School of Hard Knocks

Argentinian Aristocrats, More DaVinci,

Writers with Good Noses

As if high school reunions don’t already conjure up enough fear and trepidation, Dutch author Simone van der Vlugt (best known for her YA novels) has brought this confluence of teenage angst to a whole new level in her first foray into adult fiction with The Reunion. Sabine’s life is suddenly turned on its head when she receives an announcement about her reunion. She isn’t worried about how she looks, or how successful (or not) her life has been, but instead hones in on an event of her youth that continues to haunt her — the disappearance of her classmate Isabel. Once her best friend, Isabel morphed into the most popular girl in the school, and dropped Sabine like a sack of potatoes. But it’s Sabine who still feels guilty because she knows Isabel would not have vanished if she had cycled home with her that fateful day. Now, 10 years later, the gnawing feeling of guilt continues to grow as multiplying fragments of memory come back to her. Sabine roots around in the past and comes closer and closer to the true, terrifying story behind Isabel’s disappearance. “ “ A hugely exciting literary thriller, presenting intriguing themes, such as the suppression of traumatic events, the competition between teenagers, and also between colleagues, love, and above all, friendship.” “An asset to the Dutch thriller genre, Van der Vlugt certainly measures up to Nicci French.” Contact Chris Herschdorfer at Ambo/Anthos (Holland).

Also in Holland, a brother and sister author duo who famously dislike each other’s work, have teamed up to write “two books in one” in Murder & Manslaughter.In Doeschka Meijsing’s half, Andrea is visiting her brother Timbeer, whom she hasn’t seen for years, on the peninsula of Ortigia in Sicily. The brother and sister are the middle children in a family of five in which sibling rivalry is the rule. Much like the authors, Timbeer and Andrea are also both writers and thus an even more potent rivalry has developed between them. Holed up in Timbeer’s apartment for days on end, Andrea stews about a solemn childhood pledge she made to kill her brother, while Timbeer works furiously writing a book about a homicide case in the north of Italy (call it the OJ trial of its day). Andrea’s short visit will lead to a surprising and unpredictable development in her relationship with her brother. In Geerten Meijsing ‘s half, Manslaughter, he refutes everything that his sister has written about him. Fascinated by another family, in which a woman is the sole suspect in the murder of her child, Timbeer tries to prove her innocence from afar. The press has offered high praise for Geerten as a “writer with a good nose, a heart and amazingly beautiful penmanship,” while Doeschka was nominated for the Libris Literature Award for her previous novel, 100% Chemistry, “a short, sparkling chronicle of four generations of women,” which is under option in France. Contact Floortje Jansen at Querido (Holland).

The shifty-eyed Mona Lisa makes another grand entrance into the literary world in Mart ín Caparr ós’ Argentinian Planeta Award-winning novel Valfierno. As if we haven’t heard the name enough, Da Vinci’s famous lady has disappeared from the Louvre in 1911, and the police are hunting through every nook and cranny of France to catch the culprit. The story revolves around the prime suspect, the Marquis of Valfierno, an Argentinian aristocrat “with a criminal mind that is both warped and brilliant.” The product of an impoverished childhood, he is unjustly accused of being the ringleader of an anarchist bombing attempt and is sent to prison. After his release, he takes up employment at a brothel where he meets the Frenchman with whom he plots “the heist of the century.” Caparr ós paints a portrait of an indelible character who “creates and recreates himself with a succession of disguises, infiltrating a high-society world to which he does not belong, and inventing a prestigious though entirely bogus name for himself.” Rights have been sold to Planeta (Brazil) and Ripol (Russia). Contact Thomas Colchie for US rights and Mercedes Casanovas (Spain) for all other rights.

Also in Argentina, a recently married Agostino leaves Italy at the end of the nineteenth century for the faraway city of Buenos Aires in Griselda Gambaro’s “breathtaking story,” The Sea That Brought Us. Once on solid ground, he meets Luisa, a washerwoman who falls in love with him and bears him a daughter, Natalia, who turns out to be as strong as the current that brought her father to his new land. Suffering and deprived, she hardens her spirit until she changes her own fate, but pays a high price in the process. Family ties are put through the the ringers of the political storms of the time, the fervor of anarchists and of striking workers. In her latest novels, she pierces the “luminous and urgent center of…the most definitive truths about love, forgetfulness, tenderness, the sick body, and the loss of recognition.” Contact Gabriela Adamo of Letras Argentinas for more information.

Society and its discontents are also on the march in France this month. Meet Rudy. He’s not quite thirty and he works at a plastics plant with Dallas (who has grown so accustomed to her nickname that she’s forgotten her given name). Both of their lives are thrown into a tailspin when the plant closes down in G érard Mordillat’s epic, The Living and the Dead. Woven through this ambitious account of fifty or so characters is the love story of a young couple carried along in the stream of contemporary history. Battered by passion, insurrection and tumultuous revolts, Rudy and Dallas harbor secrets and struggle to survive in a town where hardship has torn families apart, set neighbor against neighbor, and crushed private, social and political norms. The scramble for financial survival prevails over human compassion as Mordillat gives a voice to those who normally are denied the right to speak. Awarded the Prix RTL-Lire at the Salon du Livre, the novel is an attempt by Mordillat (who is a film and documentary maker) to occupy the territory, which in his opinion, has almost entirely been deserted by television and cinema – that of dire realism. Rights are with Charlotte Riegl of Calmann-Lévy (France).

Finally, following up on the controversy involving the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and its attempt to censor works from the six countries currently under trade embargo (see PT, 4/04), Arcade has published Strange Times, My Dear, the PEN Anthology of Contemporary Iranian Literature despite the risk of fine and imprisonment. After teaming up with PEN, the AAP, and the AAUP to file suit against the US government, Arcade was issued a “general license” to “freely engage in most ordinary publishing activities” involving countries on America’s “enemies list,” but never received a direct response to the lawsuit. We salute them.

