International Fiction Bestsellers

One Flew Over Oslo
Norway’s Fossum Gets Real, Sweden Goes Hard-Boiled, And Luna Rises Over Argentina

Sweden has veered “disturbingly close to reality” in recent months as Norwegian author Karin Fossum takes the nation on a harrowing journey right up to the belfry of The House of the Insane. The book, which has been on the list for the past two months but is just below the top ten at the moment, spirals through the mental involutions of 23-year-old protagonist Hajna, who required 160 stitches in her head after slamming into a large shop window. “All she longs for,” we’re eerily informed, “is death.” Based on the author’s experience working at a psychiatric institution, the book has been described as a Scandinavian One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, letting Fossum’s knack for “hassle-free momentum” loose inside the asylum. The author is better known for her crime novels, which have sold as many as 55,000 copies per title and are translated into 14 languages. Her fifth such opus, Beloved Poona, was published last year and hailed as a portrait of “painfully credible” characters set churning in “a masterful novel about the margins of death.” Fossum’s Don’t Look Back will be published in the UK by Harvill next summer, with Poona to come in 2003. So far 28,000 copies of the new one have been sold, and only Sweden and Germany have bought rights, according to foreign rights manager Eirin Hagen at Cappelen.

Also in Sweden, Åke Edwardson hits the scene with the fifth title in his crime series, Heaven is a Place on Earth, featuring Inspector Erik Winter. A four-year-old boy in Gothenburg is abducted from a playground, and Winter delves into “the loneliness of man” to solve the case. Critics deem Edwardson’s work “bloody genuine and good,” and the hard-boiled series has been published in 12 countries, selling more than 450,000 copies. The first three books from this “masterly portrayer of man’s innermost thoughts” are slated for Swedish TV this fall. The new one has been sold only to Germany and Denmark, with negotiations under way in the US and UK. See Agneta Markås at Norstedts. And on a final Swedish crime note, The Diabolic pops up as the twelfth crime novel from Bjorn Hellberg featuring the inimitable Inspector Sten Wall, who in this installment bumps into Mr. Evil himself and tussles with the occult. When author Hellberg isn’t slaying demons, he reigns as the “#1 tennis expert in the world,” with 23 titles under his belt on that subject, and also moonlights as a Swedish TV personality. Rights have been sold to Germany (Argon) and Holland (de Geus). See agent Bengt Nordin.

Crime has also been paying off exquisitely in the Netherlands for the prolific A.C. (Appie) Baantjer, whose De Cock series has soared to an epic 54 titles and regularly boasts first print runs of over 100,000 copies. Two new titles every year chronicle the latest exploits of Inspector De Cock and his cunning assistant Vledder, who operate from their base camp in Amsterdam’s red-light district and bivouac in nearby bars, ruminating over snifters of cognac. In De Cock and the Drifting Corpse, a staple of the Dutch list for months now, a woman’s missing banker-husband is found dead with a dagger in his back. Turns out the dagger is symbolic of the secret Brotherhood of the Cross, and, to put it mildly, mayhem ensues. Meanwhile, Baantjer’s latest book, De Cock and the Merry Bacchus, unfolds from a man’s report of a missing uncle and features, you guessed it, a collection of photographs of the Apostle Peter. Adding to the Baantjer franchise, a TV spin-off has plastered the detective duo across the little screen in Holland, Belgium, and France. The 78-year-old Baantjer (né Albert Cornelis) was a researcher in the Amsterdam police force for 30 years, and based his lead character on a fellow officer whose code name in World War II was “Le Coq.” The series has been published in China, Russia, and Korea, while Ullstein has previously published the series in Germany (though rights reverted in 1989) and Intercontinental has published eight novels in the US, but passed on recent titles. Rights have never been sold in the UK. See Maran Olthoff at De Fontein.

In Argentina, the venerable historian Felix Luna breaks out with his first work of historical fiction, Martín Aldama, a “delicious novel of adventure and patriotism” told through the protagonist’s memoirs of life in early 19th-century Argentina. Through Aldama’s eyes we revisit an explosively formative period for the nation, weathering the reconquest of Buenos Aires and plunging into the May Revolution. Action commences in June 1806, when Buenos Aires is attacked by a British fleet under the command of Admiral Home Riggs Popham, and our young warrior joins the battle that expels the invaders and sparks a lasting movement for independence among Spanish South America. Along the way, the gallant Aldama stops off for a few torrid trysts amid the din of battle, and as a sidelight strikes up a blood-brother bond with a young Irishman. Deemed “one of Argentina’s finest intellectuals,” author Luna has published more than a dozen nonfiction titles and is considered a shaping literary force in Argentinian annals. All rights are available; contact Veronica Berisso at Planeta Argentina.

In India, The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes dredges up a Trans-Himalayan episode from the great inspector’s past, and narrates Holmes’s adventures in Tibet with the wily Bengali scholar Hurree Chunder Mookerjee. The book, an unlikely mix of Holmesian drama and Tibetan mythology, is jam-packed with the usual narrow escapes and brilliant deductions, not to mention “the strangest of mysteries Sherlock Holmes has ever encountered.” Author Jamyang Norbu, a Tibetan scholar from Dharamsala, “takes to pastiche with grace and elan,” as one critic cheered, while another put it this way: “If you enjoy the X-Files and don’t mind mixing Holmes with the paranormal, then you really will love this.” The book won the Crossword Prize this year. Rights have been sold to the US (Bloomsbury), UK (John Murray), and France (Philippe Piquier); see agent Susan Schulman at [email protected]

And the lexicographer in you will be deeply satisfied to know that among the top 15 titles in the Netherlands this month, no less than 7 are Prisma dictionaries, with Dutch, English-Dutch, and Dutch-English filling slots 2, 3, and 4. (Bridget Jones beats them out of first place.) What gives? “It is the best-known dictionary for schools, that’s why the summer is indeed packed with bestselling Prismas,” says our source at publisher Het Spectrum, noting that all editions are revised. Talk about cultural literacy.

The World According to Hoover

Gary Hoover, whose book Hoover’s Vision is being published in November, gave PT an email and telephone interview while touring the country on speaking engagements. A website,, will launch simultaneously with the book.

