “At the end of the year I could maybe buy an economy car,” Cohen said. “A nice economy car, but still.”

David Hendin said that for lesser known syndicated columnists, and especially cartoonists, the take is even less. “A lot of cartoonists’ total salaries [including syndication] are in the $50K a year range,” he said.
“The funny thing about the 50/50 price split is that it’s a real anachronism,” Cohen said. “When distribution was a daunting task it made sense, but now I can e-mail cc 48 people…Today syndicates get 50% because historically they’ve gotten 50%.”

Increasing automation has caused some new syndicates to pop up, despite purported syndication stagnation. Dan Calbrese, Editor-in-Chief of the North Star Writers Group a small business that started last fall, said that internet technology makes it much easier to distribute to newspapers nationwide than it would have been 10 or 15 years ago. “We can get material in front of 4,000 editors in a matter of minutes with virtually no distribution cost,” Calabrese said. “So the initial investment is not daunting.” As for newspapers cutting back and putting content online, North Star saw the shift as an opportunity, providing they could be costcompetitive. “Our lowest per-item rate is only $8, and we charge that for all papers [with a circulation] under 60,000,” he said (North Star also adheres to the traditional 50/50 split). So far, the most receptive papers have been community weeklies who want opinion pieces but can’t afford staff columnists. In addition, North Star provides intensive editorial support, a department that many of the larger syndicates downsized as they cut back.

Apart from writers like Cohen (who writes for a major paper, and is subsequently syndicated), and Martin (who writes directly for a syndicate) some content providers cut out syndicates entirely, and go straight to newspapers and other outlets as well. Last year, Newmarket Press inked a deal with the NY Daily News to syndicate the Sudoku puzzles from their bestselling BIG BOOK OF SUDOKU series.

Esther Margolis, President of Newmarket, said the deal came about through personal relationships between the publisher and the paper. “We knew that they knew they should have [sudoku],” she said. “Michael Cooke‘s wife was berating him about it. She used to leave a copy of the Post open for him every morning, because she had become a Sudoku addict.”

Rather than cut a standard syndication deal on a pay-per-puzzle basis, Newmarket decided to go for a non-exclusive barter deal that included daily promotion of the book in the paper (with a halfpage ad) and on the website (with a cover shot of the book and a click through link to BN.com). “The alternative was for them to pick up other syndicated puzzles for $50 a week.”

The idea of bartering through cross-promotion has been around forever according to Margolis, but the difference now is that it’s often the special sales departments handling the deals rather than sub-rights. She pointed to numerous examples where Newmarket has done similar cross-promotion with 2nd serials, coming out of the promotion and publicity departments rather than sub-rights and syndication. Since syndicated content is usually a fixed cost, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to generate advertising that pays the freight, the barter/promotional deal is a useful sidestep. Similarly, many writers and cartoonists aspiring to syndication work out barter deals with participating papers, where the paper will run a ten line bio about them, in lieu of a flat syndication payment.

Hundreds of Heads Books, a San Francisco publisher, gathers and compiles stories for their Hundreds of Heads series through a network of “headhunters” who conduct hundreds of interviews on various how-to topics a year. The first book in the series, HOW TO SURVIVE YOUR FRESHMAN YEAR, launched in spring 2004, and there are now ten titles in print, and five more slated for fall. Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services (KRT – a “content service partnership” between Tribune Company and Knight Ridder) began syndicating a weekly story based on content from the Hundreds of Heads books as part of it’s “News2Use package” last year. Available both on an à la carte and subscription basis, it’s distributed through the KRT wire service. At the beginning and end of each column, there are plugs for the various Hundreds of Heads books listing their price point and the company’s website. Mark Bernstein, Publisher, defines the deal as a “license to distribute.” He said that the articles are running in hundreds of papers across the country and although it’s hard to track the exact effect of the increased exposure, the relationship has been a great benefit to Hundreds of Heads’ brand building efforts.

Why Pay When You Can Get It For Free?

Universal Press Syndicate’s online division uclick was started in 1995 as an offshoot of the newspaper syndicate. According to Chris Pizey, uclick’s President and CEO, the company was one of the first syndicates to move their print model online by providing both online newspapers and other sites with syndicated content. After a few bumpy years, uclick expanded into webhosting, developing a service that allowed web publishers to brand content so that it is fully integrated into their site. “It was revolutionary,” Pizey said. “After that, the whole thing just took off.”

There are a series of different models that uclick uses when syndicating content online, from fixed licensing fees to advertising, Pizey said. Since overhead costs are still a bit higher for online production, delivery and maintenance, syndicated content online generates less of a profit for creators.
As The Ethicist’s Cohen said, “Online syndication money makes syndication money look plush.” Cohen’s column is syndicated online to the OpEd section of Yahoo! News, among other places, but he can’t remember ever receiving a check.