Salon du Vivre

The word salon is equally defined as a room, such as a drawing room, used for receiving and entertaining guests, or as a periodic gathering of people of social or intellectual distinction. With this in mind, the perennially chic Salon du Livre celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, continuing a very French mélange of book fair meets leisurely living room. Although the event has long outgrown its original home at the Grand Palais, the opening night retained the same bustling atmosphere of fairs gone by, with guests balancing champagne flutes and gingerly handling hors-d’oeuvres. The art in question seemed less that of literature, and more that of meeting and greeting, with the success of each publisher’s books reflected in the quality of drinks and petit fours served at their respective stands. The Veuve Cliquot of Denoel‘s booth served as the perfect apéritif for the first-rate tomes of La Suite Fran çaise by Irène Némirovsky and A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot, whereas a run of the mill bottle of Bordeaux mirrored the less illustrious success of the National Museums‘ latest publications. Some booths looked simply miserable in comparison, armed only with orange juice, but the always-effervescent Bureau International de l’Edition Fran çaise (BIEF) threw a private party with its own bartenders and waiters to advertise to the world the prosperity of the French publishing scene.

Never before had the Salon been open to such a wide variety of foreign influence, highlighted by the Cosmopolivres special section, touting 300 publishers with the literature of over 25 countries. A single look at the schedule took the visitor on a trip through Africa, Algeria, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and India, and celebrated writers like Bukowski and Jules Verne.

The fair also paid a special tribute to Russian literature, bringing in approximately 40 guest authors. By the end, over 18,000 books from the Russian booths were sold, a quarter in the original language.

A 15% decline in the number of paying visitors (down to 165,000) was optimistically attributed to the unseasonably sunny weather and the large number of free invitations issued, but balanced by the increase in the number of attending scholars, which topped 12,000.

PT thanks Armelle Weisman, a journalist for the French magazine Topo for contributing to this article

Don’t Right Them Off Yet

The slide has been slow, but inexorable:  Subsidiary Rights, once one of the biggest profit centers in publishing, has retreated over the years to a marginalized — though still essential — role in most houses. leaving foreign rights as the focus of many departments. With this reconstitution and reconfiguration, those in the business are finding that flexibility is key. Hyperion rights director Jill Sansone says her tanle at London or Frankfurt is as busy as ever, but she and her department fill any spare time they may have running their audio and calendar program. She’s also responsible for all the movie tie-ins that come to them via Disney’s Tocuhstone Pictures for which they always have world rights.

Meredith is another publisher who is focusing on foreign rights, but not because of any falloff in its domestic rights. Instead, says Editorial Director Linda Cunningham, its purview is broadening in response to a list that travels better abroad, and to efforts to increase its presence in foreign markets. Successful television shows like American Shopper, which is now launched in the UK, haven’t hurt (even though, in this case, rights belong to Haines).

The picture isn’t exactly rosy, even in foreign rights,as sales are down, especially to European publishers. Weak markets in places like Germany, resentment of US foreign policy and the rise of nationalism are all mentioned as possible causes. Meanwhile, more literary agents are holding on to these rights, giving publishers less to sell. (This is less true with illustrated books, which still need their foreign co-editions to make the numbers work on their U.S. edition.) And in a developing mini trend, some foreign rights departments are moving out of the US, to the publisher’s UK office when that option exists. Rodale moved its foreign rights to London several years ago and two academic publishers have indicated that they will do so in the next year.

The reconfiguration began in the early ’80s, as publisher consolidation eroded the rights market for paperbacks and by the mid-’90s book club consolidation squeezed those dollars too. At its height in the ’70s, sales of a book like Ragtime, or book club rights to The World According To Garp could bring in seven figures. Today’s paltry book club deals sometimes dip below a mere four figures, and most books are published in paperback by the original hardcover publisher. True there are exceptions, like James Patterson’s seven figure deal with Bookspan or Scribner’s sale to Harcourt of Temple Grandin’s ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION for significant six figures.

Even the smaller publishers, who would have auctioned their paperback rights in the past, are negotiating joint ventures with their paperback publishers in order to keep their authors happy. Walker shared Dava Sobel with Penguin and Harcourt has a relationship with MacAdam Cage, Audrey ( Time Traveller’s Wife) Niffenberger‘s publisher.

In fact, says Nina Hoffman, President of National Geographic Books and Education (and once a rights director) sub rights is an ever-decreasing profit center, to the point where now “It’s a marketing function as much as a sales function,” promoting authors and their books through serial sales and the like. At NGS the domestic sub rights department, along with special sales and custom publishing, reports into the sales department.

Susan Peterson at Baker & Taylor (also a former rights director) said that she sees the subrights market as increasingly being audio, large print and foreign rights. But even there, audio and other electronic rights are now migrating to distribution deals, handled by the sales department or an electronic publishing division.

Others agree that the distinction between the sale of the physical book, and the sale of an intangible – the right to recreate an ebook or allow the downloading of an audiobook (or some part thereof) – is quickly dissolving. One academic publisher, for instance, is folding its domestic rights into to its electronic database division. S&S now sells its audiobooks – including digital downloads – through its sales department.

Random ‘s Claire Tisne says that “the rights world is changing, but not necessarily getting smaller; it’s repositioning itself.” As the role of rights changes, Tisne seized upon the importance of looking at rights as an “extension of editorial” and emphasizing the importance of “tightening” the relationship between rights and editorial as much as possible. For Free Press EVP and Publisher Martha Levin (yet another ertstwhile rights director), it’s the relationship between the rights department and publicity that she considers important, especially on serial rights where co-ordinating them with the book’s publicity campaign is key.

At the end of the day, though, says Houghton Mifflin’s Debbie Engel, there are still many rights that still have to be sold. Book club advances are lower but the books still have to be submitted and can still earn the same money over time. Permissions has become a bigger source of revenue (see PT September 2004), and children’s rights continue to be very strong. Determined to make its rights processing efficient, and its records complete, HM invested in Nextance, an electronic contract and rights management system, which went live in late November in the trade and reference division. The other divisions will follow at some future time.