PT asked if Hoover’s Vision is for business moguls only, or does it appeal to a broader audience? It’s for “anyone who leads anything,” says Hoover. “I go around the world speaking to folks who run steel plants, universities, dotcoms, and dry cleaners. Enterprises of all types — for profit and non-, from tiny to titanic — all succeed and fail on the same principles. Because a key part of my message is creative thinking, it often rings especially true to entrepreneurs. But those in large corporations often do not realize that a lack of entrepreneurial thinking is what can make them the next Lucent, Sears, GM, or AT&T.”

As to why he chose Texere as his publisher, Hoover explained: “I developed a personal rapport with Myles Thompson of Texere and this was key to my decision. Like myself, he got his schooling while working for established industry leaders, then took the plunge and went out on his own. By working with Texere, I get the outstanding Norton marketing and distribution team coupled with a smaller publisher who pays attention to my book as if it were his own: the best of all possible worlds.”

PT wanted to know what Hoover thought had changed most since he was a book retailer: “Changes in the book business have been more evolutionary than revolutionary since we sold Bookstop to Barnes & Noble in 1989. . . . More power has shifted from the manufacturers to the retailers, which is parallel with what has happened in groceries and many other categories. With Oprah, the power to move books has become more concentrated. On the other hand, the rise of the superstore means that more backlist and more small authors and publishers get exposure to more consumers. The publishing industry seems resistant to change — the formats, pricing, and trim sizes are not moving. While there have been a lot of mergers, most of the exciting action is on the part of smaller, more innovative publishers like Motorbooks, Workman, and Taschen. I believe this was true when I entered the business: companies like Ten Speed and Lonely Planet were tiny startups.

“Going forward into the future, I would question the soundness of many of the business approaches at work today. The ‘department store of books’ at either the retail or publishing level would not appear to be the best strategy for most competitors, if you study the history of other industries that have gone down the same path. Narrow is better than broad, focus is better than diversity. There is room for one or two winning ‘all things for all people’ plays, but not for 3 or 6 or 20.”

Word Freaks

There are an estimated 1.5 billion English speakers in the world — with another billion or so now toiling away at their English language primers — and English is an official language in more than 75 countries. Last year a Dutch study found that one-third of the commercials on Dutch television contained English words and phrases, and in Taiwan, language students will tell you they’re not just studying English — they’re learning American.

Indeed, as the language goes global, the question of whose English gets spoken — and published — is assuming tactical importance. Just ask any world-class Scrabble player. There are two English Scrabble dictionaries, according to Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak (“Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players”), and the high-strung wordsmiths are at odds over which one to use. The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, with 110,000 words, is used in the US, while the Official Scrabble Words, used in the UK and most of the rest of the world, carries an additional 30,000 words. The argument, Fatsis points out, isn’t really about language, but about the number of words that have to be memorized. “Because there is the feeling that American English is what people speak in the rest of the world,” he says, “Americans feel the dictionary should conform to our version.”

Linguistic jingoism cuts both ways, however, and American Scrabble aficionados may want to beware those other word freaks — teenage girls who have been rampaging through bookstores in search of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison’s novel that has stormed US young adult bestseller lists as a Bridget Jones’ Diary for teens. No matter that most Americans don’t know a snog from a snivel, Rennison’s text is an unabridged lexicon of British slang, where “swiz,” “wally,” and “prat” are thick on the page. Snogging, of course, means kissing, and American teens apparently can’t get enough of it. “Competition to sound more British than their friends is so fierce that thousands of teenagers in the US are writing to Ms. Rennison demanding more Brit slang,” reports the London newspaper Express. As Rennison tells the paper, “American teenagers just cannot get enough of these old-fashioned English expressions, and I think it’s probably because they are a bit rude.”

In any case, don’t expect a snogging fad in South Korea. In that nation, an American accent isn’t just a hot commodity — it’s the only one. “The widespread anti-American attitudes of the ’80s have vanished,” says Mark Curry, a visiting professor at a South Korean university. “Now, youngsters who cannot enter good Korean universities look no further than North America to improve their lot.” American English is also dominant in Japan and Latin America, while British English monopolizes former Commonwealth domains such as the Middle East and Africa.

Elsewhere, the reworking of English Language Teaching (ELT) materials to fit linguistic tastes — like the loutish Americanizing of Harry Potter — seems to be on the wane. “Publishers are much more likely to create an entirely new language course than to adapt an existing one,” says Shelagh Speers, Director of ELT Publishing at Scholastic. Still, some publishers supply two audio recordings: one with a British accent, the other American. And others load up a smorgasbord of British, American, Australian, Irish, and Scottish accents, all ready-to-hand for the jet-setter. Though the book biz is clearly heading toward a one-size-fits-all edition for English markets, it seems that for the moment, anyway, we may be one world, but we are still many dialects.

Book View, September 2001


There’s been major movement in publishing these last few weeks of summer, which PT will recap for those who have been literally or figuratively out of it:

Kara Welsh has been named VP, Publisher of New American Library, reporting to Leslie Gelbman. She was VP, Deputy Publisher at Pocket Books. And Therese Burke, formerly President of Sales for HarperCollins, has moved to DK (now also part of Penguin Putnam)  as VP Sales and Marketing. Finally, PP-wise, Brant Janeway has been promoted to the position of Director of Marketing and Publicity for Plume Books. He was previously Publicity Manager.

Kris Puopolo is leaving S&S and moving to Broadway as Senior editor, according to Gerry Howard, and will “be acquiring books in both hardcover and trade paperback in the key areas for Broadway of spirituality, self-help and inspiration as well as in general nonfiction.”

Paul Dinas, formerly Editor-in-Chief at Kensington, has become Executive Editor of Select Editions at Reader’s Digest. Meanwhile, Reader’s Digest magazine named Jacqueline Leo VP and US Editor-in-Chief. She was most recently at Meredith Interactive.

Nader F. Darehshori, Chairman, President, and CEO of Houghton Mifflin, announced on August 15 that, with its purchase by Vivendi Universal, “approximately 60 corporate positions have been identified as duplicative and will be eliminated,” though some might be offered other jobs in the new corporate empire. Meanwhile, Gail Deegan, EVP, CFO; Elizabeth Hacking, SVP, Strategic Development; and Gary Smith, SVP, Administration, will be leaving Houghton Mifflin, effective October 1, 2001.

