Bookview, August 2006

PEOPLE

So much for summer doldrums:
André Bernard VP Publisher of Harcourt is leaving to become a vice president at the Guggenheim Foundation, starting after Labor Day. He replaces Thomas Tanselle, who is retiring after 28 years. Harcourt’s current Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher, Rebecca Saletan, will take over as Publisher.

Jill Cohen, former Bulfinch Publisher, has been named SVP New Business Development at Bobbi Brown.

Owen Laster is retiring from William Morris in January, after 45 years with the ten percentery.

Former Saks executive George Jones took over as President and CEO of the Borders Group bookstore chain on July 17. Jones succeeds Greg Josefowicz who will remain as a consultant to the company. The role of Chairman will now be held by Larry Pollock, a Borders board member

Candlewick
Press has hired Jonathan Ackerman as VP of sales, starting at the end of August, reporting to COO Mike McGrath. Most recently, he was National Accounts Manager of MBI Publishing.

Editorial Director of Potter Craft, Shawna Mullen, who has been commuting to work from Boston for awhile has left the company. Amy Pierpont, previously Senior Editor at Pocket and Downtown Press, will be joining Potter as a Senior Editor reporting to Doris Cooper. Tammy Blake was named Publicity Director at Broadway. She had been at Crown, where she held the same title.

Marcus Leaver, Sterling’s EVP and COO announced that Jim Benjamin has been named VP of Finance and Operations, succeeding Joe Guadango, who is retiring. Benjamin comes from Baker & Taylor. And Carlo de Vito who had been consulting with Sterling since leaving Penguin’s Chamberlain Brothers, now joins full time launching a new imprint Sterling Innovation.

Nancy Hancock has gone to Rodale as Executive Editor Health and Wellness. She had been at S&S and had previously worked at Rodale. Leslie Schneider, Director of Trade Sales is leaving Rodale to be the volunteer coordinator of the Bronx Zoo, a division of the Wildlife Conservation Society. She may be reached at [email protected]

Colin Robinson has joined Scribner as Senior Editor. Robinson, who stepped down as publisher of The New Press at the beginning of the year, will report to Scribner VP and Editor-in-Chief Nan Graham.

Steve Black, President and Co-Founder of Perseus Books Group’s CDS, is leaving the company. Replacing Black as VP Client Services is Sabrina Bracco, rejoining CDS from Bear Stearns. Previously, Bracco had been Director of Sales Operations at Perseus, Business Manager at PublicAffairs as well as a Perseus Sales Rep.

Kensington Books Editorial Director Karen Thomas is moving to the Hachette Book Group effective September 1. No announcement has been made about who will replace her.

Kurt Schoen, former President of American GreetingsPlus Mark division, will become President and COO of NACSCORP, the subsidiary of the National Association of College Stores that acts as a wholesaler to college and other stores and provides retail services, College Marketplace reported. He replaces Len Jardine who is retiring after four years in the job.

Sally Hertz
is joining Ingram Publisher Services. She has been consulting recently. She will “spearhead new client acquisition for IPS reporting to Phil Ollila and working in Nashville.

John Oakes Publisher of Four Walls Eight Windows from 1995 through acquisition by Avalon in spring 2004, is leaving the company. For the past two years, he was Publisher of Thunder’s Mouth Press and co-publisher of Nation Books. He may be reached at [email protected]

Ann Godoff has hired Vanessa Mobley as Senior Editor of The Penguin Press. Mobley was most recently at Holt and previously at Basic. She has published two Pulitzer winners: Samantha Power‘s A Problem from Hell (2003) and Caroline Elkins‘s Imperial Reckoning (2006). Jofie Ferrari-Adler, who left Viking earlier this spring, has gone to Grove/Atlantic as an Editor. Brendan Cahill has left Gotham, and will attend the Wharton Business School. He can be reached at: [email protected]

Mark Levine, formerly Sales Director at Holt and St. Martin‘s and most recently Marketing Director at Beaufort Books, has founded Mark Levine Book Editorial and Marketing Services. He may be reached at 201-653-5453 or [email protected]

Kim Hovey announced the appointment of Ali Kokman as Manga Marketing Manager for the Del Rey imprint, a new position. Kokmen worked at CPM Press, the graphic novel publishing division of Central Park Media, as Director of Book Sales. In 2007 Del Rey will be publishing 150 manga titles, according to the announcement.

Julia Woods has resigned her position as President of the McGraw-Hill Canada’s Professional division, and is going to Russell Reynolds.

Ben Schrank has been named president and publisher of Penguin’s Razorbill imprint reporting to Doug Whiteman. He was Editorial Director at Alloy.

Debra Matsumoto joins Ten Speed as Senior Marketing and Promotions manager. She was Publicity Manager at North Atlantic Books.

PROMOTIONS

Julie Saidenberg has been named VP of Trade Sales and Marketing at Shambhala Publications. She had been Marketing Director and an Associate Publisher there.

At HarperCollins, Brian Grogan has announced the promotion of Jeff Rogart to VP, Director of Mass Retail Sales. Ronnie Gambon has been given the position of Director of Digital Asset Operations. Reporting to her will be Heather Aschinger, promoted to Senior Web Content Producer; Sarah Thai, promoted to Web Content Producer; and Les Glass, continuing his role as Digital Asset Manager. Mary Schuck has been promoted to VP, Creative Director overseeing Harper, Harper Perennial, Harper paperbacks, Ecco, Amistad, HarperAudio and Avon Trade Paperbacks. Will Staehle has been promoted to Art Director of Harper.

AUGUST EVENTS

The Audies are (almost) here: The first entry due date is August 11 for all titles published between November 1, 2005 and July 31, 2006. Information about Audiobook of the Year will be released separately in September. The Gala takes place on June 1, 2007 at the Rainbow Room.

The PMA is soliciting entries for the 2007 Benjamin Franklin Awards. Books published January 1- June 30 should be submitted by August 31; those published in the second half of the year should be submitted by December 31. The fee is $80 per title for members and $180 (which includes membership in PMA) for the first title for non members.

DULY NOTED

The New York Post delivers the ultimate story that combines food, God and The Word, in “Heavenly Bodies,” a look at recent religious diet books published by a range of presses, from The Hallelujah Diet (Destiny Image) to Clear Body, Clear Mind (Bridge Publications) and The Prayer Diet (Citadel). Best comment, from Jeff Sharlet (www. therevealer.org) at NYU‘s Center for Religion and Media: “The irony is the New Testament make it clear you can eat absolutely anything.”

DM News reports that Borders recently achieved 56% “open rates” in June for its customized Borders Rewards e-mail program. Borders Rewards is a loyalty program that drives in-store sales and provides the company with online customer data for the first time. DM notes that, because of its partnership with Amazon.com, Borders lacks access to any customer data for people buying books via borders.com, so Borders Rewards focuses on driving in-store sales and collecting customer data. The program asks customers for an e-mail address when they buy products in stores. Borders Rewards members can sign up for My Borders Weekly, a customized e-mail that lets customers select from 31 options. The e-mails’ open and click-through rates and store sales are tracked by coupon numbers.