Book View, April 2005

PEOPLE

The latest changes under PW’s new management include the departures of Jeff Zaleski, John Mutter, and two other staffers. This follows the arrival of Karen Holt as Deputy Editor mid-month.

Ivan Held has been named President of Putnam. Held, who was most recently VP Associate Publisher of Warner Books, will begin his new position on April 4. According to Susan Petersen Kennedy, he will “work very closely with the newly established Executive Board of G. P. Putnam’s Sons,” including Neil Nyren, Dan Harvey, Marilyn Ducksworth, and Catharine Lynch. “They will help guide the future publishing strategy of the imprint and contribute new acquisitions to the imprint.”

Robin Corey has left S&S Children’s. Jen Bergstrom will temporarily assume some of her Simon Spotlight responsibilities. Earlier in the month it was announced that Anne Schwartz, who left S&S for Random House in February, has been joined by Lee Wade, also from S&S, and has launched a new imprint, Schwartz & Wade Books.

Peter J. Dougherty , Group Publisher for social sciences at Princeton University Press, has been named Director of the Princeton University Press, effective July 1. He succeeds Walter Lippincott, who plans to retire after almost twenty years at the press.

Jackie Cantor , VP and Executive Editor at Bantam Dell, is leaving the company. . . . Anne Kostick has left STC, where she had been a Senior Editor. . . . Knopf Sales and Marketing Director, Amanda Kauff has resigned to follow her husband, who is being relocated to London. . . . Cheryl Pientka is leaving Barbara Tolley to be Subrights Manager and an agent at the Joy Harris Agency.

Jonathan Burnham has left Miramax to become Publisher of HarperCollins, and followed by Kathy Schneider as Assoc iate Publisher. Meanwhile Rob Weisbach has gone to Weinstein/Miramax as Editor. Weisbach has been relatively quiet since he signed on as an S&S editor-at-large almost three years ago.

Meg Kearney , Associate Director of the National Book Foundation has left the organization, and there are no immediate plans to replace her. Executive Director Harold Augenbraum tells PT that publishers guidelines for the National Book Awards will be going out mid-April. 

Tom Grady , long time Editorial Director at Harper San Francisco and subsequently a literary agent, has been named Publisher of Ave Maria Press at Notre Dame.

Ann Binkley has been named Executive Director The Quills Literacy Foundation. She was formerly Executive Director of New York is Book Country.

Andrea Pinkney will step down as publisher of the Houghton Mifflin children’s book group April 8. Pinkney chose to leave following a decision by management to relocate the publisher’s office from New York, where she was based, to Boston.

Sarah Burnes from Burnes & Clegg has gone to David Gernert and may be reached at: (212)838-7777 or by email at: [email protected]

Rodale news: Stephanie Tade has gone back to being a literary agent. Randy Charles who left Rodale late last year has been named EVP/Chief Marketing Officer of the Health Sciences Division of Elsevier.

Seth Radwell , who oversaw the day-to-day operations of Bookspan‘s marketing and editorial group, has left to run e-Scholastic, the publisher’s online information and e-commerce division. Carole Baron, who left Dutton earlier in March, has gone to Bookspan in a part time position, working three days a week. Bookspan recently moved down to 15 East 26th Street. The new phone number is 212-651-7400.

Vista ‘s longtime senior executive John Wicker has left the company. Former CEO Brian Gibson, who had stepped down to serve as consultant to the company in November, will become CEO for North America.

Kim Hadney has joined ReganBooks as Marketing Director. Hadney most recently held the title of Director of Advertising and Promotion for Dutton and Gotham Books. Lynn Grady, whose place she takes, has left Regan to become Associate Publisher at WilliamMorrow, HarperEntertainment and Eos imprints. Speaking of leaving Dutton, Senior Editor Jerry Brozek has left NAL.

Liz Kessler has joined Spark Educational Publishing as Managing Editor. She comes from Scholastic where she was also Managing Editor working on corporate and government sponsored education programs for teachers. The incumbent ME, Vince Janoski has been named Business Manager for the Spark Group which now includes the Barnes & Noble Classics.

Laura Nolan is leaving Barnes & Noble Publishing where she was an editor. She can be reached at: (212) 633-3268.

Promotions

Libby Jordan has moved over to Collins as SVP, Associate Publisher where she will be responsible for overseeing the division’s marketing and direct-to-consumer initiatives.

Jordan was SVP, Associate Publisher of Morrow/Avon as well as Associate Publisher for Morrow Cookbooks. Matthew Benjamin has been promoted to Senior Editor, Collins. In this role, he will be acquiring original manuscripts in reference, as well as helping develop the Smithsonian co-branded book program. Benjamin has been with HarperCollins for 6 years.

April Events

The Open eBook Forum presents “eBooks in Education Conference” on April 14 at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium, 1221 Avenue of the Americas. The keynote address will be presented by Craig D. Swenson, the Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs at the University of Phoenix. Dr. Swenson will present “How Professionals Learn Today-Intentional Learning and the Irrelevance of Textbooks”. The conference runs from 8 am to 5 pm. The price for the day, which includes breakfast and lunch, is $99, or $49 for Open eBook Forum members. Conference information is available at www.openebook.org/education

• Small Press Center Presents the 1st Annual NYC Round Table Writers Conference on April 29 – 30, at its 20 West 44th Street location. Pitched as an opportunity to “Meet the Movers & Shakers,” the list of panelists includes Mary Higgins Clark, Patrick McGrath, Michael Connelly, Meg Wolitzer and a raft of publishers and agents. Price: 2-days: $295, one-day: $195. Go to www.smallpress.org for details.