Rich Freese has been named President and CEO of MBI Publishing, aka Motorbooks, in St. Paul, MN. He was formerly SVP of National Book Network . . . Jim Nichols has been named Sales and Marketing Director for Consortium Book Distributors. He was formerly at Kodansha. . . Anna Johnson has moved from Scholastic to Bloomsbury USA as Marketing Director for their Children’s Book division, launching Spring 2002. She joins Editorial Director Victoria Wells.

Some doings in the art world: Max Anderson, Director of the Whitney, announced that Garrett White has been named Director of Publications and New Media. He had been Director of Publications at the LA County Museum of Art. (Meanwhile, David Ross, the previous director of the Whitney, who went on to SFMoMA three years ago, resigned from that directorship in mid-August.) Richard Dobbs, formerly the Book Manager at MoMA, has landed at the Metropolitan as the new Coeditions and Reprints Manager for Special Publications. And the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Retail has announced the appointment of Norman Laurila to the position vacated by Dobbs last year. Laurila was the owner of A Different Light Bookstores (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco), which he founded in 1979 and sold last year.

Cameron Brown is leaving Cameron Brown/Chrysalis on August 31. “Having helped to get us through a very difficult period and deliver a solution which protected most people’s jobs and ensured that all suppliers were paid, I feel it is now time to move on,” he says. “I have no specific plans for the moment but am looking at a number of different options.”


Big deal to report: three books by Clark Howard, who is a consumer advocate and the #3 daytime radio talk show host in the country, went to Hyperion for $1.5 million. Laurie Liss agented the deal, which consists of a book previously published by Longstreet Press, plus two new projects.

Broadway’s Charlie Conrad bought world English rights to An Italian in America by Beppe Severignini. It is “an Italian journalist’s memoir of his year living in Georgetown and of the odd ways of Americans (at least as far as an Italian is concerned).” Published by Rizzoli in 1995, it sold more than 300,000 copies in Italy.


The Common Review, a quarterly magazine that The Great Books Foundation launched this month, is “intended to provoke serious thought and discussion among a general audience.” Subsequent issues will be available by subscription or single copy sale. The Great Books Foundation claims to reach more than a million students. For information call (800) 222-5870 or log on to

Sales of The Wind Done Gone — whose net sales were originally projected at 15,000 — is “closing in on 200,000 copies,” Houghton Mifflin Publisher Wendy Strothman tells PT. She remarks, “Because of this case, The Wind Done Gone has entered the lexicon and is likely to be read and taught for decades.”

• Wendy Diamond, publisher of the celebrities-and-pets magazine Animal Fair, has loosed her latest pro bono book into the marketplace: Pets And Their Celebrities, with photos by Christopher Ameruoso and a foreword by John Travolta. The book includes pics of pets with Pamela Anderson, Janeane Garofalo, and Paula Abdul, and has a first printing of 80,000 copies. Every purchase also contributes to Last Chance for Animals. Get ’em while they last.

• Walker (ne Walter) Meade, publisher of Avon Books in the 1980s, has his debut murder mystery novel, Unspeakable Acts, coming from Upstart on September 20th, his 70th birthday!


Summer’s over — let the parties begin! On September 11 Book Industry Study Group celebrates 25 years at NY Public Library’s Trustees Room. Tickets: $100. Call Lisa Anzalone at (732) 583-0066.

On September 19 Book magazine celebrates the “1 million subscriber milestone” at its 3rd anniversary party at the Puck Building. Invitation only. Call (212) 849-8258 for details.

Also on the 19th, Kiepenheuer & Witsch mark their 50th year at a celebration at the Goethe Institute.

On September 21, the Association of Authors’ Representatives celebrates its 10th anniversary at a gala event at the W Hotel in Union Square. Tickets: $50. Write AAR at PO Box 237201, Ansonia Station, NYC 10023 for tickets.

Also in September. . . . The Ecco Press turns 30, and Goldberg McDuffie Communications celebrates its 20th year. Congrats to all.

• Senior & Shopmaker is hosting a reception for its latest exhibition, “A Private Reading: The Book as Image and Object,” a group show that “examines the book as metaphor in modern and contemporary art.” Thursday, September 13 from 6-8 at 21 E. 26th Street. Email [email protected] or call Betsy Senior (who is, coincidentally, married to Charlie Hayward (see August issue of PT) at 213-6767.

• EPM Communications is presenting a series of workshops on When To Target, When To Mainstream, September 10-12, 2001, at The Bottom Line Cabaret in New York. The three back-to-back conferences discuss marketing to women (Sept. 10), marketing to black, Hispanic, and Asian American markets (Sept. 11), and marketing to teens and tweens (Sept. 12). Contact EPM at (212) 941-0099.

• Will Lippincott, Publisher of Strategy + Business, tells us that the fourth quarter issue of the magazine will be devoted to business books and will include fourteen essays, written by various management gurus, each highlighting five or six titles. In addition, the magazine’s website is being relaunched Nov. 1 and will feature a list of the top 25 business books of the millennium, chosen by magazine editors, including Randall Rothenberg.


Congratulations to Peter Mayer and Inez Bon, proprietor of Dutch restaurant NL, who tied the knot on August 12th.

Congrats to Golden’s Stephen Weitzen and wife Michelle, on the birth of Isabella Fredie Weitzen on Thursday, August 9th.


HarperCollins’ beloved Editor-in-Chief, Robert Jones, died on Aug. 13 after a long battle with cancer. His memorial will be at the University Club (1 West 54) at 3 pm on September 10. (Jacket and tie required.)

Albert Vitale, Chairman of International eBook Award Foundation (IEBAF), alerted us to the death from breast cancer of IeBAF’s President and Executive Director Roxanna Frost, who was 43.

Texere’s Web

Texere may be the Latin word meaning “to weave,” but it is also the name of an international publisher specializing in books on business, technology, and finance that launched in a public-relations frenzy less than two years ago. What happened to the company whose self-stated mission is no less than to become “the most progressive and authoritative voice in business publishing by cultivating, enhancing and disseminating ideas that will inform and illuminate the global business landscape”?

