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Archives: May 2006

Green Book Unites President-Elect & Cyberpunk

At the Harry M. Abrams booth last weekend, one of the most heavily promoted titles for the fall was WorldChanging: A User’s Guide to the 21st Century, a guidebook to adopting new ways of life, from the individual level to the corporate, that can keep our planet in sustainable condition. But it turns out that one of the biggest announcements about the book had to wait until after BookExpo: Al Gore will contribute a foreword, and noted science-ficion writer and cultural visionary Bruce Sterling will provide another introductory essay as well.

To get a sense of what Gore might have to say, if you live in New York or Los Angeles, please seriously consider going to see An Inconvenient Truth this weekend. It’s the most amazing “Power Point presentation” you’ll ever sit through, and Gore’s an amazing speaker on this issue. And if the movie isn’t coming to your town for a few more weeks, find a way to read the book. We don’t usually plug things quite this overtly, but for this book/film combo I’m more than willing to make an exception. Go: Get scared, get mad, and then get busy doing something about it.

Only 2 Days Left to See Lestat!

Sad but true: Lestat is closing this Sunday. Apparently they couldn’t find enough goth kids willing to fly out to Manhattan to sit in a Broadway theater and watch their favorite Anne Rice novels come to life with singing and dancing. But Elton John fans need not weep too profusely: Billy Elliot is bound to make its way here from London at some point.

Bloggers, Publicists Need to Get Along

Mark Sarvas laid down some common sense about a recent wave of publicist-bashing that swept through the literary blogosphere after a few people got sick of receiving queries about books that were clearly outside their editorial purview. Of course, I get hit with these all the time, too, and there are publicists out there who will just send stuff willy-nilly without taking a moment to see if it really fits your site—hell, some authors who can’t afford publicists will do it themselves. (My “favorite” in this category is the guy who every six months or so tells me about his guide to picking up women and asks if I’ll “publish this press release in your newspaper.”)

I’ve always felt that blogging needs to lose some of its “punk rock” attitude of “us vs. the conglomerates” and recognize that we’re all part of a complex and evolving media ecology—the metaphor I tend to use, because it’s so visually striking, is that we’re like those little birds that pick nits off rhinoceroses. Sarvas comes at the same broad principle from a different angle, reminding bloggers that publicists are not corporate zombies. “My experience has been that these are people who care deeply about the books they handle,” he writes. ”They’re not terribly unlike bloggers in many ways—they work out of passion, they certainly aren’t paid well (starting salaries in the low 20s) and it’s not as though they get a cut when a book does succeed.” There seemed to be some opportunities for the two camps to come closer together last weekend, from Sarah’s panel on blog reviews to the Litblog Co-op cocktail party; with luck, we’ll be able to work together even more effectively in the future because of steps like these. Remember: it’s all about the books, people!

The children’s book report

The Bookseller’s flagship feature this week focuses on the picture book market, and more to the point, why it’s become much more difficult to sell said books in the market. Both Ottakar’s and Borders report a decline in picture book sales compared to last year. Waterstone’s, which radically cut back its picture book range in 2005, claims to have maintained sales thanks to aggressive promotions and its focused range. Other booksellers have now followed its lead and reduced their range.

Julian Exposito, Borders UK senior children’s buyer, says: “We have become much more restrictive about what we will stock in that category because sales are so tough.” The main issues? Pricing, formats, and adding novelty elements so the books are that much more likely to move. But it may just be a question of changing tastes. Said Professor Aftab Gharda, “Younger readers are much more computer-savvy, and books are such a traditional medium–there needs to be much more interplay between screen-based imagery and books. At the moment they are very divorced.”

Meanwhile, the LA Times profiles Priscilla Maltbie, a paraplegic living at Catered Manor Nursing Center in Long Beach who’s found unexpected fame as a children’s book writer. “I’m pretty much in awe of her,” said associate editor Randi Rivers of Charlesbridge Publishing near Boston, which issues about 40 books a year for children up to middle school age. “She’s had a phenomenal response to her signings… I think about 100 people came out [to the first one]. That’s phenomenal at a bookstore.”

Big deals really do happen over dinner

Thought that the days of dealmaking lunches were gone? Not if you’re the Mohn family and you’re trying to keep all assets of your company, gigantic media conglomerate Bertelsmann, under your wing. According to the Financial Times, when Liz Mohn and Bertelsmann CEO Gunther Thielen expressed chagrin that GBL CEO Albert Frere wanted to take his 25% holding public, they resolved it in the old fashioned way: dinner on a Wednesday night in Belgium.

It was a tactic that seemed, at first glance, to be a no-hoper, since ttalks at Bertelsmann’s annual meeting on Monday had been amicable but fruitless. But in the end, the deal reached – in a timely fashion that surprised company advisers – led to a hefty price paid for Bertelsmann to stay under full family control.

The next question is, will one of the family come back to the board? Because as guardian of the business since 1999, Ms. Mohn, after eight years, would have succeeded in putting Bertelsmann firmly in the hands of her children.

Barbara Walters gets greedy, cancels contract

Because being the six million dollar woman simply wasn’t enough for Babs to bear, Page Six reports. The reason? “She wants money, money, money,” said one source, “as if that wasn’t enough.” Others feel it’s more about ego than money.