The Humber School of Creative and Performing Arts hosts a conference in Toronto on April 14 and 15 entitled “The New Face of Publishing.” Guests include Michael Cader of Publishers Marketplace; Mike Shatzkin of the Idea Logical Company, Kevin Smokler, author of the forthcoming Bookmark Now (Basic Books); and Michael Smolens, Founder of On Demand Books LLC. Cynthia Good, who had been President of Penguin Canada and is now Director of Humber’s Creative Publishing program will be co-hosting.

• NYU’S Third Management Forum for Independent Publishers will be held on April 15-16. Among the speakers in this useful, nuts and bolts program are Nielsen BookScan‘s Jim King, Bookspan‘s Larry Shapiro, Perseus‘s David Steinberger, and Ingram‘s Phil Ollila. The price is $950 or $855 before March 18. Call 212 992 3236 or www.scps.nyu.edu/indy

Duly Noted

As of September 8, 2005 National Geographic will be distributed by Random House, until then we’re still with Simon and Schuster. They made us an offer we just couldn’t refuse.

Julie Merberg announces the launch of Downtown Bookworks Inc. (285 West Broadway, suite 600 New York, NY 10013). Merberg, who comes from Roundtable Press, is joined by Patty Brown, who had been with John Boswell and, most recently, at Roundtable; and Sara Newberry, who came to publishing via culinary school.

One time publisher of Kodansha and longtime Women’s Media Group member Gillian Jolis passed away on March 25, after several months of illness. A memorial service took place on March 29. Contributions in her memory may be made to The Group for the South Fork, P. O. Box 569, Bridgehampton, NY 11932-0569.

Congrats to Liate Stehlik, Assoc Pub Pocket Books. Liate had a baby boy, John Gallagher, 8 lbs. 2 oz. born on February, 23rd. Everyone is healthy and fine.

Politics and Prose

This story was contributed by Efrat Lev, Foreign Rights Director at the Harris/Elon Literary Agency in Jerusalem. She participated in this year’s Editorial Fellows Program at the Jerusalem International Book Fair.

Those of us living in this country and region know that everything in our lives is political; and those attending this year’s lively Jerusalem International Book Fair experienced first-hand that even a book fair can be influenced by the complicated situation in the Middle East. It was obvious that the increase in the number of attendees at the Fair should be attributed to the relative calm and the current cautious optimism felt here after the change of the Palestinian leadership. The opening ceremony of the Fair was a good indication of this, when the head of Israel’s Publishers’ Association discussed in his address the recent cease-fire negotiations. He was followed by the esteemed novelist David Grossman, who talked about a writer’s life in Israel during these difficult years, and the hopes for change in light of recent developments.

Politics proved dominant in many events at the Fair, from a panel discussion with foreign journalists who have written books about the Middle East, to the most exciting event of all–the literary exchange between Israeli, Arab and Middle Eastern writers, which took place at the Sheikh Hussein Bridge connecting Israel and Jordan. The 48 fellows of the twentieth Editorial Fellows Program, editors and agents from fourteen countries, were also greatly exposed to the politics in Israeli life, in listening to the guest speakers or in their tour of Jerusalem’s Old City.

The Bridge event, sponsored mainly by the von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, was planned and organized by Deborah Harris of Israel’s Harris/Elon Agency, who realized over the years that there has been no dialogue between Israeli and Arab authors at the Fair. Over 300 participants, including the fellows and other international publishing professionals, local and foreign press and writers and poets gathered on a beautiful sunny day to discuss literature together, trying to leave behind-if not forgetting–political differences. The atmosphere was relaxed and the discussions were held in good spirit, moderated by Michael Naumann, former German Minister of Culture. The topics of discussion were “How Does Language and Place Affect Your Identity as a Writer” and “Can Writers Change the World”. The authors and poets who participated in the discussions and readings were speakers of Hebrew, Arabic, French, English, Dutch & Turkish. To an inquiry about whether there are any real political benefits to such a meeting, noted Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua replied, “This is another drop of engine oil in the wheels of peace…for me, this may be yet another meeting of many that took place already and will continue to take place–but I will never tire of such events.” The happy faces and the extraordinary human connections made that day indicated that indeed there can, and should be a link between literature and politics.

A more industry-oriented event at the Fair was the International Buzz Forum, moderated by PW‘s Daisy Maryles, at which editors and agents presented current projects. Some of the titles discussed were Charles Lambert‘s Fern Seed (Isobel Dixon at Blake Friedmann, UK), The Lost Thoughts of Soldiers by Delia Falconer (Fran Bryson, Australia), Chosen: The History of An Idea, An Anatomy of An Obsession by Avi Beker (Scott Mendel, U.S.), and Julie and Julia: 365 days/524 recipes/One crappy apartment kitchen by Julie Powell (Wylie). The Israeli authors who created interest among the editors this year were Sayed Kashua (Harris/Elon), Etgar Keret (The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature), and newcomers Alon Hilu (Harris/Elon) and Maya Arad (Xargol Publishers).

Join the Club

Book Clubs Reinvent the Digital World

If the term ‘book club’ evokes a muddled mélange (if not somewhat terrifying dream) of Oprah covering Tolstoy in gold stickers, growing legions of like-minded enthusiasts discussing scrapbooks or maybe even booksellers in Kabul, classes filled with Scholastic catalogs offering Shrek 2 tie-ins, while exclamation-point-laden mailers emblazoned with “6 books for a dollar!” fall from the sky, well, join the club.

This increasingly bloated term now refers to a variety of disparate categories – from reading groups to the recommendations of the Today Show and Oprah. Exacerbating the confusion, book clubs’ individual identities became obscured in the 2000 joint venture between Bertelsmann and AOL Time Warner that formed Bookspan, the 40-club-strong Goliath of the industry. The new name constantly provokes misunderstandings, either because it is confused with VNU’s Bookscan, or because the corporate entity acts as a stand-in for its discrete parts (Bookspan as Book-of-the-Month Club, or the Literary Guild, Bookspan as all of the Doubleday clubs combined).

