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Archives: March 2006

World Big Enough for Friedman & Miracle(Still Flat)

Last fall, we told you about a lawsuit filed against Thomas Friedman and FSG by Ed Miracle, the artist who claimed the original dust jacket for Friedman’s The World Is Flat used his painting of Columbus’s ships falling off the edge of the earth without permission. Well, it turns out that Miracle was ticked off by a lot more people, as the full list of defendants included “Holtzbrinck Publishers Holdings,LLC, Audio Renaissance, Sound Library, St Martin’s Press, Picador, Thomas L. Friedman, Dean Nicastro, Amazon.com, Inc., Royce Carlton,LLC., Barnes & Noble,Inc., Borders Group,Inc., Paradise Cay,Inc., Latitudes & Attitudes (FTW Publishing), Yale University, and Bookspan.” I say included because we just got an email from Miracle’s agent informing us “the litigation has been amicably resolved and the terms of the resolution are confidential.”

I know, I know, you’re thinking, “I recognize most of those other names, but Dean Nicastro?” He’s the one who designed the cover with that image the first time; you’ve also seen his work on other FSF books like Milton Hatoum’s The Brothers, David Bezmozgis’s Natasha, and Albert Sánchez Piñol’s Cold Skin. “And Royce Carlton?” That’s an agency that books Friedman’s speeches; I guess they must have used the original cover art on their website or something. Anyway, I bet FSG is glad they got that out of the way before reissuing the hardcover with a bunch of new content in a few weeks…

Goodwin gets $50K Prize; Urrea gets the Kiriyama

The New-York Historical Society has named Doris Kearns Goodwin its newest history laureate and given her its first $50,000 prize for American history for her latest effort TEAM OF RIVALS. It’s certainly a much more positive piece of news for Goodwin, who’s managed to revive her career somewhat after the tumult surrounding her previous book

Meanwhile, Luis Alberto Urrea has taken the Kiriyama Prize for fiction (Piers Vitebsky won for non-fiction) which rewards winners with $15,000 for literature that contributes to greater understanding of and among the peoples and nations of the Pacific Rim and South Asia.”

Vladimir Putin: Fake Writer?

Sure, it’s barely at the outskirts of our publishing news mandate, but when the president of Russia gets caught plagiarising on his master’s thesis, I can’t help but bring it up. According to Brooking Institution research reported in the Pittsburgh Review-Tribune, “Putin copied significant chunks of a 1978 textbook by Pitt professors William R. King and David I. Cleland and passed it off as his own.” I guess we can look forward to first editions of Strategic Planning and Policy popping up on eBay any day now… The professors, who don’t even hold the copyright on the book, are taking the news in good stride. “Maybe I should offer to become president of Russia,” King quips, “but I don’t really want to live in Moscow.”

So far, the defense out of Russia is pretty laughable. According to The Moscow Times, “it was unclear…whether Putin had even read the thesis, which might have been intended to impress the Western investors who were flooding into St. Petersburg in the mid-1990s.” (This line of reasoning was also invoked in the story’s most significant U.S. media hit, a Washington Times article published last Friday.)

Pontificating on publishing

Tomorrow evening at 7 PM, this particular Galleycat will be joining Jonathan Karp (of Warner Twelve, or whatever the new name shall be) Akashic’s Johnny Temple and able moderator and CJR Daily Editor Bryan Keefer at Makor to discuss, as it’s billed, “A Manuscript and a Magic 8-Ball: Secrets to Success in Publishing Today.”

Tickets are $12 in advance; $15 at the door, and it promises to be an entertaining evening. Hope to see you there!

What’s the sound of 5 million books dropping?

That would be the launch of the paperback edition of a tiny, not-so-successful book called THE DA VINCI CODE, natch. But no matter what you might think of the content or premise, it’s awfully hard to argue with success on the order of 43 million copies sold around the world, as the Hartford Courant’s Carole Goldberg reminds us. So why has the book been so successful for so long? The Chicago Tribune’s Julia Keller & Patrick Reardon ask around: “It is the inhalable book,” declares Donna Seaman, associate editor of Booklist and author of “Writers on the Air: Conversations About Books” (2005). “Everything about it is so charming.”

And so flattering: As Seaman notes, readers feel smart because often they’re figuring out the clues before the book’s characters do. “Dan Brown tricks people into thinking they’re getting an education. It’s `cultural history lite.’ People feel they’re benefiting.”

So if for some reason you still don’t own a hardcover copy, as of today you can pick up a mass market edition for $7.99 or a trade paperback version for $14.95.

Meanwhile, Lisa Rogak, author of an unauthorized biography of Dan Brown, attests that the ongoing lawsuit against him by the HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL guys stems from a lifelong addiction to borrowing. But is it stealing? That’s a whole other question…

The most powerful woman in UK publishing

The Scotsman profiles the woman who can unite Piers Morgan and Jeremy Clarkson in all their feuding glory, change the face of the book industry and affect which ones get sold. Who is it? Amanda Ross, of course, the booker for the Richard & Judy Show:

As executive producer of Richard & Judy, Ross decided three years ago to introduce a book club. Channel 4′s executives were sceptical, but Ross had seen what a book club did for the Oprah Winfrey Show in the US and was convinced that success could be replicated in Britain.