The 2006 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress and hosted by Laura Bush, will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between 7th and 14th streets (rain or shine). The festival is free and open to the public. www.loc.gov/bookfest

A scholarship fund has been set up for Dan Lundy‘s children. Lundy who died last month was VP and Director of Academic Marketing at Penguin. Make checks payable to “Scholars Edge” and send to: Airinhos M. Serradas, C/O Jared and Damon Lundy College Savings Plan, Total Estate Asset Management, Inc., 185 Madison Avenue, 8th. Floor, New York, NY 10016.

Book Me: Publishers Launch In-House Speakers Bureaux

According to HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman, there was a “confluence of events” that caused Harper to launch its Speakers Bureau, the first in what has become (with Penguin‘s recent entrance), a must-have accessory for major publishers. “Ever since the Bantam Speakers Bureau 30 years ago, I’ve thought ‘Wouldn’t it be a wonderful adjunct to our publicity and promotional departments to have a speakers bureau?’” she said. When HC began Authors+ three years ago and was discussing internal growth strategies, the idea resurfaced through an executive team.
Coincidentally, Friedman received a letter from Gary Reznick – a veteran in the business – asking if HC would be interested in launching a bureau. Friedman said, “‘Eureka! This is it.”

Terminology and terms vary, but both publishers and literary agents are increasingly looking at coordinating and facilitating speaking engagements for their authors as a way to increase exposure, revenue, and most basically sell books.

As Sara Nelson commented in a recent PW editorial, any effort by publishers to expand audiences should be commended – but many are wondering how the endeavor will evolve.

“Unless publishers commit to staffing, they’re not going to be able to service their clients…It’s all about how much they’ll invest in it,” says George Greenfield (who was involved in the purchase of the Bantam Bureau after it was sold off in 1975) and current President of CreativeWell.

Publishers, however, are optimistic. “Ultimately for publishers to be successful in the 21st century, the more services they offer, the better off they’ll be,” Paul Bogaards, SVP Publicity at Knopf (which quietly started a speakers bureau separate from Random House earlier this year) said. “The truth is that publishers are third party to a lot of things: we don’t sell books, we don’t represent authors. It’s our job to create a community of readers, which involves finding niche markets that might present themselves through platforms like speaking. We’re just finding audiences.”

To the skeptics who cite a conflict of interest between publicity and paid engagements, as well as staffing concerns, Friedman said, “It’s all a bunch of malarkey. We’re doing this to work in concert with publicity and promotional campaigns, as well as provide authors more care and loving attention between books. Paid, not paid, we’re all working together to coordinate.”

Books and Bookings

Arlynn Greenbaum, who founded Authors Unlimited in 1991, says, “HarperCollins caused a huge hue and cry when they announced their plans last year.” After the announcement, there was a period in which speakers bureaux didn’t know if publishers would (re)claim their authors (they’re not, technically).

EVP PR at Random House, and liaison to partner agency the American Program Bureau, Carol Schneider emphasized the voluntary aspect of the relationship. “If they’re already with another lecture agency, and they’re happy, then that’s fine,” she said. “We’re just trying to give our authors an opportunity.” RH, recognizing that starting an in-house bureau would be “very labor intensive,” partnered with the APB so they wouldn’t have to take on all of the responsibilities of a full-fledged agency. “Our goal with this was not to start a new business,” Schneider said, “but to keep our authors visible.” As the APB has taken on more RH authors, un-repped authors have signed up, some have declined the invitation, and some, like Salman Rushdie, have made a switch.

Steven Barclay, President of the Barclay Agency, said that he has worked closely with nearly all of the major houses over the past 20 years, and that they’re all on a friendly basis. “We work closely with publishers to pepper author tours with venue engagements,” Barclay said. This fall, Barclay is arranging lectures for Zadie Smith, Frank Rich, Anne Lamott, Marjane Satrapi and Andrew McCall Smith all in conjunction with the release of books and in coordination with their various publishers. “It works out well since the authors can both get paid as well as work with local bookshops on their tour,” Barclay said. “And, it allows them to come into a city with larger audiences.”

The trend to book paid events around free publicity events is slowly reversing itself with publishers booking free publicity around paid engagements. CreativeWell recently partnered with Rick Frishman at Planned Television Arts to create the Writers Road Tour, a program that organizes author tours around college campuses, instead of bookstores, so that the publisher doesn’t have to foot the bill. CreativeWell also frequently hosts other events like writing workshops and clinics to increase exposure. “What’s really lacking (even from established agencies) is proactive marketing,” Greenfield said.

Publishers emphasized that their publicity departments are working closely with the in-house bureaux, to coordinate sponsors and book events. Regardless of new paid placement opportunities, Jamie Brickhouse, longtime publicist recently appointed to head Harper’s Speakers Bureau, confirmed that paid bookings will never take precedence over bookstore appearances for an author tour. He said that although in many cases HCSB gets bookstores to sell books at paid events, they would never set up paid events in bookstores. The new “HarperCollins Speakers Bureau Affiliate Program” encourages HC’s retail and wholesale partners to help them find paid speaking engagements for HC authors. “For those speaking engagements that booksellers have helped us set up, we reward them with 5% of the booking fee received, in the form of credit to the bookseller’s account,” Brickhouse said.

Similarly at Knopf, Bogaards said that the emphasis is on setting up book sales at events. “We’re making our retail partners part of the equation. It’s a win for everyone.” For larger events, bookings translate into major books sales. Last year, for example, the freshman class at the University of Alabama at Birmingham was assigned Anne Fadiman‘s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down as required reading. When Fadiman came to speak at the beginning of the year, FSG sold over 4,000 copies.
For the most part, bookings are highly individualized depending on both the speaker and the event with the average commission ranging between 10-35% of the speaker’s fee. (Fees can range anywhere from $1000 for less known authors to $100,000 for someone like Bill Clinton). Agencies tend to co-broker deals often, working outside of their own list of speakers to fulfill client requests.

In addition to publishers and established bureaux, some literary agents also function as lecture agencies for their authors. Susan Bergholz has been booking her own writers, such as Julia Alvarez and Sandra Cisneros, since she founded her agency 25 years ago, as has Anthony Arnove’s Roam Agency (Howard Zinn, Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky). Other agencies, like Folio Literary Management, are actively seeking staff to head internal speakers bureaux.

In the end, authors must decide which entity could best represent them. “I know that going with publishers is the absolute wrong decision for some authors,” Greenfield said. “But the sell to the author is that they can do everything under one roof. Frankly, there is no advantage to work within a house although it’s being pitched that way.”

As Marketing Guru, Author, and frequent lecturer Seth Godin (represented by Greater Talent Network) put it, “Speakers are bought, not sold. If people can find me by typing ‘Seth Godin’ into Google, why would I give [a publisher] a piece of my fee? Publishers must demonstrate that they are able to make the sale, and I think that as an author, I would be very wary of that.”

Plan B for Schedule A: Just How Big is the EU English-Language Market?