Pizey explained, “We still view online syndication as ancillary. Over time, I think that will change, and we’re in the process of exploring new formats like mobile content and animation.” Currently mobile content is the fastest growing sector at uclick, and Universal overall. Go Comics, Universal’s mobile syndication division was started in late 2003. “We got involved in mobile fairly early,” Pizey said. Go Comics offers numerous downloads for cell phones including character branded wallpaper, animations, games and daily comics. The character branded downloads and features are not licensing deals, Pizey points out, but syndicated products developed by uclick.

Although all of the top, major-market newspapers are signed on, uclick only works with a fraction of the online divisions of the newspapers they service in print, since the smaller ones are still not in a position to justify the cost. Overall, he says, online syndication is “definitely profitable” though uclick is currently only just breaking even since so much money is still being reinvested into the format.

According to market researcher Nielsen Net Ratings, roughly 30 million unique readers visited humor sites in 2005 (which include comic strips) a 20% increase over the previous year. Since people don’t “subscribe” to free websites, and are generally less willing to pay for online content vs. print – revenue to support the content is ad based, and artists are paid based on individual traffic (measured in clicks) against overall site traffic.

As for the syndicate websites, some offer the bulk of their content for free, while others require a subscription. At Creators.com (the website for the independent Creators Syndicate – which reps every opinion from Bill O’Reilly to Molly Ivins), all syndicated content is updated and searchable. At United Media, content is subscription-only access. Both have their advantages – while free sites offer more widespread exposure, subscription sites are better able to monitor reader response. Lisa Wilson, SVP General Manager at United, said that the biggest advantage of the web is that it allows them to test new formats and even new artists in a way that print never did. “We get metrics that show page views for the individual strips,” she said. “We now have data that proves popularity. Newspapers can pick things that have been previously vetted with an audience.” At the time of registration, United collects basic demographic info like sex, age, and location. “We know who is reading the top 15 comics out of the 90 we have posted online,” Wilson said. Out of those 90, about 10-15% are web-only comics with an option for possible print syndication. “The web allows us to be open to new ideas,” she said. “I think it will actually grow the world of cartooning.”

Pizey doesn’t see a conflict between content being available for free in some places and not in others, or even both online and in print. “In local newspapers, content is really specific to the area,” he said. “The web breaks down physical barriers, but people still tend to visit fairly small sets of websites.” To that end, uclick has focused on creating a strong presence on large sites people are likely to use as their home pages, such as Yahoo!, AOL, and MSNBC.

Jon Rosenberg, a web-comic artist at goats.com – a site that reaches approximately 300,000 people a month – strongly disagrees. “Syndicates are dead,” he said. “Print is basically merchandising web comics. You don’t need syndicates or middle men anymore.” Rosenberg said that the web eradicates the need for syndication because you can target niche audiences, leverage word of mouth, and gain indie street cred just by posting free content. Beyond the web, Rosenberg self publishes as a way to turn a profit since he already has the built-in audience. “I can do a small print run of 2,000 at $3 a book, turn around, sell them for $12 and keep a majority of the money,” he said. “The major syndicates just don’t understand the model. Free content plus merchandising. If they want to monetize content, how can they compete?”

Whether or not syndicates understand the importance of free content, merchandising through character licensing continues to be a major source of revenue. Online, licensing for affiliated ancillary products is one way syndicates are picking up the slack. Syndicated cartoonists from Universal, United Media, King Features, and others have teamed up with CaféPress.com to present users with a variety of caps, mugs, and sweatshirts emblazoned with characters and strips.

In another licensing deal, last month it was announced that Universal Press Syndicate’s Cathy Guisewite (creator of Cathy) and United Media’s Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert – which appears in 2,000 newspapers in 65 countries and is translated into 19 languages) are producing seven and eight monthly comics respectively for the United States Postal Service (USPS). The cartoons will be featured in a monthly postcard campaign reaching out to 120 million residential and 10 million large and small business customers. Cathy features information geared toward customers – mentioning things like the availability of stamps in ATMs and stores – while Dilbert is more business focused. Natch.

Pearson and Foreign Affairs Ink Custom Deal

Pearson Custom Publishing and Foreign Affairs have teamed up to create a searchable on-line database of select Foreign Affairs’ articles that professors can navigate and cherry pick to create their own personalized textbooks for International Relations courses. Pearson has been building custom textbooks for about four years (part of a growing trend – McGraw Hill’s Primus is similar), but none centered around a relationship with an outside magazine/journal. According to Pearson Marketing Manager Kathy Kourian, sales have been increasing every year by 30-40% – “There’s been a great response,” she said.

The books – with the umbrella title Among Nations – come with standardized covers but can be personalized and purchased for print runs as small as 25 copies. An editorial board (comprised of three professors and Gideon Rose, managing editor at Foreign Affairs) compiled the core material, including optional pedagogy, and assembled four general templates for what they believe to be good starters for subjects like “The Middle East” and “Foreign Policy.” Professors can trim, add, and rearrange content at will, or create their own books entirely from scratch. Although the majority of the content must come from the core articles, up to 20% can come from outside sources (Pearson will work through all of the permissions if necessary).

The books take 6-8 weeks to be delivered, but professors receive an advance proof which they can tweak until satisfied. Once the books are created online, an individual ISBN is assigned so that college bookstores can order it just like any other title.

