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Archives: July 2007

The Postmortem Robert Ludlum Cottage Industry

Spy thriller master Robert Ludlum may have died in 2001, but as the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir discovered, that hasn’t stopped publishers from releasing books – a dozen so far – with his name on the cover. 2006 alone saw three Ludlum-branded works: ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE MOSCOW VECTOR, isxth in the “Covert-One” series of paperback originals; THE BANCROFT STRATEGY, and THE BOURNE BETRAYAL, written by Eric Van Lustbader.

“This goes back to 1990 or ’91 when Bob had quadruple bypass,” said Henry Morrison, the agent for Ludlum and his estate. “One day we were talking about what would happen when he was gone. He said, ‘I don’t want my name to disappear. I’ve spent 30 years writing books and building an audience.’” And so the V.C. Andrews-like effect began with writers fleshing out old manuscripts and proposals or as in the Bourne series, extending an already-classic series. “Publishing does look to the past to see what will work in the future,” said PW editor-in-chief Sara Nelson. “Series and big-name authors have tended to work well. Publishers, like executives in other creative fields, want Nos. 2, 3 and 4 to work as well as No. 1. And instead of going off to find the new Ludlum, they figure they’ve got this formula and will continue to use it.”

Amazon a Bestseller Across the Pond, Too

The Telegraph profiles Brian McBride, managing director of Amazon.co.uk, who joined the company last January but has just completed his sixth financial quarter at the online retailer. “Six quarters are like six years in another industry,” said McBride, formerly with T-Mobile. His business acumen is no accident: after years of tut-tutting from Wall Street and The City about Amazon’s practices, with too-low profit margins and seemingly haphazard expansion choices, the company opted to bring someone in with professional management experience.

One of the chief reasons for Amazon’s vastly improved performance, McBride says, is the “major investment in technology over the past two years”. Improvements have included giving customers a clearer idea of products online by allowing them to see it from different angles and to change its color. But McBride believes there is still plenty of growth left in selling Amazon’s traditional “media” offering of books, DVDs and CDs online because most people are still buying their books in shops. Of the general retailing market, he says: “Online gets a lot of noise, but it only accounts for 5 or 6pc of the total market.”

Bob and Trout Join the GalleyCat Army

galleycats-trout-bob.jpgMemoirist Adrienne Martini reports that her cat, Trout, likes to warm his ‘tocks on her laptop; the can of compressed air in the corner of the photo, she explains, “is how I encourage Trout to stop sitting there.” I had the same problem with my GalleyCat Army officers, until I got one of those plastic stands that raises the back end of the compputer so that it rests on your desk at an angle. So now they just spread out over the rest of the desk and occasionally turn their heads to fix me with a stare of withering disapproval.

BookExpo America event director Lance Fensterman sends us a “totally unposed” photograph of Bob That Cat curled up with several good books. “This fits well with a long dream of mine and HarperCollinsCarl Lennertz to produce a cute cat calendar,” Fensterman confides. “I think I speak for both of us when I say
that the world cannot have enough of them.” We’ve got nearly enough photos to make it happen, but I’m still going to hang back and let those two chase their dream…at least until the end of 2008. If they haven’t got it together by then, we’re moving in, because I’ve got this idea I call “Cats on My Stuff” that I think’ll be huge.

Scene @ J.A. Konrath’s Pizza Party

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When J.A. Konrath (left) threw a party for his latest mystery, Dirty Martini, he invited fellow Chicago writers to join him at Chuck E. Cheese’s. Among those who heeded the call: Thomas J. Keevers, Melanie Lynne Hauser, Tasha Alexander, Renee Rosen, and Raymond Benson. On his official website, Konrath is making the first novel in the series, Whiskey Sour, available as a free download, as well as PDFs or MP3s of the first seven chapters of Bloody Martini (read by Susie Breck and Dick Hill).

Bloomsbury Stays Optimistic About Post-Potter Fortunes

The burning question on most industry watchers’ minds is this: what will Bloomsbury do in a life without new Harry Potter books in the pipeline? CEO Nigel Newton keeps his chin up in an interview with the Guardian. The stock market’s ambivalent view on Bloomsbury’s preparations frustrates Newton, who has seen the company’s shares drift down to 166p, far from the 374p they reached when the sixth Potter was published two years ago.