With such disheveled semantics, it is difficult to pin down, what exactly people are rallying against when they vow (as a particularly vehement blogger did recently) never to join a book club, “short of being in prison, living in some remote country, or being socially isolated in the extreme.” In a recent survey of middle-aged readers, it was clear that the surveyees didn’t distinguish between discussing books in a group or paying for monthly shipments — but they didn’t want either.

Reading groups, however are going gangbusters (to use a favorite phrase of Bookspan honcho Markus Wilhelm) and layoffs and “reorganizations” to the contrary, book clubs may yet have some life left in them. What is dying is the definition of just what that is.

The New Clubs on the Block

Throughout decades of expansion and proliferation, book clubs remained anchored in their “value propositions” as Ruth Stevens, president of e-marketing strategies and veteran of BOMC and Time Life, described them: editorial selection, the bribe (X number of books for $1 when you join), and the convenience of direct shipments. By the late ‘90s the first and third value propositions had been hijacked, and only the bribe was left to seduce an increasingly savvy and wary public.

But once again, the equation is shifting, as publishers become online retailers, on-line booksellers begin to offer memberships (Amazon Prime), as well as on-line reading groups (B&N’s ) and everyone gets into the continuity biz. Audible has been the most obviously successful (investor lawsuits to the contrary) by offering some 400,000 users a flat fee membership that buys them audio books at an average of $10 a pop.

Bookspan’s latest endeavor is Zooba, which, though still beta testing, dramatically differs from the original club’s model, and offers the venture a real shot at a sustainable model. Similar to Time-Life continuities, Zooba members pay $9.95 a month to receive the hardcover book of their choice, until they cancel their subscription. Exclusively on-line, the snazzy site — replete with bestsellers, and a virtual host that welcomes you and then follows your cursor with her eyes — advertises its affiliation with Bookspan, by splaying “Brought to you by Book-of-the-Month Club” across the top of the screen, even while asserting independence. Another Net-Flix style venture, also developed in 2000, is Booksfree, the on-line, membership-based book rental site. “We bring the library to your home,” says Doug Ross, president and CEO of the company. Although comparatively small in size, Booksfree’s membership base is double what it was just two years ago. Supplied by distributors Ingram and Baker & Taylor, Booksfree also rents out audio books via snail mail (like Audio Queue, Recorded Books, Simply Audiobooks, and ZDag), but is the only company that currently has such a concept with books. “One of the benefits of our service…is the ability of members to try new authors without losing any money as they would if buying the books,” Ross said. The resurfacing of rentals as a way of saving money by erasing commitment is akin to the used book market where readers are in possession of books for a certain amount of time before earning their money back through reselling.

In the virtual world of the spoken word (where Audible has rapidly expanded since becoming Apple iTunes‘ audiobook partner) Media Bay, a company similar to Audible that got its start when Book-of-the Month sold off its Audio Book Club, is just now segueing from selling hard goods primarily via mail order to “digital distribution via wireless and internet downloads.” On March 1 the company announced that it will offer downloads of S&S Audio titles through its partnership with the MSN Music service. Meanwhile, a new generation of legal P2P file-sharing networks are also becoming vehicles for audiobooks, such as LimeWire (where users pay a flat rate for an unlimited lifetime membership) and Wurld Media‘s “Peer Impact” beta site, where members pay for individual songs, and soon other media, but then receive credit for file sharing.

What remains to be seen is whether, as media converges into a few sturdy subscription models, where paper and ether are interchangeable and credit card billing is the standard, the arcane distinctions between royalty deals and retail discounts, between exclusive and nonexclusive deals, and between retailers, clubs, publishers and file-sharing networks will persist. “I’ve been saying forever, if the book clubs become like an on-line bookseller, why should they be getting things any cheaper?” asked Michael Cader, founder of Publishers Marketplace. For now, precedence presides, and until the publishers pull the plug, or online retailers begin to demand similar deals, precedence rules, even as the clubs break away from the models that came to define them

History and Hysteria

History and Hysteria : Vampire Invade europe, Japan’s Humbert Humbert, French Firefighters Go Macho

Just as it seemed the somnolent retail toy market was perking up, with strong late-December sales and words like “optimistic” floating through the press, this year’s lackluster Toy Fair served as a reminder that it’s going to take more than a nuzzling T-Rex to bring the industry out of its slump.

The largest to date, boasting 1600 exhibitors from 31 countries, attendee registration for “Play Meets Profit” was reportedly up 18%, and although the miles of snaking line dividers seemed to suggest that organizers had planned for a descent of the hordes, the absence of people waiting in lines called into question where exactly that 18 percent was hiding.

The newest addition to the fair was the Reading, Writing and Rhythm section that grouped all of the publishers – from industry giants Scholastic and HarperCollins to unknown independents Knowing and Growing and ee publishing – in one aisle. The section also attempted to cash in on the booming children’s audio market, an endeavor that might have been successful had the aisle of choice not been aisle 3000, located in what turned out to be the Jersey of the Javits, (which, in a year filled with talk about experimental marketing, and the importance of product placement in innovative venues, was ironically ineffective).

Apart from Scholastic and Klutz, which were buzzing near the entrance, Time Warner, Disney, HarperCollins, Silver Dolphin (the AMS imprint), Wiley, Evan Moor, Random House, Harcourt and Candlewick were all empty. In some cases, not even the exhibitor was present, and the stands were left to fend for themselves. Although Usborne’s distributor EDC (also empty) said they didn’t notice a large difference in crowd size after being subsumed by RW&R, other publishers were more pessimistic, noting that not only was attendance sluggish, but that buyers who did manage to wend their way to the far end of the fair were doing much less on-the-spot buying than in years past.

Not withstanding the above, Reyne Rice, Toy Trends Specialist for the Toy Industry Association, said that they had received a “very good response” to the Reading, Writing and Rhythm section, and that it “will be back next year.” But to the casual observer, publishers who opted out of the RW&R conglomeration – like publishing newcomer University Games (with their enormous right-at-the-front-door spread), Lisa LeLeu Puppet Show Books, and Soft Play – seemed much more pleased than those who didn’t. One vendor near the back wall managed to put a positive spin on things, however, as he sat eating chocolates in his empty booth. “It could be worse,” he said. “I’m just happy I’m not across from the guy with the washboard ties.”