Both Pearson and Foreign Affairs are running cross-promotions. Foreign Affairs is specifically trying to increase their college student subscriber base (overall circulation is 140,000), and make them familiar with the Foreign Affairs brand, while Pearson is interested in the material, and bundling the book with other Pearson textbooks at a discounted price. For more information go to www.amongnations.com.


New York is More Avengers

THE SOUSSOL JAVITS WAS PACKED FROM FEB. 24-26 FOR THE 1ST Annual New York Comic Con with loads of comics, books,
toys, video games, posters, artists, retailers and fans. Fans
canvassing the aisles for rare comics and autographs. Fans wearing
corsets and pleather pants and Jedi gear. Fans that give new
etymological emphasis to their root – fanatics.

The “comics” ranged from standard classic (Archie; the
extended Justice League crew) to Manga (including the up-andcoming
“theologically sound” Christian manga – there was even a
panel on spiritual values in comic books), to Graphic Novels to art
books. Merchandise spilled forth. Many booths offered free
books, posters and pins, and even more had dollar entry raffles
with original signed art as the prize. Beyond the dollar a pop,
exhibitors collected the far more valuable contact information
(name, e-mail, telephone number) of the hundreds who signed up.

This networking finesse tied in directly to the extensive multichannel
marketing and merchandising taken on by nearly all of the
artists and publishers in attendance. Frank Beddor author of
THE LOOKING GLASS WARS (Penguin Fall 2006) was one artist
whose mini-empire embodied the advantages of a thorough
attack. The whole concept originated as a novel, but in a twist
Beddor introduced a spin-off character from the novel in comic
book form before the novel itself was released. In the US, the first
comic HATTER M, came out in December 2005, and the second is
due in March. In all, four will be released, all before the novel.
“Every reviewer who writes about the comic book mentions the
novel as not being available, which makes everyone only want to
talk about the novel,” Beddor said. In addition, Beddor created an
elaborate website, original music (a CD will be released at the San
Diego Comic Con), and video book/comic trailers running viral
on the web (25,000+ people downloaded the videos over the
weekend). “It’s really about offering content,” Beddor said.
Publishers, Rags, & Wookies vs. Captain America

The NY Daily News was in attendance (offering a $.99/week
subscription along with a free cartoon covered umbrella in hopes
of upping circ) and Publishers Weekly was giving away their “PW
Comics Weekly” – a full color 8-page newsletter that seemed like a
fair special, but is actually a permanent, free e-newsletter available
to PW subscribers.

From the exhibitors, the overwhelming consensus was that the
event was much more highly attended than anticipated. Although
the scene is still nowhere near as large as the San Diego con (which
one exhibitor said snakes on for a solid mile plus) there was
already chatter in the aisles about next year’s expansion. As for
larger trade publishers, DK attended due to their heavy licensing
activity, showing off classics like Pink Panther and Spider Man
branded books. Pocket Books (S&S) emphasized their CBS
affiliation with CSI and MTV branded books, while Abrams
drew attention to their graphic novels and art books – especially
MOM’S CANCER (Brian Fies) which Abrams picked up when it was
still in web comic form. In another web comic pick-up, Holt is
publishing Laura Weinstein‘s graphic novel GIRL STORIES this
spring. Originally published on gurl.com, a sequel is already in the
works. Weinstein, who is used to the “DIY aspect of promoting a
book,” now has the industry heft behind her, focusing on all of
the larger retail channels, while she continues to fill in the gaps
with smaller comic book stores and independents. She said that
Comic Con was great for exposure with the fans as well as a
chance to meet various industry contacts – specifically foreign
publishers who were roaming the aisles looking to acquire.

Conversely, some foreign publishers at the fair expressed
difficulty at getting their books picked up by American houses. A
representative at Actes Sud BD (the stunning graphic novel
division of the French publisher known primarily for its literature
and art books) said that although traffic had been steady and the
books garnered a good response, they have yet to sell many of the
rights in the US. For more information, contact Michel Parfenov
(m.parfenov@ actes-sud.fr).

HarperCollins
and Abrams used the New York event as
hometown leverage to get into the game and show off their
growing graphic novel titles (HarperCollins had the largest
traditional publisher booth spread), while many of the others like
PaperCutz (publisher of the graphic novel Nancy Drew and
Hardy Boys books), SLG, Dark Horse and Tokyo Pop added
New York onto the San Diego affair they already attend on a
regular basis.

The biggest difference between the two? “California is much
more Star Wars,” the DK booth attendant said, “New York is
more Avengers.”