More specifically, Walters asked to be let out of her contract so that her agent, Mort Janklow, could potentially get more cash out of a publisher more likely to pay than did Miramax Books, who was scheduled to publish her memoirs. But as another source put it, “will her book really sell when she says the highlight of her career was the Begin-Sadat interview? And will she talk about her three husbands, her undying devotion to Roy Cohn, and all her many lovers including Sen. John Warner? Will anybody really care?”

More importantly, can a publisher really make enough money selling the book when the advance is already this high?

BEA: from the UK standpoint

Thought we were done with Book Expo coverage? Not so fast! After all, the numbers are in as to who attended and why. According to Publishers Marketplace, show organizers indicated that 31,971 people registered for the convention, with 22,366 verified attendees counted. That puts the numbers closer to the recent NYC show in 2005 (34,966/27,421) than the 2004 show in Chicago (25,261/18,213). Book buyers attending declined slightly to 7,324, down from 7,701 a year ago and 7,492 in 2004.

Meanwhile, the Brits still have lots to say on the event, too. First there’s Publishing News’s lengthy report, touching upon all the political stuff, Carly Fiorina’s speech, and brief tidbits like Virgin Books planning a US launch soon.

PN also covered the US/UK Turf War speech (which, sadly, neither Ron nor I could attend) where S&S President and Publisher Carolyn Reidy got testy about UK publishers’ “land grab” in wanting European Exclusivity. “UK publishers were scare-mongering in their concerns over territoriality and that agents should ask themselves whether an exclusive grant of English-language rights in a non-English-language territory helped or hindered an author’s career,” Reidy added.

The Independent’s Literator was a bit more wide-eyed: “Just watching booksellers filling carts with proofs and waiting in line for a signed copy (sometimes with an eye solely on ebay) is a sight to behold.”

And last, but not least, the Bookseller’s Gayle Feldman declared that “twas no single big rights deal, no single big book, but there were plenty of big, public arguments in Washington, and enough international and technological action to make for an interesting fair.”

Party Hopping with Partland and Spiegelman

jppartland-party.jpgEarly last night, I made my way to Velo, a bicycle shop in the East Village, where Perigree publicist Lisa Mondello (left) introduced me to J. P. Partland, who was celebrating the release of Tour Fever, a duffer’s guide to the Tour de France. Partland had put the party together by recruiting several of his bike racing buddies, from the owner of Velo to the vintners of Wimbledon’s Cycle Gladiator wines and the proprietess of Saxelby Cheese, a new Lower East Side shop specializing in American artisanal cheeses (the alpeggio is nice, but the ouray is scrumptious).

spiegelman-party.jpgThen it was off to the Chelsea nightclub Marguee, where Ian Spiegelman was celebrating the publication of his second novel, Welcome to Yesterday. I caught up with him just inside the entrance with Miramax Books publicist Katie Finch, and then just a few yards away was able to snap a photo of Candace Bushnell flanked by Miramax publisher Judy Hottenson and CEO Rob Weisbach. And since Ian had invited me to come to his book party while fellow Post veterans Bridget Harrison and Deborah Schoeneman never so much as sent a postcard, I like Ian’s book the best out of all the current batch of tomes from ex- and current Post-ies.

Crowd Pleasers of the mostly male variety

Now, I don’t really object to the authors included in Janet Maslin’s latest column of Crowd Pleasers. Harlan Coben, Lee Child, Joe Finder, Peter Robinson, John Hart – all excellent authors whose most recent books I very much liked (Dan Brown and Dean Koontz, well, my particular jury’s out, to say the least.) But allow me to drop the so-called objective veil for a moment to say this: why, oh freaking why, is there not a single female author included in said roundup? Is it so hard to pick up a novel by a mystery & thriller writer who, oh, happens to be a woman? To be fair, the season in mystery at the moment seems to be rather dominated by men, but how about when the next installment of this column is out in, say, six or eight weeks or so, the skew is more female-centric? A few suggestions: Laura Lippman, Denise Mina, Laurie King, Cornelia Read. Really, it’s not that difficult, Janet. Bet you can’t stop at just one.

Then again, this is a particular problem of the Book Review, so why shouldn’t it carry over to the Daily pages?

Some Nights My Job Is Awesome

kidd-suzuki.jpgEarlier this week, I got invited to superstar graphic designer Chip Kidd’s apartment, where he was hosting a party for Japanese horror novelist Koji Suzuki, whose books are published here in the U.S. by Vertical. (The paperback of Dark Water, which contains the story on which the Jennifer Connelly film was based, is just about to hit stores now if it hasn’t already, and three more books will be coming out by the end of the year.)

As the NYT “House and Home” section pointed out last fall, Kidd’s place is like “a very expensive toy store,” and the main showcase is a set of glass cases filled with books he’s designed and vintage superhero action figures. So I had the time of my life getting to ask Kidd about the one figure in a business suit (a limited edition Bruce Wayne from the early ’70s, it turns out) and chatting with him about comics—he even kindly pointed out Astonishing X-Men artist John Cassady hanging out on the sofa, looking at the Japanese Batman reprints on the coffee table. It’s one of the few current books he reads, Kidd admitted, though I may have been able to persuade him to take a look at DC’s weekly 52. I was underwhelmed by Infinite Crisis, too, I assured him, but this new comic is off to a better start…

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