Confounding some industry observers, who wonder about the odds for an independent publisher of high-end business books, Texere prevails — despite what founder Myles Thompson admits is “a tough market that we’re all experiencing.” Created in January 2000 by Thompson, onetime publisher of the successful finance program at Wiley, Texere almost immediately became a global English publisher when it bought Orion Business Books in the UK in March. The first list of 19 titles was launched in Fall 2000, just as the economy began its nose dive. But sales, which were in the “one to two million dollar range,” exceeded budget. This year another 28 are scheduled, including Hoover’s Vision by Gary Hoover, co- founder of Bookstop, and The Agent by the poster boy for authors’ control of copyright, Arthur Klebanoff. Still, this year will be difficult. “We’re assuming any recovery will be a gradual one,” Thompson says, adding that “there’s been so much over-publishing in this category.”

On the other hand, Thompson’s wife, EVP and Director of Marketing Lee Thompson, says that the breadth and range of their titles has helped get them through the crash. Think pieces are fading fast, but a book like Tom Copeland and Vladimir Antikarov’s Real Options is doing “brilliantly,” she says. And Thompson and company have no shortage of boosters. Jack Covert, president of the B-to-B division of Harry Schwartz Bookshop, calls the couple “two of the more savvy people in this industry.” Still, he acknowledges that “it’s hard to get traction in this market.” Even Gary Hoover’s book, which Covert thinks will have potential if the well-connected author gets behind it, was to have a 75,000 first printing, but that figure has since been downgraded to a more modest 25,000 first run.

Indeed, Texere seems to be taking a bit of its own financial advice. Many of its services are outsourced: it is distributed by Norton; Gail Blackhall handles its subsidiary rights; Sally Dedecker handles marketing; the website, catalogs, and promotion are all outsourced; and its publicity is done by Planned Television Arts and its parent Ruder-Finn. Finally, Texere is partially funded by — and housed in a building owned by — Swiss Re, a multinational reinsurance company. Another factor is that Texere does not generally compete in auctions, and in fact, on some books like Nassim Taleb’s Fooled By Randomness, pays no advance at all. “We are not willing to give interest-free loans,” says Thompson, who industry observers also describe as perhaps a bit pompous. On the other hand, Texere does not touch highly remunerative “buybacks,” where the author’s company will take books for distribution to employees or business associates. “We do no vanity publishing,” maintains Thompson, “no matter how profitable it may be.” That view may surprise industry players who perceive such deals to be the bread and butter of Texere’s business.

Looking to the future, Thompson plans to bump up the number of branded store sites (there are now two, one at Heathrow and the other at the Economist bookshop), and to continue publishing translations like Absolut: Biography of a Bottle (from Swedish). Like many in the post-dotcom reality, alas, innovations touted at Texere’s launch — journals, web-based applications, video conferences, ebooks, and the like — will have to wait for another uptick in the economy to weave their way into reality.

Time’s Travails

Calendar Publishing Clocks Another Year. But Is There Life After ‘The Far Side’?

The Far Side Off-the-Wall Calendar, Gary Larson’s page-a-day phenomenon that has been the number one selling boxed calendar for more than a decade, is history. “He decided that 17 years was enough,” says Michael Nonbello, VP for Andrews McMeel Publishing. “Larson wanted to go out on top.” To mark the passing of this 3-million-copy-per-year publishing manna, which concludes with the 2002 boxed calendar (the company’s still negotiating for other formats), Andrews McMeel has drummed up a final Far Side edition with six different box designs, each sporting a signature character from the cartoon. Call it the gilding on the calendar coffin. “By far the biggest calendar that was ever done — probably that ever will be done — is retiring this year,” says Mike Brown, owner of Canadian book and calendar publisher BrownTrout. “Next year everyone has to figure out how to plug the holes.”

Indeed, as the season’s new offerings hit the racks this month, calendar publishers — who comprise an estimated $300 million industry in the US — could use a few of Larson’s sure-fire laughs. Sales last year at Calendar Club, the Barnes & Noble affiliate whose 520 kiosks and mall outlets in the US account for almost 25% of all calendar sales, were “somewhat flat,” and B&N’s first-quarter results this year chalked up a $2 million Calendar Club loss. Factor in a dearth of licensed hits, a stagnant number of shopping malls in the US, and a highly fractured market teeming with new competitors — all in addition to the mercenary cycle of the six-month sales window — and you’ve got a business in no mood for jokes. “Calendar publishing,” as one gift-market veteran says, “is a very dangerous business.”

Even as they push ahead with new calendar lines and products, many publishers are bound to agree. “It’s a very difficult business at the moment,” says Charles Miers, publisher at Universe, the Rizzoli-owned company whose calendars are distributed by Andrews McMeel. “There’s a lot of competition fragmenting the market. There isn’t quite the demand for traditional subject matter that there used to be.” Miers, whose calendar line has nonetheless grown by about 25% in recent years to 60 titles, points out that the industry’s tried-and-true subjects aren’t looking so failsafe anymore. “The days of Ansel Adams and swimsuits and even Monet are wearing a little thin,” he says. “I’m not sure that the young new customer has the same allegiances that the traditional customer had.”

As license-hopping continues (the powerhouse Anne Geddes line, for example, has moved to Andrews McMeel this year), and new formats are launched and abandoned instantaneously (the ill-fated “calendar cube”), lasting allegiances of any kind seem few and far between. “Loyalty,” says Lisa Gulick, national accounts manager for California-based wholesaler Sunbelt Publications, “doesn’t seem to be a big part of the calendar business.”

Norwich Terriers, Anyone?