KAGOY is the Word

“Kids are getting older younger” or KAGOY (as the sassy industry acronym goes) was the catch phrase of the moment, after high tech toys for tots offered a sunny respite from an otherwise gloomy overall retail decline. According to The NPD Group electronic learning and youth electronics toy sales in the infant/preschool and learning/exploration categories were up 10% to 19% respectively, putting a spotlight on the diaper demographic.

“Pre-School is hot,” said Chris Campbell, SVP Marketing at Publications International, emphasizing what has long been known to be a pillar of licensing activity. “Kids are constantly exposed to progressively more sophisticated, interactive opportunities,” he said, “and if you look at product going forward, the majority will have some level of interactivity with an electronic component.”

With 90% plus market share in the sound books business, PIL has a slew of interactive books for young kids. Their hallmark product, the Story Reader, is a portable electronic case that holds refillable books, and automatically recognizes the page that the child is on, reading out loud accordingly. After selling 1.5 million units since it debuted in 2003, PIL has plans to crack the even younger market by introducing a My First Story Reader aimed at children six months to age three (and featuring Sesame Street, Winnie the Pooh and Baby Einstein) this fall.

One of the most exciting PIL sound books, however, was the Sponge Bob cash register book that will come fully equipped with a scanner that scans barcodes inside the book and then posts the total on the attached cash register’s LCD screen. The register acts as a calculator as well, with a functional money-filled drawer that pops in and out. For those shopping-savvy toddlers who know that plastic is the way to go, the book also comes with a credit card that keeps track of purchases, allowing the child to learn the joy of addition and subtraction by racking up debt.

KAGOY doesn’t just mean trickle down high-tech, however, and already a “pendulum swing toward low-tech products” can be seen as well, Rice pointed out. Anticipating the stress that such a frenetic techno-gadget world can induce, parents are jumping the gun and buying low-tech to counteract the onslaught, snatching up yoga videos from Kids Musical Yoga and relaxation CDs from Joy Stories for their newborns to three-year-olds.

Now, if only Starbucks would come on board with chai flavored breast milk…

Can You Say Buen Negocio?

As an aside, Spanish was everywhere at this year’s fair, from product lines (1/3 of PIL’s line now has Spanish language equivalents) to the chatter in the aisles. In one of the newest successful developments in the growing English/Spanish asociación, Baby Einstein was licensed by Disney to AMS’ Silver Dolphin for distribution in Mexico. According to Jeanne Mosure, Disney’s VP Global Retail Markets and Sydney Stanley, AMS’ VP Product Development, the joint venture, Silver Dolphin En Espanol, launched with 12 titles in 2003, followed by 8 more in 2004, and was hugely successful (fueled, no doubt, by Costco’s growing presence south of the border). This early success prompted AMS/Disney to test distribution for the same Spanish language titles in the US via PGW. Plans for this year include expanded distribution to Chile and Argentina.

Book View, March 2005

PEOPLE

Karen Holt has been named Deputy Editor at PW, reporting to Sara Nelson, for whom she had worked at Simba. Holt came from The Book Standard and she starts March 14. Michael Coffey will become Executive Managing Editor. Meanwhile, erstwhile PW Editor Nora Rawlinson has joined Time Warner Book Group in the new position of VP Library Services, reporting to Maureen Egen.

Comings and goings at Random include: Publishing Director of the Modern Library David Ebershoff is stepping down to become Editor-at-Large, while Penguin’sJane von Mehren will become publisher of trade paperbacks for Little Random, reporting to Gina Centrello. Jennifer Hershey starts at Random House on March 14, as Editorial Director, reporting to Jonathan Karp. She spent the past three years at Putnam. Susan Mercandetti, Senior Acquisitions Editor for MiramaxBooks, joins Random on April 4 as Senior Editor. Lee Boudreaux, who left Random House in late January, has gone to Ecco/HarperCollins as Executive Editor.

Speaking of Harper, Executive Editor Mark Bryant is leaving, and Olga Vezeris has left Harper Audio. She is now available for freelance editorial, reading, book doctoring etc., and may be reached at 212 744 8842, [email protected] Jacqueline Murphy was named Executive Editor, Harper Audio, earlier in the year. . . . And Susan Friedland retired from Harper at the end of February and left her forwarding address: [email protected]

Chris Mckenney , who had been EVP/COO, resigned from his position with PGW, effective February 18th.

Herman Graf has gone to Hylas Publishing as a general business consultant, overseeing trade sales and working with NBN. He will also oversee the catalogers and co-op operations as well as develop a school and library market base. Marketing Manager Joyce Stein has left the company.

Mary Hogan Wilcox joins Houghton Mifflin Children’s Books in the new position of Director of franchise publishing. She will “oversee the editorial direction and execution of Houghton Mifflin and Clarion franchise publishing initiatives” and work on “brand extension publishing opportunities” within the company’s backlist. Wilcox was Editorial Director at HarperFestival.

Christopher Reggio , who was the Associate Publisher and Director of Adult Trade Publishing at Readers Digest is leaving to become Publisher of books at TFHPublications, the pet book publisher based in New Jersey.

Pat Eisemann has been named Assistant Director of Community Affairs and Media Relations at the New York Times, reporting to VP Marketing, Alyse Myers. Most recently she was the Director of Publicity at Scribner.

S&S Children’s Publishing is establishing a new Merchandise Division as part of a plan to enter the coloring and activity marketplace. Steve Weitzen has joined the company as SVP and Publisher, Merchandise Division. Weitzen comes to S&S from Big Tent Entertainment LLC. He was at Golden prior to that. And at Spotlight Entertainment, Jennifer Suitor has been made Director of Publicity , reporting to SSE VP and Publisher Jen Bergstrom. Suitor held the same position at ReganBooks.