International Bestsellers: A Jacques of All Trades

Jealousy, Hope, Love, Frustration, Pinochet & the PLO

Craftsman, plumber, brick-layer, ironware merchant, script writer, filmmaker, and now novelist, Nan Aurousseau has hewed his vast trove of on-the-job tales into a thrilling novel called Overalls. Like so many beleaguered artists, the adroit Frenchman wrote the autobiographical bestseller (not a memoir, mind you) while down and out in his native Montmartre after spending seven years in prison for a botched burglary. An editor, Jean-Marc Roberts, happened upon the manuscript in the slush pile at Stock and declared it a masterpiece after reading only a few pages. With language as “brutal and coarse as the work it describes,” the novel begins with Dan, a plumber and former delinquent photographing his boss, Dolto, as he steals the company’s safe and all its employees’ earnings. The theft sets the tone for what critics have called a cross between a detective story and a social comedy that “turns plumber slang into poetry.” Dan and the rest of the workers occupy a horrible and comic underworld where they’re worked to the bone, injured, and burned by the boiler. Since its publication in November, the title has stayed on the French bestsellers lists, sold over 35,000 copies, and won the Grand Prix RTL-Lire 2006 for the best novel of the year. All rights available. Contact Barbara Porpaczy ([email protected]).

Like the author of Overalls, Carla Guelfenbein tried on many hats before settling on that of the writer. First a biologist and then a designer in London, the Chilean Guelfenbein worked as artistic director and fashion editor of Elle magazine before becoming a full time novelist and screenwriter. Apparently, she ended up in the right profession as her second novel, The Woman of My Life (Alfaguara Chile), won El Mercurio’s reader’s choice award for “Book of the Year 2005” by such a wide margin that no second or third place prizes were given. Narrated in a man’s voice, the novel takes place in London during the 80s. A British sociology student named Theo falls in love with Clara, a Chilean ballerina who flees to England after her father disappears during the early days of the Pinochet regime. When Clara falls in love with Antonio, a young Chilean exile and Theo’s only friend, Theo must decide whether or not to encourage Antonio to fight for Chile’s freedom when fighting would almost certainly mean losing his rival for Clara’s affection, but also his best and only friend. In an uncertain world ruled by unjust politics, the three navigate their own private issues of jealousy, hope, love, and frustration. Guelfenbein, known for her meticulous research and insightful investigation into ideologies, had another hit in 2002 with her debut novel The Misfortune of the Soul (Alfaguara) which spent over 30 weeks in the top spot on the Chilean bestseller list. Rights to The Woman of My Life have been sold to Germany (Suhrkamp), Italy (Einaudi), Holland (De Bezige Bij), Denmark (Hr. Ferdinand), Norway (Hr. Ferdinand), Iceland (Bjartur), and Israel (Keter). Contact Piergiorgio Nicolazzini ([email protected]) at the eponymous literary agency.

Another carefully researched novel in which the personal becomes inextricably entangled with the political is Games (Random House Germany) by Ulrike Draesner, an expansive family drama centered on Katja Berewski, a German photojournalist, and her experience of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich during which nine Israeli athletes and five members of a PLO group were killed. Thirty years after the events, Katja comes to terms with Max, her estranged first love, the suicide of her mother when she was five, and her Polish grandfather’s affair, all of which coincide in some way. With a grand cast of characters and innumerable intertwining subplots, Games brackets private dramas with historical events and poses questions about the aftermath of the terrorist attack not unlike those Steven Spielberg explores in his recent Oscar-nominated blockbuster, Munich. The “enthralling social novel” has been sold to Spain (RD Editora). Contact Gesche Wendebourg at ([email protected]).

Moving on to Scandinavia, we meet Tom Egeland, who when interviewed by the press is almost always asked first “Do you think Dan Brown plagiarized you?” Graciously, the Norwegian author of six novels replies with “no,” although the comparison is inevitable. Aschehoug first published The Circle’s End in 2001, two full years before Dan Brown finished his opus, and like The Da Vinci Code, Egeland’s novel tells the tale of a 2000 year-old secret, but in this version, the focus is on a gold reliquary containing a manuscript at a medieval Norwegian monastery. Translations of The Circle’s End are making the rounds of foreign bestseller lists across Europe. Interest in the title spiked last summer with the publication of Egeland’s newest thriller, Night of the Wolf. As tension between Norwegian politicians and Chechen asylum-seekers escalates, a famous TV journalist, Kristin Bye, decides to host an unprecedented discussion of the issue on live television. Everyone watches as Kristin introduces the Norwegian authorities and the Chechen rebels, and everyone continues to watch as the Chechens tear open their jackets to reveal weapons and bombs strapped to their chests. They demand that every moment of what becomes a bloody eight-hour hostage situation be broadcast on live TV for all of Norway to see. The “unputdownable” suspense novel has garnered unanimous praise from critics, including one enthusiastic writer who notes the book “positively smells of testosterone and cold sweat. Nothing is sure until the fourth-to-last page of the tremendous ending.” Watch for Tom Egeland at the London Book Fair where he’s going to be Aschehoug’s top name. The following rights to Night of the Wolf have been sold: Danish (Bazar), Dutch (De Geus), Finnish (Bazar), German (Random House), Icelandic (JPV), Italian (Bompiani), Russian (Amphora), Swedish (Bazar). Film options sold to Nordisk Film. Rights to Egeland’s previous bestseller, Circle’s End, have been sold to the same territories as Night of the Wolf plus Czech (Euromedia), French (City Éditions), Greek (Livani), Korean ( Bookhouse Publishing Corp.), Spanish (Ediciones B). Film options sold to Håkon Gundersen. For information, contact Eva Kuløy at Aschehoug Agency ([email protected]).