You might think the industry is like the kid in Larson’s cartoon rendering of “Midvale School for the Gifted,” who mightily pushes against the door that says “pull.” But some of the biggest retail players are banking on calendars, including B&N, which last year spent $11 million to take a controlling interest in Calendar Club, and was rewarded with sales of $66.3 million and an operating profit of $1.4 million for the unit. “We have a distinctly seasonal product that we’re selling at the biggest season of the year,” says John Lash, Calendar Club’s Marketing and Design Director, who adds that Larson or not, some calendars simply will not die. “The standby is animals, dogs particularly,” he says. Also tireless sellers are James Dean, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and the Beatles, known in the trade as “dead celebrities” who sell well year after year. In fact, Lash says about half of his top ten has remained the same as it was five years ago. Over the long term, such constancy has been good for business. The Austin-based company began with 63 stores in 1993, and now counts 520 locations in the US, plus 250 stores ranging across Australia, Hong Kong, and the UK. Each one carries 2,500 calendar titles, with an average price of around $11. Demographic research has shown that 60% of the company’s customers head to the mall with Calendar Club as their primary destination, and in 1999 the top store did almost $500,000 in sales.

Those aren’t bad numbers, considering that such opportunistic retailers (including the Arizona-based calendar chain The Date Place) are run by independent contractors, and generally colonize vacant mall space from September through January. The down side is that growth is slowing. With the country’s 1,000 major malls saturated, B&N and Borders (which operates its own Day by Day calendar stores) have been reduced to fighting trench warfare and have battled themselves to a stalemate. At press time the only advertised openings for Calendar Club were in Eden Prairie, Minnesota and Des Peres, Missouri, slim pickings indeed.

Moreover, those registers won’t be ringing without the requisite pop-culture sizzle. “Nothing’s hot this year,” Brown of BrownTrout says. “We went to the Licensing Show a month ago, and they were trying to sell the rights to Chiquita Banana.” Brown, whose Ontario, Canada–based company expects to pump out 11 million units of more than 700 titles this year, falls back on dogs: specifically, their calendars for each of 102 dog breeds and varieties (Black Pugs, White German Shepherds, Norwich Terriers, and Salukis are new this year). It certainly takes the edge off such vagaries as the Star Wars debacle (“the biggest bomb in the calendar business since I’ve been in it,” says Brown), and the “very disappointing” Harry Potter showing. BrownTrout’s hottest title at the moment is actually The New Girls of Maxim. As further insulation, however, Brown has been working on extending the sales life of calendars, shipping to the major chains in April. He also opened his own printing plant, Chess Press, in 1998. Run out of BrownTrout’s warehouse in Vacaville, California, the press takes care of about half of BrownTrout’s calendar printing (the remainder is handled in the Far East). “It’s a godsend to have our own printing in our backyard this time of year,” he says, adding that the press has enabled just-in-time printing, “which is one of our great competitive advantages.”

Sitting on the Sidelines

Those advantages are ever more precious in a field crowded with the likes of At-A-Glance, and calendar publisher Date Works, a unit of American Greetings. Not to mention Workman, which invented (or at least trademarked) the boxed, “Page-A-Day” concept in the first place. Workman advertises its 86 calendar titles on the 2002 list as “our leanest but most guaranteed-to-be-successful list in years.” Yet as Brown points out, the field is largely bereft, for better or worse, of book publishers. “The major publishers have watched the whole business grow exponentially, and they’ve been sitting on the sidelines,” he says. “The book publishers really missed it.” Mostly, they seem to have signed deals with Andrews McMeel, as did Simon & Schuster two years ago, when it launched a joint venture designating Andrews McMeel as the house’s calendar publisher. A similar deal was struck with Hyperion in 1998, and a licensing arrangement with Penguin Putnam allows Andrews McMeel to base calendars on book titles. Other publishers, such as HarperCollins, make use of their handy corporate siblings. Tom Dupree, marketing director of HarperEntertainment, says his unit publishes a handful of tie-in calendars for properties owned by sister company Twentieth Century Fox, including Simpsons and The X-Files, plus some Tolkien products. But all the calendars are produced by outside packagers, and though “we may continue to do more years of our current titles,” Dupree says, “I don’t expect us to have more titles than we now have on the list.”

Not all publishers are so wary. Mike Hejny, VP of Sales and Marketing for Motorbooks International, says the Minnesota-based company will publish about 20 calendars this fall and distribute 15 others, all of them in core areas of transportation and military subjects. “Our books have had a stellar reputation over the years among the enthusiasts,” Hejny says. “That has allowed us to move into the calendar business and be successful.” He says retailers such as Calendar Club turn to Motorbooks to fill in the gaps when they’re desperately seeking, say, those luscious spreads of American Farm Tractors. Most calendars are sold nonreturnable, and Hejny remains upbeat on expanding the line. “It’s a terrific business to be in,” he says, “and we’ll probably be exploring additional calendar opportunities going forward.”

You may chuckle at farm tractors (or Belgian sheep dogs, for that matter) but such calendars placed in the haunts of enthusiasts are the golden key to sell-through, says Sunbelt’s Gulick. Though attacking specialty markets is more work, greater benefits accrue from the transaction. “If you put a ski calendar into B&N, they might order 6,” she says. “But a sporting goods store might order 12 or 24.” Those looking for other nuggets of calendar wisdom will want to know that wall calendars outsell any other format three to one. And a safe bet is always Ricky Martin, who was a surprise hit last year when another title was cancelled at the last minute and Gulick put the young crooner back in rotation. Don’t touch the massively competitive market for dogs, however, and stay away from the endless cavalcades of horses and wolves. The hot tip of the day for publishers seeking a wide-open niche? Just one word, Gulick says: “Skateboarding.”

For Americanized Brit Books, A Snog Is Just A Snog


Goodbye, pudding … hello, Jell-O. That’s what millions of children recited as the battle over packaging Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for the American market flared a few years back. In the stateside edition, gelatin prevailed, while “crooked” morphed into “wonky,” school “holidays” became “vacations,” and “bobbles” were no match for “puff balls.” Blasted for its heavy hand, Scholastic went easier on the subsequent Potter books.

Though Americans are still airbrushing the nipples out of illustrated U.K. children’s trade titles — and though many editors still disrespect “Mum,” putting “Mom” in her place — the days of loutish Americanization seem to be waning. As British books invade our best-seller lists and Web-savvy American kids hit U.K. book-selling sites, U.S. houses are printing locutions formerly deemed outré.

“The early ’90s heralded a politically correct era, in which editors strong-armed racist or loaded terms,” says Susan Van Metre, senior editor at Penguin Putnam. “The trend now is toward Americanizing the spelling and punctuation, and changing only those words that lead to potential misunderstanding.” So although U.S. youngsters may have seen the last of “hooter,” when a British usage is authentic and intelligible in context, Van Metre leaves it in.