Dave Griscom has moved to Klutz as a National Accounts Manager (handling B&N, Borders & Wholesalers). He had been at Clocktower Press and previously, at Random House.

Bookspan moves to 15 East 26th Street as of March 14. The general phone number will be 212-651-7400 and there will not be any individual phone extensions. Meanwhile, in what looks like the beginning of a major absorption of editorial under the marketing umbrella at Bookspan (see story, page 1), Brigitte Weeks’ position as Editor in Chief has been eliminated; Patty Gift has left Bookspan for Sterling, where she will report to Steve Magnuson. More positions in editorial and marketing are to be eliminated, according to industry tea leaf readers.

Christopher Sweet has left Abrams for Vendome. Susan Enochs has been named Director of Marketing for Abrams. She was Director of Sales and Marketing for Monacelli Press. . . . Phil Friedman, most recently at OUP has gone to HarperInformation to take the job vacated by Steve Hanselman at the end of last year.

As widely reported, Carole Baron has decided to step down from her role as President of Putnam and Dutton after six years. Brian Tart, previously Dutton Publisher’s, will now also be named President of the imprint. Susan Peterson Kennedy assumes responsibility for Putnam. . . . Meanwhile, Mark Chait joins NAL as Senior Editor, focusing on military fiction and nonfiction, as well as pop culture and general nonfiction for men. He was at Hyperion. The company has laid off a number of back-office and sales positions. No exact number as yet, but the cuts reportedly come at Viking and Putnam in the U.S. as well as other divisions at Penguin U.K.

Ed Monagle , former SVP of Finance for Scholastic, has left the company and may be reached at 732 259-2027.

Betsy Lerner has become a partner in the newly formed agency Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. Lerner had been at The Gernert Company, The beginning of a new year seems to have prompted some early spring cleaning, with an unusual number of moves around the industry. Elisa Petrini joined Vigliano Associates as a VP and Literary Agent. Petrini will be based in the agency’s new Manhattan offices at 405 Park Avenue.

Susan Bain has joined Sourcebooks as National Accounts Manager, Trade Group. She was previously Field Sales and Marketing Manager for Kensington Publishing. And Jennifer Downey has been appointed National Accounts Manager, Independent and Educational Bookstores.

Pam Morlett has been named Publisher of Thunder Bay Press and Director of adult proprietary publishing for AMS. She was category buyer for AMS and replaces Ann Ghublikian who may be reached at 413 698 8007.

PROMOTIONS

Carl Raymond has been appointed Publishing Director, Adult Books for DK Publishing, reporting to Bill Barry. Raymond joined DK in March of last year as Director of Marketing from ReganBooks where he had held the same title.

Meanwhile, Christopher Davis has announced his plans to retire from the company.

Anthony Chirico was named President, Knopf Publishing Group. He was previously EVP, COO. . . . Scott Matthews was promoted to the post of SVP and Publisher of Random House Audio and Large Print, reporting to David Naggar, adding responsibility for the children’s audio lines Listening Library and Imagination studio.

At HarperCollins, Tom Ward has been promoted to the newly created position of VP, Director of Business Affairs and Associate General Counsel, reporting to Chris Goff .

Lisa Gallagher has been named Publisher of the William Morrow, HarperEntertainment and Eos imprints. She reports to Michael Morrison, President and Group Publisher HarperMorrow. She was Associate Publisher.

FEBRUARY EVENTS

NYU’S Third Management Forum for Independent Publishers will be held on April 15-16. Among the speakers in this useful, nuts and bolts program are Nielsen Bookscan‘s Jim King, Bookspan‘s Larry Shapiro, Perseus‘s David Steinberger, and Ingram‘s Phil Ollila. The price is $950 or $855 before March 18. Call 212 992 3236 or www.scps.nyu.edu/indy

March is Small Press Month at the Small Press Center and on Wednesday, March 16 at 6 pm The Women’s National Book Association presents University & Academic Presses – New Challenges, New Directions, a panel discussion. Tickets are $10; $5 for students and Small Press Center members; free for WNBA members. For information call 212-208-4629. For information on others Small Press Month events email [email protected], or go to http://www.smallpress.org/.

DULY NOTED

At the Books for a Better Life Awards on February 28, WHAT TO EXPECT co-author Heidi Murkoff and former CEO of Bantam, Oscar Dystel were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Speaking of Dystel, Bantam President (and one time assistant to Dystel) Irwyn Applebaum described his genius: “while Oscar had the soul of a reader, he had the brain and drive of a businessman.”

‘Faction’ Seizes Korea

Though the personal life of Abraham Lincoln has, of late, been fodder for American readers, it may come as a surprise that Honest Abe, along with other prominent American historical figures, has become a figure of interest in Korea. “For awhile there, it seemed all anyone was interested in was our Lincoln-related backlist,” including Carl Sandburg’s two-volume bio, reports Kent Wolf, Subsidiary Rights Manager at Harcourt. By most accounts, faction books — blending fact and fiction — were the in thing in Korea this year with historical novels (particularly those dealing with Korea’s national heroes), topping bestseller lists. Following in the ranks of Angels and Demons, The Rule of Four, and The Dante Club, the Korean author Lee In Hwa’s Habiro has also played a role in the faction boom.

Regardless of these successes, last year’s turnover in the publishing sector was “the worst since an economic crisis struck the nation in 1997, and the outlook for 2005 is not much better,” according to Seung Hyun Moon, Manager, International Cooperation, for the Korean Publishers Association. Nationwide economic woes have led to a shrinkage in the overall size of the domestic publishing industry in Korea over the last three years, with a reduction in the variety and total number of books published, yet these same burdens have had a surprisingly serendipitous effect on the industry. Self-improvement titles are slowly making their mark as financial difficulties have drawn people to books on how to invest and become the next millionaire. In fact, six out of ten bestsellers are non-fiction titles, most of them focused on self-improvement and investment. Even the ponderous Trends in Korea, 2010, compiled by the LG Economy Research Institute is on some bestseller lists, as Koreans look for a light at the end of the tunnel.