What happens to the books profiled in Publishing Trends? We checked in with editors Anastasia Ashman and Jennier Gokmen for the latest news on Tales from the Expat Harem: Foreign Women in Modern Turkey, the gem of an anthology uncovered by our foreign correspondent while knocking about the bazaars of Istanbul last summer. Since PT broke the story in June, the impressive collection of tales penned by thirty foreign women about their experiences in Turkey has been praised by everyone from politicians to professors. Even Turkey’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, personally called the editors to thank them for a book with such potential to improve the country’s image abroad. At the Turkish bookstore chain, Remzi, the title has been on the English-language bestseller list for over 20 consecutive weeks, reaching number one in early February. The North American edition (Seal Press) will be launched this month at the New York Consulate General of Republic of Turkey, has already been placed on the syllabus for a course on modern Turkey at the University of Michigan. A U.S. tour of bookstores, Turkish American cultural organizations,and academic conferences is planned for the editors and contributors this spring.

Size Matters: Superagencies & Literary Management Companies Fill In Where Others Leave Off

Rarely a week goes by without a PW or Publishers Lunch announcement of a newly formed, merged or expanded literary agency. Larry Kirshbaum‘s well-publicized move from TWBG to form LJK Literary Management last fall drew attention to publishers-turned-agents, and both Gawker and MediaBistro consistently blog about who’s merging with whom to spawn the newest so-called superagencies. With this growth, more and more agents are enhancing their array of services and advice, even outlining (and occasionally undertaking) publicity, marketing, and branding campaigns. (In further expansion, several agencies noted that they’re interested in acquiring other agencies and their backlists.)

“As the business of publishing has changed, the role of an agent has changed with it,” David Black said. “But it has always been the agents’ business to manage their clients’ careers.”

The only difference is that recently agents – and their authors – have pushed the definition of what career management entails.

Marketeers Cum Agents, Agents Cum Marketeers

Ex HC‘s Cathy Hemming & Stephen Hanselman of Level Five Media have been in business less than 6 months, and already have 36 clients signed up – an impressive number that includes Michael [E-Myth] Gerber, Louisa Ermelino and Charles Kimball. When the agency started, the duo announced that they were planning to create a company that would close the gap between agent and publisher by offering “holistic author services.” The reaction from agents, says an amused Hanselman, was that Level 5 would show publishers how to publish more effectively, while some publishers said their approach would show agents how to understand the agenting process better.

Most clients signed up by Hemming and Hanselman are nonfiction authors who have a platform of some kind, as well as extensive networks to draw on for e-marketing, seminars, even affinity deals.

“There’s a new kind of author-client that is personality driven, a brand,” Kathleen Spinelli of Brands to Books said. “The idea of ‘management’ is not only looking at their track record in books, but also looking and managing their entire brand.” Spinelli, who founded Brands to Books with Robert Allen in early 2004, was previously VP Marketing at Ballantine, while Allen was Publisher of RH Audio.

Like Level 5, Spinelli spoke extensively about the necessity of platform building. “For me, it’s more important to go to a licensing show than a writer’s conference,” she said. “I need my clients to be thinking about what they can do to sell their book from the second they walk through the door. When I shop books, I put an entire marketing plan into the proposal. Publishers love it.” Some of Spinelli’s recent deals include designer Temple St. Clair‘s A Passion for Jewelry to ReganBooks, and the magazine branded TV Guide: TV on DVD to St. Martin’s Press.

Hemming and Hanselman work directly on the development of most authors’ proposals and marketing plans as well, and Hanselman’s wife, Julia Serebrinsky (formerly at Ecco), is also working for the agency. Before a book is submitted, the author is interviewed extensively about his or her work and third party providers of e-marketing, website development and other services are lined up, with as many as seven drafts being written. By the time a proposal is ready to be submitted, a full marketing plan – much of which will be undertaken by the author – is in place. Although all the major houses are seeing most submissions, the agents are also interested in publishers with unusual marketing programs, like Hay House, Adams Media and New Harbinger.

At Trident Media Group, agents involve themselves with everything from marketing to cover design and branding. Chairman Robert Gottlieb gave Janet Evanovich‘s latest book Eleven on Top as an example of author branding that was undertaken by publisher St. Martin’s, but guided and advised by Trident. “Twenty-five years ago, very few agents spoke about jacket design or marketing,” Gottlieb said. Today, he added, the majority of agents are involved in the entire, extended publishing process, and if they aren’t, they should be. Trident will move an author from one publisher if they see a greater commitment to selling, branding and promoting a book at another. Gottlieb gave the example of Elizabeth George who they moved from Bantam to HarperCollins, with a subsequent 60,000 copy increase for her latest book With No One As Witness. “There isn’t a marketing and/or sales program that we haven’t seen,” Gottlieb said. “We’re helping to shape a publisher’s marketing program, but the publishers have to be on board – at the end of the day the publisher plays a crucial role.”