In the wake of the now infamous BEA US/UK Turf Wars panel, a flurry of debate about control of English-language rights in the European Union has risen on both sides of the Atlantic: British publishing is crumbling and must be defended. The Brits are inciting a land grab. US editions are free-riding off of UK publicity. Europe is one market and can only be protected by being exclusive. A move toward exclusivity is atavistic and an attack on cultural diversity. Resist this Protectionism! Stop American Cultural Imperialism!

Brian De Fiore, VP of the Literary Division at AAR and panel moderator, said that the AAR organized the panel out of desperation since agents were increasingly reporting an inability to close deals for new authors in the US and the UK. With the UK demanding exclusive EU rights (for all 25 countries), and the US demanding open-market sales (while chipping away at the former British empire) agents were finding themselves caught in the middle and publishers were walking away from the negotiating table.

Until now, Americans have taken only a moderate interest in sales of their books in non-English speaking countries. The UK business model, on the other hand, has been built around its extended commonwealth and is more reliant than ever on export sales to float the tenuous UK home market.

As the outspoken Karl Heinz Petzler, Managing Director and Owner of Lisma Ltd. – a distributor of US and UK English-language titles within Portugal – and the organizer of an Open Letter urging publishers to resist closing the EU market said, “[UK Publishers] say that by closing off the market they would increase sales. They wouldn’t. They would increase prices. They have a messed up home market, and now they must bring down their prices in order to compete. They’re trying to solve homemade problems in other countries.”

On the other hand, UK Agent and President of the UK AAA, Clare Alexander was recently quoted in the Bookseller as saying that since the mid-80’s, 80% of contracts for UK authors have given the UK exclusive EU rights – a figure US publishers and agents find excessive.

So why all the fuss? Is the English-language market really burgeoning, or are the Turf Wars just a matter of principle? Are US-UK publishing relations deteriorating over a few hundred copies of The Brooklyn Follies?

Currently theoretical, the Turf Wars are potentially anything but. A stalemate threatens, huge conglomerates must develop their own internal consensus about their position (at least three of the majors have declined to speak to PT), and the outcome may depend on where the power of ownership resides.

The Famous 100 Copies Debate

All relevant factors point to a growing global English-language market. Cyrus Kheradi, VP & Group Sales Director International at S&S says, “The export market for US and UK publishers is growing as English continues to grow as the lingua franca of international trade, the internet and various global media.” Indeed, the number of ESL speakers in Europe alone (which excludes all English speaking expatriates living in the EU) tops 136 million – 30% of the current total EU population, and a whopping 46% of the entire US population.

Gail Hochman, President of the AAR, says it’s naïve to think that the increase in English-language speakers will lead to a bustling export market. “If people speak English, they’ll do their business in English, but they’re not going to sit down and read War and Peace in English. They may speak, but I don’t think that necessarily means they will read.” As a whole, she says, in terms of book sales – especially trade book sales – “The numbers are small, no question about it.”

On paper, the numbers aren’t just small, they’re bleak. According to the US Dept. of Commerce (which provides the most accurate export sales, according to publishing stats- master Al Greco), there has been a decline in both units and sales of all book exports since around 2000 in essentially every European country except Spain.

UK exports, on the other hand, have been on the rise. Even without the decline, when US and UK export revenues are run parallel, the disparity is astounding. In 2004, numbers (from Commerce and the UK DTI Statistics Directorate respectively) show that the US exported $8.168 million worth of books (including academic, reference, trade and maps) to France, while the UK recorded $118.562 million during the same period. Germany shows a similar difference ($27.174 million to $176.823 million), as does Sweden ($4.477 million to $66.234 million), Belgium ($6.619 million to $45.828 million), and the Netherlands ($15.877 million to $122.085 million). Even in Spain, where exports have been on the rise, the US exported $4.5 million worth of books in 2004 to the UK’s $92.6 million.

Greco attributes the low numbers as well as the decline to several factors, from currency conversion issues to international opprobrium over American cultural imperialism. (Others surmise that with all that has changed since 2004 – the EU-15 increasing to EU-25, coupled with the low dollar – numbers should now be trending up.)

Greco also emphasizes that US export figures – especially for books – are notoriously faulty, while UK numbers are known to be much more accurate, causing them to look more divergent than they actually are. “Most publishers don’t indicate the actual value of their shipments, instead they list unit manufacturing costs for insurance purposes,” he said.

Another possible explanation for the soft numbers is the ambiguous nature of international internet sales that could or could not be reported as export sales depending on the shipping location. The growth of multi-national chains confuse things further. Rick Vanzura at Borders International says that as a general rule, orders are placed independently by geography since rights vary by country. As a general rule, PT found that most booksellers claim to honor publishers’ territorial agreements.

Off-shore printing can also complicate export figures – especially in juvenile and illustrated co-editions. A US children’s book printed in Singapore, for example, can have its EU orders shipped directly from the printer. “Sales fall through the cracks,” Greco said.

S&S’s Kheradi does not agree with the claim that UK export sales to Europe are significantly higher than US publisher sales. “At S&S we have enjoyed double-digit percentage net export sales growth annually over the last five years and we have always regarded Europe as a key export market; a region where we have had a major presence for over 40 years.”

Leakage & Growing Pains

Chitra Bopardikar, VP International Sales at PGW, says that, “growth is especially apparent in regions like Eastern Europe where we are seeing an expansion of book retailers.”

[Note: Bertelsmann’s Direct Group just announced their purchase of 48-store Portuguese book chain Bertrand Livreiros.]

Jan Andersen of the Politikens Bookshop in Denmark (and one of the signers of the Open Letter) says that he has seen solid increases of 5 to 10 % of English-language titles every year for the last 25 years.

Geoff Cowen of Windsorbooks, a UK international distributor for many US imprints, acknowledges that they have seen a substantial growth in sales in Eastern Europe, with the best sales coming from “the old bits of Yugoslavia, Slovenia, Serbia” where their rep unearths new customers all of the time. Despite the boom market, however, he says that the customers still take a long time to pay, if they pay at all. “I can’t see sales of our sort of stuff ‘going through the roof.'”

Rene Prins, Head Buyer and Sales Manager at Holland’s Van Ditmar Distribution says that although the English language market isn’t experiencing significant growth in the countries he distributes into (Belgium and the Netherlands), he agrees that Eastern Europe is developing and Germany is a market that has “certainly grown.” One big factor in Germany’s growth, according to Prins, is that German wholesalers (such as Libri and Petersen) have started exporting US and UK editions to France, Switzerland and other European countries.

On the distribution front, German competition not only makes it harder for the UK to distribute into the EU (Cowen says that in older markets like Germany, France and Holland customers constantly search for the cheapest supplier) but it also adds fuel to the UK argument that US export editions could make their way into the UK.

The evidence of this leakage has yet to materialize for either US or UK export editions (a sticking point for many), and although it legally could happen, most doubt that it actually will. According to Prins, no European wholesaler would risk exporting the US editions into the UK for fear of affecting their business relationships.