On a more promising note, Moon adds that he expects the trend toward joint ventures, following that of Random House JoongAng (formed exactly one year ago), to continue into 2005. According to Y.S. Chi, President of RH Asia, who oversees the operation on behalf of RH, the venture thrived in its first year, “financially, qualitatively, and in terms of organization.” Though cognizant of the weakness in domestic consumption, “we are being aggressive in trying to change how business is done in Korea,” and better reviews and marketing are all promising signs. The Korean market is also interesting in that it is “rich and diversified in terms of its channels,” he said, noting that books are sold in chains independents, supermarkets, and even door-to-door.

In addition, a “Korean Wave” is gaining steam in Asia as copyright selling (particularly of books related to Korean films and soap operas) to other Asian countries is projected to grow further. The e-book market is also expected to grow in 2005, from a market volume of $3 million to $7 million, Moon reports.

Even though Korea is currently a tough market for fiction, authors who have established a foothold in the country are trusted and their success is all but guaranteed. Lara Allen, Foreign Rights Manager at HarperCollins, reports that Julia Quinn, one of HC’s best-selling romance authors is the top author of her Korean publisher, Shin Yong Media. “They have an aggressive romance market, and they also seem to buy a lot of religious titles,” Allen said.

Korean authors have somewhat consistently been introduced to the North American market, though most works published in the US or other English-speaking countries only sell a few hundred copies or less, according to Heidi Kim of the Korea Literature Translation Institute. She adds that there are many promising Korean authors who have yet to reach the US market including Seong Seok-je, who writes of thugs, thieves, villains and vagabonds; Shin Gyeong-suk, whose writing is known for its introspective quality; and Gong Jiyeong, one of the most recognized women writers in Korea. In the hopes of bringing a taste of Korea to the US, children’s educational publisher Woonjin is establishing a US outpost named Bearport Publishing headed by veteran President and Publisher Kenn Goin who will publish their first list this spring

With Korea slated as the guest of honor at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the Korean government is pulling out all the stops, spearheading several projects including “100 Books from Korea,” with the aim of translating and publishing 100 Korean books into any one of six languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese).

Ink Slingers Up the Ante

Shortly before the news broke that Sara Nelson
would be taking the helm at Publishers Weekly, Jerome Kramer, Editor-In-Chief and Managing Director of VNU’s US Literary Group, says he got a call from her explaining that, due to a conflict of interest, she wouldn’t be able to write that regular column they had planned for VNU’s soon-to-launch The Book Standard. Talk about conflict of interest, these two will soon be direct competitors, vying for the limited time and resources of publishing’s elite.

Planned for a Jan. 27 launch, The Book Standard’s website and e-newsletters will benefit from its close relations with Nielsen BookScan, Kirkus Reviews, Hollywood Reporter, and Billboard magazine. Kramer envisions a website that will include news and reviews, as well as lots of numbers and charts — but, contrary to many’s expectations, he plans these numbers to complement analysis. In short: He claims not to be intimidated by Publishers Weekly, despite his fondness for its new chief. “We are going to strive to be an engaging, bright, literary and fun source of information, and we’re going to try to limit the amount of snark in our coverage — because that’s something I think gets in too easily in this industry,” he said. He is basing The Book Standard on the coverage he thinks has been absent in most of the industry periodicals, and plans to liven up—and speed up—the discussion of trends. “Nobody’s ever done charts; they’ve done lists, but not charts. The Nielsen piece is ours and ours alone. And I don’t think you can cover a business without good metrics and data,” Kramer said. The company has been sending out its Chart Alerts for about two months, and Kramer said the response has been good so far. (To sign up, go to www.bookstandard.com.)

In other VNU news, Kirkus Discoveries should launch any day now, Kramer said. This free monthly HTML newsletter accepts submissions from self, e-published, and POD authors, and then reviews them, applying the same criteria it would a book from any of the large publishing houses (“the reviewer shouldn’t know” who published it, Kramer said). Authors pay $350 per review, and this comes with the caveat that the review could be negative.

Kirkus is also negotiating with a publishing partner to start a sort of “American Idol” for literary types, Kirkus Literary Awards, a yearly contest for unpublished and un-agented titles. The winner’s book will be published.

Publishers Weekly

So, is Nelson ready to go up against that kind of competition? “PW has both the reviews that Kirkus has, and the rights reporting potential of PublishersLunch,” she says. “ We also have a staff of reporters and writers and editors. PublishersLunch does some excellent reporting, but I don’t think the online medium allows for the kind of pieces you can do in a magazine. And as far as I can tell, the emphasis at thebookstandard.com is on numbers, not news.” She has mentioned elsewhere that she plans to redesign the magazine, and then shuffle and add to the web products.

Like Kramer, Nelson thinks of books as a form of entertainment, and one that should appeal to general readers. “PW now serves booksellers, publishers … and related media (i.e., film and TV folks), among other groups. No groups will be de-emphasized, but if we do what we’re doing well, we’ll be able to add or expand some groups,” Nelson said, pointing to the smaller, but not insignificant number of “civilians,” or book lovers who want in on the biz.

In a Mediabistro.com interview, Nelson admitted that leading an established staff and publication will have its challenges. “It’s a question of sort of releasing yourself from some of the things that have existed,” she said.

Publishers Marketplace

As the independent in this mix — and the one with the largest circulation — Michael Cader has the privilege to “believe in constant expansion, experimentation, and improvement, rather than the more traditional redesigns and relaunches.” That said, here are some of his plans for this year: his first day-long conference in the spring; PublishersMarketplace’s first print edition, a series of financial books based on its LunchDeal database; and a recurring series “looking more deeply at some ‘big questions’ regarding the future of the business” as well as “unexploited opportunities.” And, fans, stay on the lookout: He off-handedly mentioned a possible spin-off site or two.