Amy Berkower, President and CEO of Writer’s House, made the point that one of the reasons Writer’s House hasn’t moved into branding and franchise publishing as much as some of the newer agencies, is that they just haven’t dealt with the kinds of “very specific commercial non-fiction” that warrants such a plan of attack (high-profile business, cookbooks, self-help, etc.). Berkower, who referred to herself jokingly as a “backseat publisher” said that for an agent to come to a publisher with a marketing proposal is interesting, but in the end the publisher is the publisher and the one making the decisions.

Kirshbaum agrees. The major trend he sees as a newcomer to the agenting side of the biz is that good agents are taking a much more active role in the whole publishing process. “The publisher and agent should work together in managing the author as a team so that there is better execution and better results for all concerned,” he said.

According to Jeremy Katz, who left Rodale last year to become an agent at Greenburger, agenting allows someone interested in the editorial and business sides of publishing to get a full expression of his skills. “I didn’t leave publishing out of frustration, but rather out of the realization that the only way to make the author break out was to join with him or her in an entrepreneurial partnership, rather than relying on the publisher to grant success as a beneficence,” he said.

On the publishing side, Tim Duggan, Executive Editor HarperCollins, hasn’t seen any difference in the way agencies are doing business during the acquisition or marketing/publishing process, but he says, “if [growth] means that agents are going to have more time and more resources to focus on the marketing and publishing of their books, and to work with us on that, then I would welcome it. Once the deal is done and the book is being readied for publication, I think the agent’s goals are pretty closely attached to the editor’s, so there’s no reason why we can’t work together even more closely.”

In order to protect their interests says Andre Bernard, Publisher of Harcourt trade, agents are more and more involved with their authors’ publishing process. As publishers grow through conglomeratization, books get lost in the shuffle and, says Bernard, agents’ efforts are increasingly welcomed.

Verlyn Klinkenborg, a writer on the editorial board at the NY Times and most recently the author of Timothy: Notes of an Abject Reptile (Knopf) said, “When my first book came out in 1986, and the second in 1991, there was no gap between the publicity that a publisher would undertake and the publicity that an author needed to do. When Making Hay was excerpted in the Smithsonian and the New Yorker I thought, great, there’s nothing more to do.” In talking to other writers and artists, Klinkenborg says all now realize that marketing and promotion are a large part of their job in a way that didn’t use to be true – mainly because there are so many new media and marketing channels. “Today, publishers have stuck with old models to a huge extent,” Klinkenborg said. “But there’s this sense of a completely inchoate media universe that is waiting to be explored.”

Folio Literary Management, one of the newest “superagencies” opening shop on February 1 (see below), notes that the marketing conundrum is one that every author faces, but there aren’t many agents or authors who are entirely happy with what their publishers have done for them on the marketing and publicity side. “This isn’t a criticism of publishers,” Scott Hoffman, principal and spokesman for the agency, said, “it’s instead a reflection of two things: First, resources are limited. Houses are publishing more and more books with the same number of people, and so the proportional amount of time spent on each author is going to necessarily become less. Second, and more importantly, the current model where publishing houses are responsible for the lion’s share of marketing and publicity isn’t entirely rational. Increasingly, we see the task of marketing fall more and more on the authors’ shoulders – which is reasonable, since the author is the brand. And the building of a brand pays dividends for a long time – longer than any author or publisher would feel comfortable being in a contractual relationship.”

“With the explosion of new media and digital life, I think what we’re seeing is an opportunity to really, really do exciting things with authors,” Inkwell’s Richard Pine said. “It’s the obligation of agents to be out there and learning what’s going on.”

Nancy Cushing-Jones, the head of Universal‘s publishing division for 23 years prior to forming Broadthink with two partners in 2002, said that she likes to look at the whole world that an intellectual property will support – books becoming movies, TV shows, products – an overarching brand. “Newer agencies especially are more focused on this way of looking at things,” she said. “It’s a different kind of expertise that requires a very specialized background.” Broadthink’s clients range from John Lithgow to the City of Los Angeles.

Merging, Converging and Growth in General

When Richard Pine Associates, Carlisle & Co., and Witherspoon Associates merged to form Inkwell Management in the fall of 2004, the industry shared a collective epiphanic moment, not unlike when Sterling Lord merged with Literistic. “It was really pretty unusual when I look back on it,” Pine said, reflecting on the fact that there wasn’t any model they were following, “Just three well established firms pulling this off to form one great one.”

Pine said that the impetus behind joining forces with Kim Witherspoon and Michael Carlisle was to build a more substantive entity. “Great agencies help a client truly understand their unique talents, goals – which ideas are their best, most marketable ideas, which afford the greatest opportunity to long term success,” he said. “With such a big vision, you just can’t do the same thing for your clients sitting in an office with two assistants.”

All combined, Inkwell’s pool of talent includes authors like James Patterson, Arianna Huffington, South Beach Diet‘s Arthur Agatston, Sophie Kinsella, Arundhati Roy and books like Lynne Truss’s Eats Shoots and Leaves.