Lisma’s Petzler agrees. “No one can forbid me to sell a product into another EU territory once it’s entered the EU,” he said. “I’m not [re-exporting] because I have a certain respect for my colleagues, and because it would be a very complicated matter doing business internationally.” Petzler emphasized that the UK chose to sign free circulation treaties with the EC (European Commission), and that although the leakage argument might be a valid concern, they should not answer with protectionism: they should find a way to compete. “Living in a globalized world, we cannot create islands of protectionism.”

On the UK side, representatives like Faber’s Stephen Page have made the argument that Europe is one market and it can only be protected by being exclusive.

Kheradi however equated the EC free circulation treaties to NAFTA saying that some of the arguments being made by UK publishers about protecting the EU could be made about protecting the US market from UK editions leaking in from Canada.

Two Editions, One Language, Multiple Tastes

The Bookseller recently announced that Tesco‘s book sales rocketed 52% to more than 20 million units in 2005-2006 (carrying anywhere from 40 to 3,000 titles depending on the size of the store). With outposts in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia (as well as EU candidate-country Turkey), the supermarket chain is just one of the growing number which has recognized Eastern Europe’s growth potential.

An article in Business Hungary this spring reported that after quadrupling since 1997, nationwide multi-language book sales have nearly stagnated as specialized sellers face rising competition from Hungarian bookstore chains and online outlets. Tony Lang, the owner of Budapest’s Bestsellers bookshop was quoted as saying that in 1992 70% of his customers were expats, while today that ratio has reversed – 70% of his customers are Hungarian English-speakers, and 30% are foreigners. In a trend seen across the EU, almost all of Hungary’s largest bookstores chains (Libri, Lira es Lant, and Alexandra) now have foreign-language sections.

The breakdown of US to UK editions in each store varies, and is most easily measured by distributor. At Van Ditmar, according to Prins, a steady 40% of the books they distribute are US editions. At Lisma Ltd., 80% are US. Prins says Van Ditmar’s UK weighted split is dictated by customer taste, while Petzler claims that Lisma skews American because US publishers offer a wider variety of small press publishers like Lisma distributee Soft Skull Press.

Kheradi said, “It is important to note that European booksellers are not used to being told which edition to buy, and their clientele clearly has grown with the supply of two editions which has worked for many decades…the EU is a vast collection of individual countries with local tastes, economies and specific cultural nuances that are not being erased by joining the EU for which I believe no single English language edition can fully satisfy.”

Bopardikar agreed and was forceful about the advantages of foreign retailers carrying both US and UK editions saying that it is “absolutely” beneficial for parallel editions to be sold simultaneously. “Overall, more copies are sold. India is a good example – no one edition covers every consumer need in such a vast market, and by opening up supply to both the UK and US editions, a title is likely to sell significantly more copies over time.”

Harkin Chatlani, CEO of India Books Distribution, confirmed, “Our experience has been that when two editions are available side by side, the sale of that title increases by at least 40% to 50%.”

While Prins couldn’t say how much Van Ditmar would lose if the UK won exclusive rights to the EU, Petzler knew exactly how much business he would lose – everything. And he doesn’t think that the loss would proportionally benefit British publishers. Lisma recently sold 500 hardback US English-language editions of Paul Auster‘s The Brooklyn Follies (Holt) to stores in Portugal. “I doubt that the UK would have sold 500 copies had the Americans not been here,” he said. “Even if they had, for the author, it wouldn’t change anything. It’s only the British publishers who are benefiting.” Furthermore, Petzler emphasized the importance of being able to choose to read an author in the original edition – something that wouldn’t be possible (except through online purchasing) if the UK won exclusive rights.

DeFiore offers a possible solution: that both sides of the Atlantic agree to monetize rights for each EU country thus solving many export royalty discrepancies while being fair to the author.

All squabbling aside, Clare Alexander echoed Petzler’s sentiment that the focus should stay on the authors. “UK agents will continue to put the interests of their clients first,” she said.

Novello Festival Press: A Library Sponsored Literary Publisher

In 1999, Amy Rogers and two fellow Charlotte, North Carolina writers felt their city needed a publishing house to capitalize on the region’s literary talent. Charlotte already had a reputation for its commitment to the literary arts – in 1989, the progressive Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County helped start the Novello Festival of Reading, a national- caliber literary event that has featured such prestigious authors as Pat Conroy, Toni Morrison, and Tom Wolfe. Like many libraries, the library also budgeted for occasional publications. “The light bulb went off,” Rogers said. “Our library was already functioning as a de facto publisher.”
Rogers now serves as Executive Editor for Novello Festival Press – the country’s only library-sponsored literary publisher. “The ideal is to make the library a launch pad for the community’s literary wealth,” Rogers said. “A library does not have to just be a place where you store your literary legacy. A library can foster, seek out, and enhance that legacy.”

Since being founded in 2000, Novello has published 20 titles at a pace of 3-4 per year. They offer advances, typically around $1,000. Generally hardback, Novello’s first print-runs run between 2,500-3,500 copies. The titles have strong ties to the Carolinas, where Rogers has worked hard to build a regional following.

Novello’s titles have received national attention in the NY Times, Vanity Fair, Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and three have sold paperback rights. Ron Rash’s Appalachian novel One Foot in Eden was rejected by larger publishers for lacking national appeal. Novello picked it up however and it became their #1 bestseller selling 6,500 hardback copies. Outstanding reviews led Picador to buy the paperback rights.

Novello’s share of their standard 50/50 paperback rights split and other income goes to the library’s general fund. Rogers emphasized that the press does not use funds earmarked for library programs or materials. Their approximate $100,000 budget comes from grants and discretionary monies – in good years, gross income has topped $70,000. The library management feels the program is well worth the expense. “After all, we have put thousands of books into readers’ hands,” said Rogers. “We break deserving authors. We offer countless readings and free public programs on writing and getting published. And we help establish our region’s reputation as a growing presence on the national literary landscape.”

Other institutions have approached Rogers about starting similar ventures. She is open to being contacted and offers her experience. “Something like this takes a long time to germinate,” she said. “You have to have somebody willing to do the leg work of getting things established. You have to have the literary work there. You have to have the pipeline to an umbrella organization that can give you your rudimentary infrastructure. Then you have to have the willingness to see where it takes you.”

Kanoodling with the Client

As music blared and purposeful guys equipped with Bluetooth earbuds navigated the gigantic booths at The Licensing Show (see below) in the Javits Center, a quieter but no less determined crowd was crammed into seminars next door, at Direct Marketing Days New York. Okay, so “Predictive Modeling & Customer Segmentation” may not have the pizzazz of Nicky Hilton touting her designs for Tweety, but if you wanted to get savvy about SEO and SEM, (Search Engine Optimization and Marketing), DMD was the place to be.

Though it’s taken time for direct marketers to recognize that they are now the go-to guys for web marketing and transactions, the result was a show that allowed attendees to soak up useful strategies and tactics that can be applied to any business intent on serving and tracking its customers online – and off. Panels brought together search engines like Yahoo, ad networks like Kanoodle, and publishers like Taunton Press to discuss how marketers could find customers, sell and upsell them, and then keep them loyal.
Kanoodle.com offers a particularly interesting adwords search alternative to Yahoo and Google because its search is based on third-party databases like MSNBC, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. An advertiser can bid on words in dayparts (see WSJ June 23), across subject, zip code, demographic or other categories, for ads based on contextual or behavioral topics. The mind positively boggles at the opportunities to tout DK‘s city guides or even the latest ripped-from-the-headlines thriller.