That’s a good thing, because if the wildfire sales of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging are any indication, teens (or even tweens, as the sub-teen market is known) are coping just fine. No matter that most Americans don’t know a snog from a snivel, Louise Rennison‘s novel has stormed U.S. young adult best-seller lists, suggesting a teenage Bridget Jones’ Diary. Teeming with references to spots, blokes and breastiness, the book is an unabridged lexicon of British slang: words like “swiz,” “wally” and “prat” are thick on the page. “Snogging,” of course, means kissing, and that’s what American teens want most of all.

“Competition to sound more British than their friends is so fierce that thousands of teenagers in the U.S. are writing to Ms. Rennison demanding more Brit slang,” reports the London newspaper Express. As Rennison tells the paper, “American teenagers just cannot get enough of these old-fashioned English expressions, and I think it’s probably because they are a bit rude.”

Yet teens aren’t the only ones catching the craze. In the adult trade market, even the Americanizing of spellings is no longer obligatory. “Most readers here are sophisticated enough,” says Robin Straus of the Robin Straus Literary Agency, which represents Andrew Nurnberg & Associates in the U.S. “Look at the success of Zadie Smith or Nick Hornby. Sometimes an editor will say a book’s ‘too English,’ but that has more to do with its setting and sensibility than the language.”

Foreign markets vary in their preferred version of the language. British English naturally monopolizes former Commonwealth domains such as the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. American English is meanwhile dominant in Northern Asia (particularly Japan, Korea and Taiwan), the Philippines, Central and Latin America, and any other locale conveniently located near a U.S. military base. “Getting the right English into the right market is determined by a combination of tradition, history, and current demand,” says Cyrus Kheradi, VP and Group Sales Director of the US, UK and Australia, for Simon & Schuster, “which in turn are affected by other factors, such as the rising dollar and the more stable pound.”

In parallel import markets such as continental Europe, packaging and genre also play significant roles, Kheradi notes. “A tie-in book for a Hollywood movie will be in much higher demand in American English than in British English,” he says, “as will a product linked to American holidays and Hallmark marketing, such as Halloween.” However, because buyers often base purchasing decisions on the aesthetics of packaging, U.S. and U.K. editions of the same title can be found side by side on the shelves. “Ten years ago, British publishers had a monopoly on sophisticated packaging, and American covers were more garish and text-heavy,” Kheradi adds. “We are now moving towards a blending of best practices in packaging books, particularly for those with world rights.”

Nonetheless, American English may be capturing a larger piece of the global pie. Last year a Dutch study found that one-third of the commercials on Dutch television contained English words and phrases based on American English. And in Taiwan, language students will tell you they’re not studying English — they’re learning American. In the good old U.S.A, however, things aren’t so simple anymore. The proof, as any Harry Potter fan knows, is in the pudding.

Of Jobs and Jump-Cuts

Every publishing career follows a narrative arc. For some, it’s the Proustian ebb of Swann’s Way. For others, it’s Finnegans Wake. And the most gripping career stories tend to be those that jump out of the genre altogether. As conversations with a dozen book-world veterans show, life after publishing does exist, and what’s more, there’s a world out there that — mirabile dictu — values the skills honed in editing and marketing authors. So as a companion to our look at the incoming publishing Class of ’01 (see p. 7), this month we survey the outgoing crowd and their often impressive career jump-cuts.

Going boldly beyond galleys and blads — from the top levels, no less — has been Charlie Hayward, once President and CEO of Simon & Schuster and Little, Brown, who left publishing five years ago to the month. “Sometimes it seems like yesterday,” he says, “and sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago.” After launching his own management consulting firm, Hayward helped Steve Crist and Alpine Capital go after the Daily Racing Form (the track being his passion) in 1997 and again — this time successfully — in 1998. He’s now President and COO of the company. Does he miss his old job? “The main thing I miss about publishing is the people,” he claims. But it’s a relief to find that turning an avocation into a job works: “I still love the track.”

Then there’s Michael Lynton, who left Hollywood in 1996 to become Chairman and CEO of Penguin, overseeing the purchase of Putnam by Pearson before leaving in early 2000 to become President of AOL International. Asked about his sortie, he emails PT that he misses publishing, but not “pub lunches.” Another top manager who has moved into a new direction is Willa Perlman, most recently President of Hasbro Property Group, and before that, President of Golden Books. She is now with the small consulting and recruiting firm The Cheyenne Group. The shift from S&S to Golden was, she says, the beginning of a move into different distribution channels, and an “emphasis on brands rather than the individual story.” Then Hasbro allowed her to “exploit properties in a more diverse set of circumstances,” while the latest hop (in May) to Cheyenne yields “a different vantage point to see if the balance would be better.” It’s looking good so far.

Others ride the osmotic tides between the book and magazine worlds. Bob Wallace, once of ABC News, and later Editor in Chief at St. Martin’s, moved to Talk Magazine in 1999 as Editorial Director. Laura Matthews, who spent most of her career in magazines until moving to Putnam as Senior Editor, has just returned to ’zine-land at Martha Stewart Living (see People). And Andrea Chambers, who moved from People to Putnam, where she worked until 1995 as Executive Editor, is back in magazines as Editorial Director of international editions for Seventeen and corporate owner Primedia, as well as editor of the book division and editorial projects director. Perhaps trumping them all is Michael Naumann. He’s been shuttling around Holtzbrinck, from Rowohlt to Henry Holt, where he was Publisher, back to Germany as Minister of Culture, and then Co-Publisher of Die Zeit, where he was a correspondent in Washington in the ’80s — turning a career arc into a neat circle.