Standard services now include outlining publicity, promotional and advertising campaigns, licensing intellectual property, and building brand names. Since its inception, Inkwell has brought in a few new hires, but the “core” for the most part, consists of agents brought over from the old agencies. But, in an innovative move, Inkwell hired Beth Davey, Little Brown‘s former VP Director of Corporate Communications, as a publicity strategist to work with publishers. An additional coup for the agency, Larry Ashmead, retired editor par excellence at HarperCollins, recently began working at Inkwell as an associate agent. Ashmead works out of the Inkwell offices part-time and is closing in on his first acquisition. “For every 15 minutes I spend with Larry,” Pine said, “I learn 15 things about publishing.”

At Trident, the development into superagent-dom has happened gradually over the past five years. Founded by William Morris veterans Robert Gottlieb, Dan Strone and Sheldon Schultz the company has expanded since its inception in 2000 both by absorbing agencies (in 2002, the Ellen Levine Literary Agency merged with Trident in what they called a “partnership deal”) and adding individual literary agents (Paul Fedorko joined in June 2003, and Eileen Cope came over from Lowenstein-Yost in June 2005). Business is booming – in the past year Trident scored with successes such as Jon Stewart‘s America: The Book and Marilynne Robinson‘s Gilead – and the agency reps everyone from Michael Ondaatje to celebrity brand Paris Hilton.

“We’re in active expansion mode,” Strone said of the staff that has ballooned to 34 from 7, noting that there are still a number of empty offices waiting to be filled. Consistently contacted by editors wanting to make the switch as well as agents who are looking to expand by joining forces, Strone said that they’re open to hiring individuals from both the agenting and publishing sides of the business, as well as possibly absorbing a smaller agency and will definitely make some hires within the year.

At Writer’s House which has been expanding organically for quite some time – most recently promoting Daniel Lazar to senior agent – Berkower mentioned that although she couldn’t go into details yet, they’re in the process of bringing in agents from the outside. “Our strategy now is to improve our core services,” she said. “We’ve added a person to our foreign rights department, hired a lawyer to supervise our contracts process, and hired a CFO to review royalty statements.” In addition to audio, the agency is in the process of beefing up their film and TV department as well.

Start-up Folio came together through the merger of Jeff Kleinman, Scott Hoffman and Paige Wheeler, the trio describe Folio’s genesis as “one of those fortunate coincidences that people talk about, but rarely experience.” Kleinman and Hoffman were each looking to leave the agencies at which they had started their careers – (Graybill & English, and PMA Literary and Film Management respectively) – and Wheeler, who was running the Creative Media Agency, was looking to expand her business and diversify into different subject areas.

“We all had a common vision of what an agency should look like,” Hoffman said. Hoffman and Kleinman both noted that they’ve set up Folio in part as a reaction to their experiences while looking elsewhere. “There was no agency that made a compelling case why we should go there, rather than to another reputable shop,” Hoffman said. “Folio tends to be much more collaborative than a lot of other agencies…we really stress the team concept, down to sharing a significant portion of the agency’s profits with all of our people. In short, when people have developed their lists and are getting restless at their first or second agency, we want to be the first place they think of moving to.
“We think that a lot of other agencies under-incentivize their employees, which is short-sighted. Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course. But the ‘standard’ deal most agencies offer doesn’t make much sense once an agent has a practice that could, conceivably, stand on its own.”

Virtually all of Kleinman, Hoffman, and Wheeler’s old clients will be joining them at Folio, including recent bestselling authors Ron McLarty (The Memory of Running) and Robert Hicks (The Widow of the South).
In the end, merging isn’t for everyone, but as Ellen Levine said of her move to Trident, “The economy of two agencies coming together just makes sense.”
Hoffman agreed, “As a solo practitioner, the only person you really have to compromise with is your accountant. But with the right combination of people, a larger agency can be more than just a shared back office and shared overhead – it can make you look at the world much differently than you have before and open up more opportunities.”

International Bestsellers: Goodbye Bridget, Hello Katja

When Bridget Jones stumbled into the global spotlight in 1998, readers immediately identified with the bumbling thirty-something who recorded a year of her life in sentence fragments, cigarettes, and calories, making Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary not only a mega international success, but also a genre-spawning sensation. While European readers have been devouring Cecelia Ahern and Marian Keyes for quite some time, they’ve also been nurturing a hunger for home-grown versions that deal with the same universal issues of family, love, weight, and career. Zysk, the Polish publisher of Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Swiat Ksiazki, Bertelsmann’s Book Club in Poland, even sponsored a contest in 2001 to find the Polish Bridget. Out of 200 entries, Barbara Kosmowska won and her book, Private Field, published by Zysk in 2004 sold 50,000 copies (Serbian rights sold to Plato and all other rights available, contact Ewa Chrobocínska at [email protected]), but it’s only lately that the real European Bridgets have emerged.