On an even more granular level, a group of experts from companies with names like TrueLocal and SiteLogic critiqued websites of audience members, including enterprises like Manhattan Fruitier. Neophytes were told that a “content rich page” in Google-speak should be about 250 words. Hyperlinked images should be accompanied by text, as only text registers with search engines. Yahoo’s http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/, where users can view the most popular pages from any site, and find pages that link to that site, seemed everyone’s favorite.

Contrasting with the broad-ranging advice being doled out in the well-attended conference rooms was the DMD exhibition hall, where retro envelope companies sat cheek by jowl with mailers and premium manufacturers. So eager were the exhibitors for visitors that one could have equipped an office with the pens, staplers, memo pads and mints they were urging passersby to grab.

The entire show – apparently drab, but packing a wallop of useful information and endless contacts – contrasted neatly with the larger, glitzier Licensing extravaganza, which had big, bold booths and little in the way of attendee education beyond “Licensing University.” Here attendees could find out about “The Ins and Outs of Celebrity Licensing,” and “Opportunities in Food Licensing.” Okay, so maybe music and wandering plush characters suggested a more festive gathering, but can you really beat “Techniques to Predict – and Stop – Customer Churn”?

Summer Books Sail: Burly Killers, Peppermints, & Wannabe Nuns

In its first two weeks in print, He Who Blinks is Afraid of Death (Aschehoug) sold 4,000 copies in Denmark, a huge number for a debut novel. An autobiographical narrative set in the 1960s, the novel tracks the odd life of a young boy whose German mother is schizophrenic. His Danish father, an insurance agent, expresses his own formidable neuroses by insuring anything and everything that could possibly be insured. His parents’ bizarre behavior isolates the child from the already stifling social life of their provincial town, but through pure zest and ingenuity, the boy creates a world of fantasies, finding his way out of his claustrophobic misery. While the story is compelling, the man behind it is perhaps even more so. Knud Romer Jørgensen writes copy for several major ad agencies in Denmark and he’s also studied comparative literary history, but the international public might recognize him as one of the subversive characters in Lars von Trier‘s cult classic The Idiots (1998). Stupidity, mental deficiency, and quirky miscellany permeate his other work as central issues, though judging from his popularity, not as attributes. His previous publications include an anthology about stupidity (Rhodos 1999), a guide to the public lavatories in Copenhagan (Yamanouchi 2000), and numerous cultural studies on subjects as diverse as peppermints, revivalist preachers, and autoerotic suicide. All rights are still available for the bestselling novel. Contact Charlotte Joergensen ([email protected]).

While an isolated little boy wanders through Denmark in Jørgensen’s novel, an isolated troop of burly killers takes Brazil by storm in Elite Police (Objetiva), a fictionalized account of the day-to-day lives of the BOPE, or the Special Operations Police Battalion. With seven weeks on the bestseller list and nearly 24,000 copies sold, the book is a blockbuster about to become a blockbuster in another medium with Bob and Harvey Weinstein who acquired distribution rights for an eponymous film based loosely on the book. Exposing for the first time the grueling pace lived by urban guerrilla police officers whose mottos are “When in doubt, kill,” and “Don’t retreat, but don’t die either,” the Jarhead-esque novel opens as a brutal police commander whips his troop into submission on a 100-kilometer ride through the desert. Hallucinating and near death, the officers are finally given two minutes to eat as much food as they can from a dusty canvas thrown on the ground. The demoralizing training continues until one of the characters becomes involved in a plot orchestrated by both public safety officers and drug traffickers. Elite Police was written by anthropologist Luiz Eduardo Soares and two top police officers with law degrees, André Batista and Rodrigo Pimentel. Pimentel is also working on the script. Contact Julia Michaels ([email protected]) for information on rights, which are all available.

Taking France by storm in a less aggressive, more mystical manner is Press the Star Key (Grasset), the latest title by bestselling author Benoîte Groult. An allegorical novel that at times reads like an essay, Press the Star Key is narrated by Moïra, the astute embodiment of Destiny, who involves herself in the lives of a discontented married woman, Marion, and her mother, Alice, a former journalist and major player in the foundation of the women’s movement. Moïra helps Marion experience equality in a relationship by pushing her into the arms of a wild Irishman with whom she has an unexpected affair. With Alice, a woman who faces old age with fierce determination, Moïra eases her last years by giving her an out: when she’s finished with the world, Alice need only “press the star key” and Destiny will come for her. One critic calls Groult “a rebel with a sense of humor, a common sense fantasist who speaks of ‘the struggle’ without bitterness or mincing her words.” Still one of the top five books on the French bestseller list two months after publication, this “ferociously comical and moving” novel has sold more than 200,000 copies. English rights are available while rights have already been licensed to Holland (Arena, in a six-figure deal), Italy (Longanesi), Germany (Bloomsbury Berlin), Norway (Arneberg Oivind), and China (Sanhui Culture). Contact Heidi Warneke ([email protected]).

Destiny is not as benevolent to the protagonist of Birgitta and Katarina (Bonnier) whose tragic story comes from the life of Birgitta Bigersdotter, a member of the Swedish court in the 14th century. As a child, Birgitta feels called to become a nun, a vocation her mother encourages. However, after her mother’s untimely death, Birgitta’s father marries her off at the age of 13. Her eldest sister is likewise betrayed and Birgitta spends her life grief-stricken and powerless. The real life Birgitta makes a pilgrimage to Rome where she lives in poverty, tries unsuccessfully to found a religious order, records almost 700 visions, and is later canonized by the Pope. Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril‘s novel focuses on her relationship with her daughter, Katarina, who struggles to reach her bitter mother with love and is rebuffed. Bringing dark and icy 14th century Sweden into the 21st is a daunting task, but critics say the author “makes the Middle Ages arise anew with freshness and a sense of presence” and “is a fantastic storyteller.” Rights have been licensed to Denmark (Gyldendal), Holland (Prometheus), and Finland (Johnny Kniga Wsoy). For information, contact Susanne Widén ([email protected]).

In Poland, the literary mood is decidedly contemporary. The country brims with young writers and Proszynski is taking advantage of the talent with a new series called “The Literature of the New Generation” whose tagline is “New times, new writers, new prose.” Lubko Deresz, a very young (born 1984) writer from the Ukraine opened the series with Cult in April 2005. Since then, Proszynski has published Deresz’s follow-up along with four other titles. One of the voices belongs to Adam Kaczanowski, the author of three books of poetry including one about Batman. His debut novel, Without an End, “faces reality without fear.” A sort of tableau vivant of modern Poland, the novel observes with a detached tone the lives of a young model in a difficult marriage, a woman who is renovating her home, two high ranking managers vying for vacation time, and a ten year-old who is determined to become the richest man on Earth. With humor as well as desperation, the characters struggle to change their lives with limited resources. More information about Proszynski’s series and other new Polish titles can be found at www.bookinstitute.pl. All rights are available to Without an End. For details, contact for Monika Szuchta ([email protected]).

