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Archives: June 2005

Secondary Market in Proofs?

ebay.jpgFearing the continued eBaying of proofs, “HarperCollins is only doing 450 advance proofs of Anansi Boys,” Neil Gaiman reports.

Weblog Copyfight wonders aloud: “How likely is it that someone would pay an eBay price for a beloved author’s work and not buy/promote the novel itself?” “Either way,” writes the weblog tech dirt, “you have to wonder what HarperCollins is really concerned about. Are there really going to be so many lost sales because some people sell the pre-release copies?”

Here’s one attempt to answer that: According to eBay’s search results, lost sales for Anansi Boys currently total $56.04 (auction price with four days remaining), plus $46.99 (price with five days remaining).

“Pillory Hillary”: Book Industry Gets Hillar-ious

hillarybook1.jpgUSA Today surveys the upcoming spate of books “pillorizing” Hillary Clinton. Here, a quick guide to the most watched-after releases:

June The Truth about Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President Edward Klein Sentinel
August American Evita: Hillary Clinton’s Path to Power (paperback edition) Christopher Andersen Avon
October Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race Dick Morris & Eileen McGann ReganBooks
TK The Case for Hillary Clinton Susan Estrich ReganBooks

Readers may have already noted that the only pro-Hillary book on this list comes from ReganBooks, the imprint of supposedly conservative Judith Regan. (Or, as friends told Vanity Fair: Regan’s “to the right of Genghis Khan.”) Nevertheless, Regan describes herself as “sick and tired of all the Hillary-bashing books.” Nevertheless2, ReganBooks is also putting out Condi vs. Hillary, co-written by a man PW‘s Sara Nelson describes as a “well-known troublemarker” with an “ax to grind.”

Winner Takes All

innocent.jpgMorning coffee makes me sick, and I can’t read this paragraph (cribbed from the LA Times) without imagining a giant swinging boat ride:

Publishing experts believe it is too soon to guess whose stories will be the most compelling, but the fact that Jackson was found not guilty swings the spotlight toward the defense [wheee!, goes the vomit -ed.]– Jackson’s own story, should he want to tell it, and perhaps a book from lead defense attorney Thomas A. Mesereau Jr.

As for the slave-wage-earning jurors: they’ll quickly learn to avoid pitching ReganBooks. “Jurors always seem to think they’re going to cash in. I find that repulsive,” Judith Regan told the Times.

In keeping with the values of our judicial system, the publisher continued: “Jurors have a completely distorted view of their own value.”

Related Reading:

  • “Jackson jurors offered $1m for book of the trial”

  • “Media go into MJ overdrive”
  • “Is juror 5 already shopping a book deal?”
  • More on Karp’s Departure

    According to PW, the editors who previously reported to Karp — including Jennifer Hershey and Susan Mercandetti — will now report to Menaker.

    As for the bigger question — Karp’s next move — Karp’s keeping mum. “I just want to take a new risk,” he tells PW. “I honestly don’t know what it will be. It may be book publishing, it may be something else … Right now I just want to take some time to think and read.”

    Have more info? Send it to galleycat at mediabistro dot com.

    Mailbox Failure

    A computer glitch just ate GalleyCat’s inbox, so if you’ve sent GC a recent email, please resend. (This plea goes out to everyone but “Leah” of “electric artists,” whose email caused the inbox meltdown. Leah: please resend nothing!)

    Revolving Door: Jon Karp

    The editor-in-chief of Random House has resigned.

    When Self-Help Isn’t Helpful

    As a reader just pointed out to me, Crown’s online excerpt for Sham: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless includes several of author Steve Salerno’s most spirit-deflating experiences at Rodale, the publisher behind The South Beach Diet.

    Below, Salerno explains why most self-help publishers find the idea of being helpful impractical.

    ***

    One piece of information to emerge from those market surveys stood out above all others and guided our entire approach: The most likely customer for a book on any given topic was someone who had bought a similar book within the preceding eighteen months. In a way that finding should not have surprised me. People read what interests them; a devoted Civil War buff is going to buy every hot new book that comes out on the Civil War. Pet lovers read endlessly about pets.

    But the Eighteen-Month Rule struck me as counterintuitive-and discomfiting-in a self-help setting. Here, the topic was not the Civil War or shih tzus; the topic was showing people “how they can use the power of their bodies and minds to make their lives better.” Many of our books proposed to solve, or at least ameliorate, a problem. If what we sold worked, one would expect lives to improve. One would not expect people to need further help from us–at least not in that same problem area, and certainly not time and time again. At some point, people would make the suggested changes, and those changes would “take.” I discovered that my cynicism was even built into the Rodale system, in the concept of repurposing-reusing chunks of our copyrighted material in product after product under different names, sometimes even by different authors.