Some opt for a loftier calling. Greg Tobin, SVP, Editor in Chief of Ballantine Books, left a year and a half ago to complete two novels under contract to Tom Doherty’s Forge Books imprint at St. Martin’s. His first novel, Conclave, the story of the “next” papal election, was published last month. Tobin also tells PT that since January 2000 he’s been a graduate theology student at Seton Hall, where he’s working toward a Master of Theology degree with a focus on Church history. In May 2000, he received the Jubilee Medal Pro Meritis from Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, then-Archbishop of Newark (before he was transferred to Washington, D.C. and elevated to cardinal). Asked whether he misses the industry, Tobin says, “I do miss the daily roller-coaster of book publishing, but I’m enjoying the life of an author-scholar even more than I thought I would.” Also taking a more spiritual turn is Audrey Cusson, proprietor with her husband Jeff Cuiule of Mirabai, a bookstore in Woodstock, NY branded as “A Resource for Conscious Living.” Cusson has been EVP Marketing of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, until she and her husband decided to leave NYC last year for “a simpler, more meaningful way of life in the tranquil countryside,” and buy the bookshop. Cusson says that the transition has been “remarkably smooth,” and believes that there was karma at work in their finding this particular store and town. Their advertising and marketing backgrounds have made it easier to find ways to increase attendance and sales, and books now make up about 50% of the total inventory. Also returning to more grounded bookselling roots is Tom Simon, most recently VP, This month he is opening a small bookstore, Seventh Avenue Books, in Park Slope, featuring both used and new titles, plus remainders. Strand watch out.

Pat Mulcahy has one foot in two worlds. She is co-owner of Tillie’s, a Brooklyn-based coffee bar that offers readings by local authors, like neighbor Myla Goldberg. But Mulcahy also keeps up her writing, editing and literary consulting, working with James Lee Burke and helping Quincy Jones on his forthcoming autobio. Another voyager into the semi-public domain is Ronni Stolzenberg, who was once VP Creative Marketing Director at Dell. When she saw an ad (in the New York Times) for an Associate Marketing Director for the Museum of Natural History, she decided to send in her résumé. Now she works for the museum’s Marketing and Communications Department, where her job is “getting people to come to the museum.” She’s tackling database development, as well as the launch of the museum’s new ice-cream parlor (“The Big Dipper,” natch). The job is “wildly fascinating,” she says, but she’s amazed to be using the same skills she honed in publishing.

The biggest geographical leap has been taken by ex-Ingramite Director of Marketing Sue Flaster, who just married Harald Henrysson, Curator of the Jussi Bjöörling Museum in Borläänge, Sweden. The couple “will probably be buying into a gym” while she’s “trying to learn Swedish” says Flaster, who also consults for RealRead. But the Most Fun Beyond Publishing Award may go to 44-year-old Steven Schragis, the new chief of the Learning Annex, that adult education emporium with courses such as “Telepathic Communication with Animals.” The former Carol Publishing chief sold the company for $2.5 million last year and now wrangles teaching gigs from the likes of Jerry Lewis. Those seeking radical career moves may be interested in the Annex’s upcoming course, “How to Open Your Own Laundromat & Turn Coins into Ca$h!” Then again, there’s always the ever-popular “How to Get a Job in Publishing.”

International Fiction Bestsellers

Ashcan Memories
Mauvignier Talks Trash in France, Celery Stalks Italy, and Holland Peeps at Lost Souls

The dustbin has popped open in France this month and rendered up Laurent Mauvignier’s elegiac second novel, Learning to Finish, which details the plight of a trash collector who announces he is leaving his wife — only to maim himself in a bad car wreck on the way out. As we learn from the heroine’s monologue, she takes her hubby back in hope that nursing him to health will repair the marriage as well. Psychic debris from the war in Algeria interferes, however, and then there’s that junk heap known as the Other Woman. Critics have invoked nothing less than Stephen King’s Misery, marveling at the book’s “hypnotic structure” as it lays bare “the silence of a defunct love.” As the 34-year-old Mauvignier explained, “I write like a brute, without limits.” In fact, an act of violence hobbled his writing ability when he was 16. But four years ago, he picked up the pen and out rushed his first book, Far from Them, to which Minuit’s Irène Lindon responded within 48 hours (it was published in 1999). Though it has slipped off the top ten list, the new novel won the Wepler Prize last fall and has sold over 80,000 copies in France. Rights have been picked up in Germany (Eichborn), Taiwan (Crown), and Israel (Kinneret), with negotiations continuing in Korea and China. US rights are available from agent Georges Borchardt.

Also of note in France, the beguilingly titled And Rising Slowly Into Immense Love by former journalist and feminist-provocateur Katherine Pancol rises right into the top ten. It’s a tale of love found in — where else? — the elevator, where a man (named Mann) and woman (Angelina) discover fleeting but all-out-dizzying passion on their brief ascent between floors. Alas, she’s due to be married the next day, and much amorous intrigue ensues, the upshot being a dramatic rescue from the altar that plays into Pancol’s pointedly thoughtful consideration of nonconformity and social mores. The title, incidentally, is a line from Rimbaud. Last we heard, all rights were available from Albin Michel.

The hugely popular comic actress Luciana Littizzetto puts Italy in stitches this month with Alone Like a Celery Stalk, her new volume of “high-pitch confessions” on the plentiful perils of womanhood. Every chapter takes up a different theme, probing it from both the male and female point of view and yielding a ribald collection that is said to be “caustic, irresistible, and without modesty.” As Littizzetto puts it: “Every woman, sooner or later, looks at herself in the mirror and would like to slice her face off with a machete.” While men gain points with age, she adds, “women are more like gorgonzola.” All rights are available; see Emanuela Canali at Mondadori.

Also on tap in Italy, the flabbergasting Luciano de Crescenzo has been giving readers some Of This and That in his latest volume of pop philosophy, Neapolitan style. The book ponders the oddness of time’s passage after the protagonist wanders into a secret room where time stands still, and includes a bonus trip to the underworld of Naples, all told with Crescenzo’s trademark nonchalance. (Who else could spin the pre-Socratics as “a most likeable parcel of rogues,” as the author did in his History of Greek Philosophy?) As all Italians know, the 73-year-old Crescenzo is a former engineer whose first book sold 600,000 copies and launched a career spanning 24 titles and 18 million copies worldwide. The new one had a first print run of 100,000 copies, and at press time, no rights had been sold, according to Chiara Ferrari at the Laura Grandi agency.