Celebrities, Polar Bears, & Positive Pre-Teens

“A crystal ball to the future” is what LIMA promised Licensing International 2006 would be. And what does the ball forecast? After a quick sweep through the floor at Javits during the show (June 20-22), it seems that celebrities, polar bears, positive pre-teens, and, of course, fairy dust, are on the horizon.

With a trumpet fanfare and smiling ballerinas by his side, Andy Mooney, Chairman of Disney Consumer Products opened the 26th show with a morning press conference revealing Brittany Murphy as the voice of Peter Pan‘s fairy friend in Tinker Bell, the movie coming out in 2007. From there, the press trooped over to the Warner Brothers stand where Nicky Hilton draped herself across a motorcycle to promote her collaboration on the high-end Tweety Bird fashion line.

The biggest celebrity, however, was the gigantic armored taxidermy polar bear posed in attack mode with a tiny parka-clad girl clutching on to his back. The protagonists of Philip Pullman‘s The Golden Compass (Random House) stood guard over the New Line stand, overseeing the promotion of the movie which is slated for a fall 2007 release. The movie trilogy of the Whitbread-winning, ten million copy-selling books will combine “the magical fantasy of Harry Potter and the epic grandeur of The Lord of the Rings according to the glossy press release. Indeed, Harry Potter sat this year out while another huge polar bear took main stage at Scholastic Media’s post just a few aisles away. Maya and Miguel, Clifford, and Mrs. Frizzle with her Magic School Bus enjoyed prominent displays there along with Goosebumps which we’re told “is back from the dead!”

Silver Lining Productions chose the Show to introduce the Mr. Men and Little Miss brand to the US market (published by Penguin in the US). The old workhorses, Eric Carle and Olivia, along with relative newcomers, Gaspard & Lisa and Groovy Girls, were on hand too. The latter, a multi-cultural group of spunky friends with high self-esteem whose books are published by Simon & Schuster and Scholastic, would get along well with the Beacon Street Girls, another group of multi-cultural buddies with a positive message. Their “parent-approved literature for ‘tweens’” published by B*tween Productions supports the decidedly anti-Bratz sentiment found in the Show’s daily circulars.

In a retro incarnation of the positive girl movement, Moxie & Company asked us to “Get a clue with Nancy Drew!” as they promoted Simon & Schuster’s now 76-year-old Nancy and her contemporary series Girl Detective and Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew.

Kathleen Spinelli of Brands-To-Books, Inc. hosted a panel on, what else, but turning your brand into a book. The panel told a crestfallen audience not to look to books as a significant source of revenue, but rather as a way to leverage an already strong character into other products or to re-purpose existing content. Barbara Lalicki, SVP and Editorial Director at HarperCollins Children’s, put it this way: “It’s the book that will get you on the Today Show.” After all, Russell the Sheep began as a quirky drawing in the author’s booth when he was discovered by Sue Miller at Mixed Media and the dozing animal transferred beautifully into the instant bestselling children’s classic. She also used the licensing phenomenon Mary Engelbreit (who was signing copies of her “Queen of Everything” image at the United Media stand) as an example of the successful ripples that can come from putting a brand on the page. From her first children’s book, The Night Before Christmas, came a flood of new products: Christmas ornaments, afghans, cookie tins, etc., all relating to the narrative. Steve Scebelo, SVP of TV Guide Licensing & Merchandising, spoke to the re-purposing of content aspect of branded books, citing the success of the TV Guide crossword, word-search, and classic TV encyclopedias at getting the brand into new channels like dollar stores and the big bookstores. Despite all the helpful information and advice to present your brand to publishers through an agent, the license-hungry audience stormed the panelists with pitches of their own. After all, the deal is what this business is all about.

Bookview

PEOPLE

Andy Martin has left Sterling for St. Martin‘s and the Minotaur imprint where he will be VP, Publisher, reporting to SMP President Sally Richardson. Martin had been Publishing Director at Sterling.

Raquel Jaramillo, longtime VP Creative Director at Holt, is moving to Workman as Director of Children’s Books reporting to Susan Bolotin.

Peter Ginna
has left OUP to join Bloomsbury as Publisher and Editorial Director of a new and as yet unnamed imprint. He starts at Bloomsbury in September.

Ann Binkley is returning to Borders Group (and Ann Arbor) as Director of Public Relations, a position she held until 2003 when she moved to New York to work for New York Is Book Country and subsequently Quills Foundation. Beryl Needham is leaving Random House to re-join Binkley at Borders as Director of National Events and Field Marketing. She is replacing Tracy Egan. Both Binkley and Needham will report to Michael Tam, Chief Marketing Officer.

HarperCollins announced that Jamie Brickhouse, recently at Basic Books, has been named Director, HarperCollins Speakers Bureau. He reports to Debbie Stier, SVP, Group Publicity Director. Julie Elmuccio, who is currently with the Speakers Bureau, has been promoted to Speakers Bureau Coordinator. Jennifer Sheridan will join HC as a sales Representative for the New York region, reporting to Jeanette Zwart. She worked for Bookazine and managed the Children’s Department for Unabridged Books in Chicago. Mary Albi has joined HarperCollins Children’s Books as Director of Marketing, reporting to Diane Naughton. Elizabeth Fithian has left the company. And Carrie Bachman ([email protected]) and Roberto De Vicq are leaving Harper in a reorganization of the cookbook area. Harriet Bell will go to a three-day work week.

ReganMedia, a division of HC, announced Elena DeCoste has been appointed VP of Television Development, reporting to Judith Regan. DeCoste, who comes from CAA, will be based in Los Angeles. . . . Justin Loeber has decided not to go with the PR company he originally planned on moving to after he left ReganMedia. He may be reached at [email protected] or 646 416 3046.

Rich Johnson, longtime VP for Trade Sales at DC Comics, is leaving the company. No details on his departure were given. He joined DC Comics in 1997. He may be reached at [email protected]

Andrea Glickson‘s job at Stewart, Tabori, & Chang has been eliminated. She has left the company and may be reached at [email protected] She was Director of Marketing.

Jesse Cohen has left Atlas Editions and may be reached at 212 888 1052 or [email protected] . . . Greg Constante has left Acanthus Press to move back to LA. He may be reached at [email protected]

Kevin Haas
has been named VP of North American sales at Ryland, Peters and Small. He was with Quayside Publishing Group.

Jofie Ferrari-Adler has left Viking, where he was an editor. He may be reached at [email protected]

Daniel Moreton
has joined Scholastic as Executive Art Director, Licensed Books and Cartwheel, reporting to David Saylor, VP, Creative Director. Most recently, Moreton was Creative Director for Nickelodeon’s Entertainment Products Group. He also is the illustrator of several children’s books. Paul Banks has joined Scholastic as Art Director, Licensed Books. Banks had been doing freelance art direction for Scholastic and for Macmillan/McGraw Hill and had previously been Global Design Manager for Disney Publishing Worldwide. He reports to Moreton.