She’s been proved spectacularly right. So right publishers have long known that a discussion of one of their authors’ works in the ten-minute book club slot on the Wednesday editions of the show is usually enough to turn it into a bestseller.

They call this “the Richard & Judy effect”, and in sales terms it’s colossal: at least one in every 50 books sold in British bookshops is reckoned to be down to its endorsement on the show. Proportionately, that makes Amanda Ross even more influential than Oprah.

Not bad, huh? Of course, when someone can be so powerful as to affect cover design, she can invite some incendiary comments (like Virago’s Carmen Callil crying ‘she can take a running jump!’) but Ross, who works in a converted polystyrene factory in Kensington, takes her power in stride. “They know I know what sells,” Ross says. “The book that proved that was Cecilia Ahern’s debut novel PS, I Love You. When the publishers asked me what I thought of its cover, I said, ‘I’m not going to get Richard sitting there with a pink book!’ They changed the cover to blue and that was it.

“Now the publishers all send their covers to me and we can change them if we want. It’s important for us that the books we promote are universally appealing.”

Licking the Hand That Feeds Them

Those of you who were reading Beatrice before I became a GalleyCat know my feelings about Page Six and HarperCollins: “Where others might see a conflict of interest, they see powerful synergy.” They’re at it again, leading off yesterday’s gossip column with Chris Andersen’s “scandalicious new bio packed with fresh dirt on the world’s most reclusive diva,” Barbra: The Way She Is. There’s plenty of dirt dished—apparently Diana wasn’t the only person to fool around with both Prince Charles and Dodi Fayed!—but nary a mention of the book’s publisher: William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins, which as we all know is owned by News Corp., the owners of the Post. Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, attempting to obscure such financial ties by simply omitting the name of the book’s publisher has been a standard evasion throughout the Post ranks.

Journalist Turns Balladeer

rubinstein.jpgOne of the many writers I kept running into in Charlottesville last weekend was Julian Rubinstein (right), who’s apparently been making the rounds on the book festival circuit with his acoustic guitar, singing “The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber” (MP3 file), quite possibly the best song ever based on an Edgar-nominated true crime story. And as he explained to me as he was leaving the Saturday night reception to lead a group of writers in an impromptu field trip to the ice skating rink across the street from our hotel (oh, if only my camera’s battery hadn’t died), that’s only the prelude to an all-star audiobook recording which goes on sale through iTunes next week. Readers include Eric Bogosian, Gary Shteyngart, Arthur Phillips, Samantha Power, Darin Strauss…and Jonathan Ames.

Marvel Brings Out Its Dead

marvelzombies1.jpgNow that I’ve had a chance to catch up with the local papers after being away in Virginia all weekend, I’ve seen that Sunday Styles piece on zombie chic a few readers wanted me (and the Gawker gang)to look at…and you know what? I’m not impressed.

See, Warren St. John is so enamored of the “films, books and video games” where “the undead are once again on the march,” animated by “the anxieties of life after Sept. 11″ and a climate of “broad social collapse, when anyone—a policeman, a nurse, a friend—can turn into a force of evil,” that he’s overlooked a white-hot supernova example of the trend. Marvel Zombies, a comic book that debuted back in December, takes place in an alternate version of the Marvel world where most of the superheroes and villains have been turned into flesh-eating zombies…and, since they’ve all got superpowers, ain’t nobody gonna stop them. “One thing to keep in mind is that these aren’t Romero-style slow, stupid zombies,” says author Robert Kirkman. “They’re the same characters we love and love to hate but they hunger for the flesh of humans…and that drives them to do evil things. They’re all very conflicted, which I think will make for an interesting little story.” So far, the fans have reacted with huge enthusiasm to the story’s grimly fiendish humor, with many of the issues going back for second and even third printings. In fact, you might say we’re dying to see how it all ends next week, as the undead hordes take on Galactus, Devourer of Worlds. (The non-geeks in the audience can trust me when I say this is awesome.)

Indie Comics Love in Prime Time

Another thing I got to do after coming home was watch the TiVo’ed version of Sunday’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which included a shoutout to Love & Rockets, the independently published comic from Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez widely credited with creating the “alternative comics” boom of the ’80s that cleared a path for today’s graphic novel-saturated market.

The episode was scripted by L&O:CI co-executive producer Gerry Conway, who has his own rich ties to the comic book world. He began writing for DC when he was still a teenager; by the age of 19, he’d flipped over to Marvel where he landed the Spider-Man gig—killing Gwen Stacy and co-creating the Punisher—then briefly served as editor-in-chief before making a full return to DC. With fellow comics writer Roy Thomas, he wrote the screenplay to Fire & Ice and the story idea for Conan the Destroyer. Soon after that, Conway started writing for Saturday morning cartoons, then worked his way up to prime-time crime shows. He first wrote for the original Law & Order franchise in 1999, and has scripted several episodes of Criminal Intent while serving as a producer since the show’s 2001 debut. (At least one script features a blatant Marvel in-joke, with a killer named “Roger Stern,” one of Conway’s comic-writing peers.)

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