Polish readers, apparently, have an unrivalled penchant for the genre and Prószynski has been capitalizing on this since the mid-nineties when they launched their “fruity series” of women’s fiction, so called for the fruit names of its titles and characters (i.e. Acrid Taste Of Cherries, Green Apple, etc.). Although hugely successful with print runs reaching about 40,000-60,000 for each title, the books have nothing on the runaway success of Loneliness in the Net, a You’ve Got Mail-esque novel by Janusz Wisniewski. After losing blind Natalia, the love of his life, a scientist forms a relationship on the internet with a beautiful, but married woman. Gradually, their love moves into the real world where grappling with a cyber-turned-real relationship ends in tragedy. Since its publication in 2001, the book has sold 140,000 copies, a TV series and feature film are in the works, a follow-up book with epilogue and readers’ letters (Loneliness in the Net: Tryptich) was published in 2003, an audiobook was launched on Valentine’s Day 2005, and foreign rights have been sold from Vietnam to Lithuania (but English rights are still available).

Even though the lighter fare has sold well until now, Prószynski recently launched a similar series, “Cinnamon,” with a more sophisticated and intellectual market focus. Its first title, Never to Paris by Malgorzata Warda involves five women, childhood friends from the northern Polish town of Gdansk who have grown up and spread out. Two remain in their hometown, two live in Warsaw, and the last has fled to Paris. When ex-pat Nina returns to Warsaw, the women gather around the classy, controversial nouvelle parisienne and together muddle through the perennial issues of weight, sex, and unemployment. For rights information on all Polish titles: Malgorzata Borkowska (malgorzataborkowska@ proszynski.pl).

Heading north to Finland, it’s two in the morning and while Harri, the oblivious husband, sleeps like a baby in the next room, Minna Maki paces the kitchen floor, brewing coffee and making a “to-do” list for the new year: : “1. Masters thesis and career (To Do!), 2. House (To Do!) 3. Baby (To Do!).” A gig translating romance novels just doesn’t cut it anymore for this 30-year-old mom-to-be as she sees twenty-something’s with “fetching CV’s” whoosh past her grabbing the few available jobs in Helsinki. Whereas she actually lived through the economic depression and joblessness of Finland in the 1990’s, those days are just vague rumors for her younger competition. With a half-finished Masters in Social Psychology, Minna vows to take the “short-steady-steps of a pregnant woman” toward a successful year as everyone else struts by in stilettos. With a couple thousand copies in the first printing, Pauliina Susi’s Rush Year struck a chord with Finnish readers, selling almost three times as many books as is typical for a debut novel. Currently working on her second title, Susi has been credited with bringing the “diary” type of women’s fiction to the Finnish book market and has been interviewed “practically everywhere.” All rights are available from Tehri Isomäki ([email protected]) at Tammi (Finland).

When Luisa Lozhkina, an ordinary middle-class Russian single mother living in Moscow, bustles through another ordinary busy day, the entire city waits to hear the details of each minor misadventure. Luisa makes a living renting luxury apartments under-the-counter, and the ritzy rentals provide a backdrop for her most unglamorous life – scrambling to appointments at the orthodontist’s and psychotherapist’s and racing to arrive on time to pick up Timofei from school, all the while with her cell phone snug against her ear dealing with the myriad crises of her friends. All of Moscow was privy to the neurotic confessions of Luisa when excerpts of her diary appeared weekly in the popular Moscow magazine Bolshoi Gorod during 2002 and 2003. So comically plausible were the notes-to-self that many Muscovites believed them to be nonfiction when in fact, they were penned by popular Moscow journalist Katya Melelitsa. A novelization of the columns, The Diary of Luisa Lozhkina, became a smash hit with upwards of 25,000 copies sold since its publication by Eterna in May 2005. Contact Thomas Wiedling ([email protected]) at Nibbe & Wiedling Literary Agency (Germany).

Just cross the Baltic Sea and you’ll find Isabella Eklöf, bungling yet another hard-to-come-by audition and toppling even further behind in her aspiration to become a wildly famous film star. Presumably a professional actress, Isabella couldn’t exactly be called “professional” in any other capacity. The “irresistible and charming loser” knows she must get her affairs in order to live the life she’s destined to live (and to get the dashing boyfriend she knows she deserves). Finally her big break shows up and Isabella grabs it. But, as is often the case with the well-meaning yet utterly clumsy heroine, things go horribly wrong. At number six on the bestseller list, the cheekily titled Wonderful and Loved By All (And Things are Great at Work) has sold 40,000 copies in three months. This is the debut novel for actress Martina Haag whose first book, At Home with Martina (a compilation of columns she penned for mama magazine and the daily Aftonbladet in 2003) has sold 140,000 copies to date. Fladen in Sweden recently bought film rights and Martina Haag herself is slated to play Isabella. Movie rights have been sold to major film companies in Norway and Finland as well. Rights have been claimed by Piratförlaget (Norway), Schildts (Finland), and People’s Press (Denmark). Piper nabbed German rights at an auction that lasted an unprecedented three days. Contact Bengt Nordin (bengt.nordin@ nordinagency.com) (Sweden).