Lucille Rettino has been named Director of Marketing SSE and Simon Pulse. Rettino came to S&S from Henry Holt, where she was Executive Director of Advertising and Promotion. Earlier Renee Fountain was named Licensing and Brand Manager for Children’s. She had been Harcourt.

Harry Kirchner National Accounts Director for PGW has joined the National Accounts team for Ingram Publisher Services.

And last, but certainly not least, Siobhan O’Leary, erstwhile Associate Director of Market Partners International, before moving to Berlin to study German, has been named Foreign Subsidiary Rights Associate at Crown, reporting to Karin Schulze.

PROMOTIONS

At HC, Andrea Pappenheimer has been promoted to the title of SVP, Sales and Associate Publisher of HC Children’s Books. Brian Grogan has been promoted to SVP, Sales for General Books. He formerly was SVP, Director of Distributor Sales. David Sweeney has been promoted to Senior Director, Mail Order, Retail and Wholesale. He joined Harper in 1996. Marie Hergenroeder has been promoted to Senior Director, Premium, Proprietary and Display Marketing. She joined Harper in 2000. Doug Menake has been named VP, Director of Inventory Management for the Adult Trade division. He recently took over management of the Overstock Sales initiative for the company. David Toberisky has been named VP, Director of Inventory Management for the Children’s division. He also participates in the Children’s Executive Committee. Diane Naughton announced the promotion of Cristina Gilbert, to Senior Director of Marketing at HC.

James Kimball was promoted to Vice President, Sales Director, Knopf Publishing Group, by Jaci Updike. He has been at Knopf since 1998. Ruth Liebmann has also been promoted to VP and named Director, Retail Field Marketing and Merchandising. She had been Director, Independent Bookselling.

Hilary Redmon has been named Editor of Penguin Books. Most recently an Associate Editor, she joined the company as an editorial assistant in 2002 and became an assistant editor for Viking in 2003. Alessandra Lusardi has been named Associate Editor. Most recently an Assistant Editor, she joined Viking in 2002 as an assistant to Clare Ferraro. She was promoted to Assistant Editor in 2003.

JULY EVENTS

Pete Hamill, Molly O’Neill, Kevin Baker and others gather in July at Mad. Sq. Reads, the Madison Square Park Conservancy’s new free series of summer readings by notable authors. Each Thursday evening program will be devoted to a different aspect of New York life and history. The readings will be presented at the foot of Augustus Saint-Gauden‘s Farragut Monument, located mid-park at 25th Street. Each program lasts about one hour except as noted. For information call 212 538 6667. Books will be available for sale at each reading courtesy of Borders.

Project Gutenberg, will hold an annual World eBook Fair beginning July 4th and running through August, during which 300,000 e-books will be available for free download, together with some classical music scores, recordings and films. The vast majority of the books are in the public domain, and the rights holders to the remainder have granted their permission. Though 20,000 titles are already permanently available from the site, the rest will be loaned for the month of the Fair from other e-book libraries, some of which normally charge, and some of the loans will remain after the end of the Fair. Project Gutenberg plans to increase the number of titles available during the Fair to 1 million by 2009. Over 100 languages will be represented for worldwide readers and that total is expected to increase. Go to http://www.gutenberg.org for further information and downloading.

DULY NOTED

Intellectual property or real property? Mary Hall Mayer seems to be working at both: While recently selling world rights in a six-figure pre-empt to Dr. Nicholas Dodman‘s What Every Good Dog Owner Should Know to Houghton Mifflin‘s Susan Canavan, she has also – as a broker with Halstead Property – just concluded the sale of a Tribeca loft for over $1.5 million and a high end rental also in Tribeca.

An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore‘s new book, produced for Rodale by Melcher Media, is printed on paper that is 30% “post consumer waste,” (which Chelsea Green doesn’t consider, mmm, green enough). However, according to the description in the book, it is the first book produced to offset 100% of the CO2 emissions generated from production activities with renewable energy. “By supporting a new Native American wind farm and a new family farm methane energy project through NativeEnergy, this publication is carbon neutral.” For more information – “and to offset your own carbon footprint,” go to nativenergy.com. For information on RH and other industry publisher initiatives, go to greenpressinitiative.org/

IN MEMORIAM

Lyle Stuart, founder of the eponymous publisher and later, of Barricade Books, died on June 24th, at the age of 83.

What I Know Is Wiki

The biggest and arguably best general online encyclopedia, Wikipedia started in 2001 and now includes millions of entries, in 229 languages. It is not infallible, but then again, as Nature magazine pointed out in a head to head comparison, neither is the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the course of researching an historical memoir, I have logged many hours in libraries and archives, but Wikipedia is usually one of my first stops for some new thread of inquiry or a quick fact check. My informal and unscientific sample of inquiring minds among the Net generation strongly suggests that their research inevitably starts with Google and Wikipedia; and it usually ends there, too.
This is why I found myself thinking about authoring a Wikipedia entry on Ala Gertner, a central figure in my book because of her connection to my family and her role in the Auschwitz uprising of 1944.

I didn’t need to ask an editor’s permission. Anyone can author an article on Wikipedia. And “anyone” does, since the writers are anonymous. Amateurs or scholars, they are all people who care passionately about a subject and want to share their knowledge. In fact, if you look up a name or subject that comes up empty on Wikipedia, you are invited to fill the gap.

My first cautious step was to cruise around Wikipedia to observe the “house style,” which seemed remarkably consistent in its neutral and factual tone. So far, so good. I found tutorials and references to help me get started, but when I actually started to write, I was caught in the quicksand of html codes. As soon as I tried anything fancy, the page was a mess. Many hours later, I had succeeded in posting the equivalent of a sloppy freshman draft. But at least the words were there. My entry on Ala Gertner now sounded like a Wikipedia article, even if it didn’t look like one.

I returned to the site a few days later and behold, I had been Wikified! My words had not changed, but the entry now looked professional. By clicking on the “history” tab, I could see that the article had been scrubbed several times by automated Wiki bots and also by human beings who had fixed my formatting mistakes and added subheads, paragraphs, and proper fonts. These editorial elves were drawn to the task by a Wikipedia alert that identifies all new entries (and probably red-flagged mine as a struggling neophyte) There are reportedly thousands of volunteers who review these entries for the sheer fun of improving them, like the successful investment banker who specializes in editing entries on baseball. He describes his daily edits and fact checks as his “solitaire,” a relaxing brain game for multitasking moments.

It is this process of collaborative editing that is the heart and soul of Wikipedia. So far, no one had edited my words or challenged my facts – but such controversies are not uncommon, and some entries have triggered long and complex arbitrations within the Wikipedia community. But in my maiden voyage, I was charmed by the swarm of nano editors descending upon my page to polish its rough edges until it was fit to join the other 1.6 million English-language entries in Wikipedia.