All of Holland has been “peeping at stranded lives” as a sequel of sorts to Vonne van der Meer’s bestselling 1999 novel The Silence of Small Things hits the lists. The new book, The Last Boat, extends the tales of the first novel, which offered a collection of seven portraits that read as short stories, each one tracking a different visitor to an island cottage that serves as a bed-and-breakfast for lost souls: a pregnant teenager, a woman dying of cancer, and a maritally challenged couple among them. The cottage’s “cleaning woman” tidies up their lives with her “special view about hospitality,” prompting one reviewer to dub the series a “modern Book of Hours.” Both titles have been sold to Germany (Kiepenheuer) and Serbia (Prometej), and US rights are still available from Contact.

India’s abuzz over Ladies Coupe, the second novel from Bangalore-based Anita Nair, which chronicles five women as they embark on a train ride in the “ladies coupe,” as the women’s segregated compartment was known in the dark ages of gender history. Things get chugging when the fortysomething Akhila suddenly decides to climb aboard and ride to Kanyakumari, the farthest point on the map of India. The women trade tales (and also trade scathing remarks about Margaret’s “drawer-of-genitalia-in-library-books husband”) until Akhila reaches her destination and flings off the shackles of her tradition-bound family. The new one is a gender-switched counterpart to Nair’s first novel, The Better Man, an “imposing debut” with an “impact that sneaks into one’s dreams.” Rights for the new one have been sold in Spain and Holland, and others are available from Penguin India.

Shackles are also flying off in Australia this month, where the biography Nancy Wake chronicles the exploits of the Australian war heroine who was one of the Gestapo’s most wanted people, and who survived in German-occupied France working as a secret agent with the French Resistance. The 90-year-old Wake is renowned for her “casual impudence” and “film-star glamour,” and given her youthful follies, a reviewer writes, “It’s hard to resist planning the film version that must surely follow.” Fortunately, Sydney journalist Peter FitzSimons captures all the right shots: “Ever conscious of the finer things in life,” says the promo copy, “[Wake] still managed to sleep in a silk nightgown, even when camping deep in the forest.” Almost 20,000 copies have been sold, and US and UK rights are available from Curtis Brown Australia’s Fiona Inglis.

Lastly in Australia, Cecilia Dart-Thornton’s first novel The Ill-Made Mute has received a big holler from the fantasy crowd, as it plunges into the history of Scotland and Ireland to spin a tale “drawn from obscure folklore and the more secret places of the human heart.” The book opens with a “horribly scarred, mute creature” that tumbles into a series of adventures on the path to an ancient treasure. Warner will publish this one and two sequels in the US, and a deal has been sealed in the UK. See agent Martha Millard.

Graduation Daze

As the flashbulb-packed parties hosted by Condé Nast’s Steve Florio wind down — and the well-burnished résumés mound up — you know the summer’s publishing courses are drawing to a close. Amid the ritual job fairs and commencement speeches, PT checked in with the summer courses to see how this year’s crop of candidates is faring as their mortarboards flip off into the global economic dust storm.

“I had fallen into the trap of generalizing about a whole generation, and this one was, to me, the Napster-stealin’-where’s-the-quick-moolah-Gimme Generation,” says Book Sense guru Carl Lennertz, who was on hand at the Columbia Publishing Course to expound upon Book Sense’s successes, shortcomings, and future plans. “What I got was a jolt of energy from and hope for the next generation.” The amps may be cranked up due to the program’s new quarters at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, where the course formerly known as Radcliffe moved from Harvard. “There’s a big difference being at Columbia,” explains Director Lindy Hess. “We’re at a place where they understand and like books and magazines.” Another bonus is that students can start hitting up brokers and doormen the moment they land in the city. “The transition from Cambridge to New York has been very difficult for students to make,” she says. “Now they can interview for jobs and look for apartments while they’re here.” The six-week course is at its 100-person capacity, Hess says, and has 19% persons of color this year. The Class of ’01 is also “a little more sophisticated” and “slightly more conservative” than in years past. Find out for yourself at the job fair (see below), but don’t be late, as over the last five years the program has averaged 93% job placement.

Meanwhile, the summer institute at NYU’s Center for Publishing unleashed 69 graduates from the six-week course last month, says Program Coordinator Megan Gleeson, adding that many students had landed jobs even before the program wrapped up on July 13. Agent Peter Rubie came on board this year as core faculty for the book program, and has been pleased with the results. “I’m happy to be a reference for any one of them,” Rubie says of the grads. “These kids are really sharp knives.” The most riveting issue for students this year? “It wasn’t technology,” says Rubie. “It was multiculturalism and diversity. They were looking for great foreign writers who should be translated, as well as books that spoke to a much broader audience than the publishing world commonly addresses.” Look out, New York. Call 212 790-3232 or email [email protected].

Beyond Manhattan, the University of Denver’s Publishing Institute boasts its largest class ever this year, with 99 students enrolled in the four-week session, which concludes on Aug. 3. Now in its 26th year, Denver focuses solely on book publishing, rather than splitting time between books and magazines, says institute Director Elizabeth Geiser. About 85% of graduates get jobs within the first post-grad months, and the institute maintains a database of all graduates for recruiting and networking (call 303 871-2570 or email [email protected]). The Denver climate doesn’t hurt, either. “People think it’s a great place to be in the summer,” Geiser says. “It sure beats being in Manhattan.”

Also getting high marks for low humidity are the two summer courses for mid-career professionals. The nine-day Stanford professional course wrapped up on July 28 with 170 students, according to Director Holly Brady, who notes that the number of international participants has “skyrocketed” to about 40%, and says the book-to-magazine ratio is about 50/50. With enrollment up, the cooling economy certainly hasn’t cut into those tuition checks. “We were worried about a slump in registrations this year, but we didn’t see it,” says Brady. “A lot of people are finding this a time to regroup, rethink, and retool their own career skills.” Nearby Silicon Valley also serves as the course’s high-tech talent pool. Call 650 725-5311 or email [email protected]. And the University of Virginia’s six-day summer course finished up on June 29, with about 30 senior-level publishing types enrolled, according to Director Beverly Jane Loo. Now in its third year, the course targeted a broad range of epublishing issues. “The biggest mistake a lot of trade houses made was to hire techies to run their new media divisions,” Loo says. Now’s your chance to repent. Call 804 982-5345 or email [email protected].