“The real question is what is going to happen in 2008 and 2009 and why should shareholders feel reassured about their holdings,” said Newton. “Well you ain’t seen nothing yet. If you look at the list we have put together and the strategic decisions we have made for the business, you will see a very strong publishing group in action.” Though Newton hints at a takeover prospect, Bloomsbury might also be prey to being taken over. “A challenge for Bloomsbury is how the company spends the next load of Potter money,” said Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller. “It will be a target for private equity because there will be this large cash balance on its books. Bloomsbury will probably give out a decent dividend or buy a few good businesses – or else a buyer will come in. It will not be an easy few years, but the company has strength in depth across its publishing lists.”

Reed Hopes For A Quick Dump of Riverdeep Stock

Reed Elsevier has signaled its intention to find a buyer for its 11.8 percent stake (valued at approximately $300 million) in Riverdeep, according to the Irish Independent. The stake forms part of Reed Elsevier’s recent deal to sell its Harcourt US schools education business to HM Riverdeep, which is headed by Barry O’Callaghan, for $4m.

It is understood that Reed agreed to take a stake in order to appease the debt backers of the HM Riverdeep deal, which will create a publishing giant with an enterprise value of about $10bn. Some $7.4bn of this will be comprised of debt. “We don’t take the view that’s a long-term shareholding,” Reed’s chief executive Sir Crispin Davis was quoted as saying yesterday, raising the spectre of the stock being sold soon after the deal is completed. Meanwhile, Sir Crispin said he was confident that HM Riverdeep had the financing in place to complete the transaction, expected to close in late 2007 or early 2008 after regulatory reviews have been completed.

Sluggish Dollar Affects Penguin Results

Pearson, parent company of Penguin, has reported its 2007 interim results. Its education unit increased sales by 7% and moved into first-half profit of 5m pounds, while Penguin revenues were up 1% with profits 11% higher. “Our half-year results are always just a hint of our potential for the year, but certainly a strong hint this year,” said chief executive Marjorie Scardino. “Penguin’s publishing and profit are both solid and promising, as is its approach to change in publishing; and in Education we continue to set the pace as we use technology to personalize learning.”

Crown Forum’s Publicist Switches to Harper

HarperCollins announced yesterday that Crown Forum publicity manager Campbell Wharton—having just seen his latest project, Bob Novak’s The Prince of Darkness, land on the Times bestseller list—will be joining the Harper imprint as associate director of publicty in late August. Wharton is the second significant Crown staffer to relocate to East 53rd St. this summer, after Steve Ross assumed publisher duties at Collins earlier this month.

Haven’t Summer Hours Kicked In Yet?

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Pandora takes a break from working on writer/editor Laura Anne Gilman‘s latest manuscript. Gilman’s at the San Diego Comic-Con this weekend; yesterday she spoke on a panel about urban fantasy and paranormal romance (“sub-genres readers love”), and tomorrow she’ll be signing at the Harlequin booth. That’s right: Harlequin has a booth at Comic-Con—where, among other things, cover artists Tim Bradstreet and Cliff Nielsen will hold a signing over the weekend.

GalleyCat Goes to the Dogs

New American Library senior editor Kristen Weber sent us a picture of her 16-month-old pug, Sampson. “All he wants to do is follow me all over our apartment,” she reports. “He waits for me to sit down so he can curl up next to me. Of course, it is hard to edit when he’s next to me—he just wants to nibble on the pages.”

Author Alison Pace knows a lot about pugs—her Zoe was one of last summer’s featured dogs—but this year she sent us a picture of Carlie, the inspiration for a character in her latest novel, Through Thick and Thin, and the thinly-disguised star of the in-progress Things to Do in the City With Your Dog. I certainly hope we get to see Carlie at Alison’s book party next month!

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Remember, if you’re a writer or publishing industry pro with a cat or a dog, preferably one who’s acting all literary, tell us his or her story, and they might be the star of a future GalleyCat item!

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