Emboldened, I tuned up the language in the article and discovered that I could overcome being html-impaired by copying the formatting in other entries, literally cutting and pasting the html codes. Soon I had learned the most important trick of all: how to add hyperlinks to and from relevant Wikipedia articles. Ala Gertner is now in the virtual company of Roza Robota, another extraordinary heroine of the Auschwitz uprising; and of Oskar Schindler, whose labor camp was part of the same Nazi bureaucracy that enslaved Ala. She is also linked to the category of Women in World War II, Holocaust, and featured in the long and excellent Wikipedia article on Auschwitz.

Wikipedia is free, its entries part of the global digital commons. This open source approach to intellectual property was fine until I tried to enhance my article with photographs and images. It was difficult to choose which of Wikipedia’s copyright options made sense without going to the trouble and expense of consulting a lawyer and besides, I couldn’t figure out how to upload and format the images. So for now, my article remains unadorned for legal and technical reasons. But Google Ala Gertner, and you’ll see my entry. It may be different by the time you get there, since it’s no longer mine. Now the article belongs to Wikipedia and to anyone who chooses to read it or improve it.

Ann Kirschner is the author of the forthcoming Sala’s Gift (November, Free Press)

International Bestsellers: Bigger Than a Billion

Frankfurt’s Honoree Gets Into the Fast Lane

Technology. Textbooks. Jhumpa Lahiri. Western book publishers have learned what to expect from their Indian counterparts. The industry has delivered, literally and figuratively, on much of what the Frankfurt Book Fair promised when they named it Guest of Honor in 1986. Presumably bestowed on a culture that could use a helping hand joining the international industry, the honor goes to India again this year, making it the only culture to be showcased for a second time and raising questions as to why exactly India needs another push.

After all, what India does well, it continues to do well, earning its reputation as the go-to place for inexpensive outsourcing of digital technology and more recently, academic scholarship. SparkNotes and McGraw-Hill, among others, contract digital services as well as printing to Repro India, Ltd., a ten-year-old design and data conversion company led by Sonia Mehta, herself a champion of the Friedman-ian flat world that has brought foreign money to the country. Andrew White, president of UK STM publisher Anshan, successfully mines the largely untapped reserve of Indian scholarship and distributes the titles, which he co-publishes with Indian publishers, to the global market.

Repro, however, seems to be an anomaly in terms of quality printing and timely delivery according to many other publishers who have tried it and rue the unpredictable norms. Mapin, an Indian art book publisher focusing on the country’s art, culture, and literature, outsources its printing to Singapore, reports publisher Bipin Shah. Similarly, White says “books are ‘put through the system’ from receipt of manuscript to publication in just a few months — consequently there are often spelling mistakes, faulty binding, blurred images, poor paper — all things unacceptable to us,” though he also remarks on how quickly the print quality is improving.

The synergy between the two industries has been advancing in fits and starts with the US/UK tapping into some rich veins and not others. Appropriately enough, one critique of the lopsided exchange comes in the form of a bestselling novel, One Night @ the Call Centre (Rupa & Co.), written by Chetan Bhagat, a graduate of the country’s best technology school. The satirical look at the wasted potential of six young workers fielding phone calls from stupid Americans revolves around a late-night call from God. In the first month of publication, it sold 100,000 copies in a country where one of the biggest blockbusters (the latest Harry Potter, of course) has sold 160,000 to date.

With India’s population of over one billion, ninety-five million people who speak 24 official languages and 800 dialects, it makes sense that India has more to offer US/UK publishers than just skilled labor. The West is fascinated by Anglo- and American-Indian writers such as Vikram Seth and Salman Rushdie, but relatively few know any of the hundreds of authors who write in the vernacular. At the PEN World Voices panel on Translation in South Asia, Ritu Menon, co-founder in 1984 of the respected independent feminist press Kali for Women, commented on the dearth of international interest in regional Indian literature, citing foreign publishers’ fear that novels from Indian authors who don’t write about the easily transferable values and lifestyles of middle-class city dwellers won’t sell. Menon said the cost and time-intensive process of translating a “high risk” regional-language title also plays a role.

Hoping to alleviate at least the financial obstacle on vernacular writing’s rocky path to international publication, the National Book Trust India established a translation fund this year in conjunction with the Guest of Honor Presentation (GHP). The Trust, a state-sponsored publisher of regional language books established in 1957, has chosen 151 Indian titles across various categories whose translation into German, Spanish, and French will be subsidized at Rs 2 per word (approximately four cents) and participating foreign publishers can translate in their own country or India. To kick off Frankfurt’s Indian awareness campaign, twelve prominent vernacular writers represented their country at the Leipzig Book Fair in March before embarking on a two-week reading tour throughout Germany. So far, only a handful of titles have been picked up by foreign publishers.

Now that the promotion of regional language titles abroad is underway, it seems the industry in India could use a promotional campaign for its own publishers. The outrageous pricing discrepancy between English and regional language titles plays a fundamental role in determining what gets published and according to Harkin Chatlani, Chairman and Managing Director of India Book Distributors, imported English titles of all categories have higher price points there, sometimes five to six times as much as regional ones, causing many publishers and distributors to focus only on English. Incidentally, Mapin hopes to challenge the status quo with its children’s publishing program to be launched this fall. R. Sriram, CEO of the major Indian bookstore chain Crossword, puts the average price of an imported English title at Rs 250 (approximately $5.40) and Indian language and locally published English titles both at Rs 125 (about $2.70).

English books make up roughly 29% of the 70,000 new titles published annually in India. Bipin Shah estimates India’s book-buying middle class to be at least 300 million people, for whom English is an official language, but most of whom speak a regional language as well, and all of whom, he surmises, would buy lots of books in their mother tongues if they were more readily available.

But not all major publishers are avoiding the vernacular. Last year Penguin India launched an unprecedented publishing program in Hindi, Marathi, and Malayalam. Of the 180 annual new titles, around 62 are in these languages. By the end of the year, there will be 35-40 Hindi, 18 Malayalam, and four Marathi titles across various categories. “In lots of ways what we’re doing is very similar to 1987 when we began English publishing. So right now the numbers are small; but they’re bigger than our English mid-list numbers,” says Thomas Abraham, CEO. “Our top seller is just 3,000 copies.”

In another typically ironic instance of globalization, the disaffected readers of Bhagat’s call center exposé are buying his work at Landmark and Crossword, the thoroughly American Barnes & Noble-esque super bookstore chains that have flourished in the past ten years and cater to the country’s English speakers. Founded in 1992, Crossword is a far cry from the 1500 to 2000 average square foot Indian bookstore of twenty years ago. Today, readers can attend a reading, drink tea, and browse through roughly 8,000 to 15,000 square feet of retail space at a typical Crossword (28 stores) or Landmark (five stores). According to R. Sriram, this brand of bookstore experience has taken hold: “In the last three years, growth at Crossword has been 50% to 60% per year due to addition of new stores, and 12% to 15% on a like to like store basis.” Both chains sell online.
Anshan’s White, sums up the Indian publishing industry thus: “It is still pretty chaotic to our eyes, but everyone knows their place and role, and despite our incredulity the publishing and bookselling industry in India continues to thrive.”