    Worse yet, our marketing meetings made clear that we counted on our faithful core of malcontents. (Another important lesson in self-help theology: SHAM’s answer when its methods fail? You need more of it. You always need more of it.) One of my Rodale mentors illustrated the concept by citing our then all-time best-selling book, Sex: A Man’s Guide. This individual theorized that the primary audience for Man’s Guide did not consist of accomplished Casanovas determined to polish their already enviable bedroom skills. Our buyers were more likely to be losers at love-hapless fumblers for whom our books conjured a fantasy world in which they could imagine themselves as ladies’ men, smoothly making use of the romantic approaches and sexual techniques we described. Failure and stagnation, thus, were central to our ongoing business model.

    ***

    Previously on GC: Notable & Upcoming Self-Help Titles

    Too Late, Publicist Recalls Childhood Friend’s Warning: ‘Don’t Be a Weenie’

    weenie.jpgOn Friday afternoon, four young publicists from Tor Books were spotted in a corner trying to get one of them, Melissa Broder, into an 8-foot-tall hot-dog costume; it did have an air pump so the wearer could breathe. They were promoting Invasion of the Road Weenies (Starscape/Tor Books) by David Lubar.

    Finally, they zipped Ms. Broder up. Fiona Lee took her hand, or paw, or whatever, and led her across the convention floor. “Would you like your photo taken with a giant weenie?” Ms. Lee asked, over and over again.

    I think this marks the first time I’ve ever seen a NY Times writer reduced to the phrase, “or whatever.”

    Photo nabbed from NYC Photo‘s post, Interesting Creatures [at the BEA].

    The Religious Thriller: Now with Special Sauce

    thirdsecret.jpgI’ve been up all night, reading The Historian, one of the less bizarre choices in Janet Maslin’s round-up of big summer books. Also mentioned in Maslin’s motley selection (comprised of one too many whipping posts; iCon Steve Jobs, anyone?) is Steve Berry’s The Third Secret, another book in the mold of The Da Vinci Code. Maslin (presumably reading off a teleprompter written by the book’s publicist) calls The Third Secret a “lurid, churning thriller that centers on the election of a new pope,” also noting that Berry “got lucky by imagining a German-born pontiff in his late 70′s.” More importantly, though: The Third Secret‘s clergymen get lucky, too. Or, to quote Maslin, “Mr. Berry raises this genre’s stakes by providing, among other things, a hot-blooded heroine who helps clergymen break their vows.” When it comes to genres’ “stakes,” though, GC prefers the killing kind.

    “Generation Next”: Part I

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    One way to judge the popularity of the BEA’s panel discussions was to locate the boom mic operator. Was he safe inside, or getting elbowed by people preserving their hard-won spots in the doorway?

    At “Generation Next: The New Hybrid Young Editor,” the mic guy was getting bruises. In the space between the room’s doorway and its seats, a throng of people competed for the few spots where the panel discussion would be audible. (The scene could be used to illustrate a lesson about the cyclical nature of suffering: People kept leaving [and inadvertantly encouraging people in the hallway to enter] because they couldn’t hear over the din of people leaving.)

    Whether the panel discussion was worth any elbowing, I’m not sure. When good points were made, they were made in spite of the panel’s scattershot approach to topics.

    Kate Travers, an editor at Harper Collins, directed the conversation towards trade paperbacks. Book formats, she proposed, are like sisters: the hardcover’s the oldest and most glamorous; the paperback’s the youngest, most “darling,” child; and the trade paperback, Travers’ favorite, is the classic middle child: awkward, overlooked, and undervalued.

    From there, the conversation shifted towards the “larger cultural problem” of reading’s low status in popular culture. “How many 23 year olds are hanging out in bookstores?” asked Bloomsbury’s Gillian Blake (a surprisingly accurate, though miniature, facsimile of Mariel Hemingway). But, as the moderator, PW’s Steve Zeitchik, summarized: is something like Simon Spotlight the answer, or just another “cynical approach”? One response to that question came later, as Lorin Stein (FSG) reflected that “the only books I wish I hadn’t gotten involved with were the books I thought someone else would love.”

    Both Chris Jackson (Crown) and Liz Naglle (Little, Brown) proposed that editors would have a better sense of what sells, and why, if they were required to spend their time in bookstores. But the remainder of the panel was devoted less to possible solutions to the industry’s problems than getting a grip on what those problems are. [Continued in Part II]

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