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Archives: August 2007

Channel 4 Chief Inches Closer to Borders UK Deal

As per Publishing News (and reported earlier this week) the entrepreneur Luke Johnson and his private equity firm Risk Capital Partners was widely expected to take control of Borders, keeping the current CEO David Roche at the helm, closing fewer than 10 stores and retaining the Borders name. Johnson is understood to have taken soundings on Roche from industry insiders this week – the sort of move that is only made when all the deal requirements are in place. One observer told PN: “Although he’s obviously acting out of self-interest and wants to make money, he’s clearly interested in bookselling as a sector. He’s imaginative and feisty, well-regarded when it comes to relatively small scale private equity investments.”

Analyst Richard Ratner at Seymour Pierce described Johnson as “a good egg. He’s got a good reputation and he’s got good people with him. He’ll buy something if it’s got potential.” Insiders say that as Chair of Channel 4, Johnson has seen the potential to boost book sales through Richard & Judy. Those who know him say that he cares about books and their cultural importance, and that he sees Borders “as a business that matters.” One added: “He sees Borders as a strong intrinsic business, one that doesn’t need to be broken up. And because he cares about it, he’ll be willing to accept slightly lower financial returns than in some of his other ventures.”

B&N Will Carry If I Did It Now

ifididit-goldmans-cover.jpgFollowing this morning’s item about the increased print run for If I Did It, and my curiosity as to who was buying those extra copies, Barnes & Noble has confirmed that it is reversing its decision to keep the book off its shelves.

“When plans were initially announced to publish If I Did It,” says spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating in a statement documenting the policy change, “there was widespread customer outrage and disgust. So much outrage that our buyers felt there would be little customer demand for the newest edition of the book, published by The Goldman Family.” Hence the original decision to only sell the book through their website or for in-store special orders. “Since then,” Keating notes, “we’ve been monitoring the pre-orders and customer requests and have concluded that enough customers have expressed interest in buying the book to warrant stocking it in our stores. We do not intend to promote the book but we will stock it in our stores because our customers are asking for it.”

In other words, B&N is doing exactly what Borders has said they’d do all along. Interesting how consumer interest went from “a handful of pre-orders” to “enough customers… to warrant stocking it in our stores” in just two days, isn’t it?

25K More Copies of If I Did It: Why?

Beaufort Books has upped its first printing of the Goldman-approved edition of If I Did It from the 125,000 we told you about Tuesday to 150,000 copies, according to our most recent conversation with the company’s president, Eric Kampmann. Where does Beaufort expect to sell those extra copies? I’m waiting to hear back from Barnes & Noble about whether their decision not to carry the book, due to what they perceived as a lack of interest, is still in effect.

In a possibly related development, Fred and Kim Goldman are expected to issue a press release later this afternoon.

UPDATE: Yep, B&N’s gonna sell it.

Lamott Disinvited, then Invited to Speak in Omaha

Anne Lamott has been speaking around the country to packed houses for years, and so it wasn’t a surprise that Creighton University in Omaha would invite her to speak at the Joslyn Art Museum on September 19. But last Friday, the Omaha World Herald reports, the University decided to disinvite her after learning of an essay in which she helped a cancer-ridden friend die. University officials decided that Lamott’s views were inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, university spokeswoman Kathryn Clark said. “We have decided that the key points she makes are in opposition to Catholic teaching,” Clark said. “That makes her an inappropriate choice.”

But considering the essay was written ten years ago, and Lamott had no plans to talk of assisted suicide or abortion (another subject deemed too hot) then what was the problem? The disconnect helped spark outrage in Omaha among booksellers and university attendees, but it also spurred the Holland Performing Arts Center to step in. So yes, Lamott will be speaking in Omaha on September 19 after all. The kicker? The Holland Center holds 2,000 people, which will allow more people to hear Lamott. Seating at Joslyn would have allowed about 1,200 to attend. “Anne Lamott’s writing has just meant a great deal to me,” said the Rev. Nancy Brink of North Side Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who stepped in upon hearing of the cancellation. “I think she really connects with average people who struggle with meaning and real life.”

Further Ruminations on “Hot Young Author Chick Syndrome”

Remember the time when it was almost impossible to get a novel published if you were under 40? Remember when author photos were nixed if you looked too young for a serious endeavor? Yeah, I don’t either, but I have it on pretty good authority that’s what publishing was like in the thirty years after World War II. And then the photogenic boom set in and now we get articles like the cover story of this week’s Boston Phoenix about why authors must look goooooooood to get published. All the usual suspects – Pessl, Kunkel, Krauss & Foer, Freudenberger, Vachon – are namechecked and analyzed for why their looks helped get them a big publishing contract (a topic Ron covered in similar detail for Writer’s Digest last year.)

“It’s easier in life to be attractive. That’s reductive but true,” says HarperCollins editor Gail Winston to Sharon Steel. “On the other hand, a brilliant book by an author who is not young and not attractive isn’t going to fail. It’s just, I think that those other books – for those reasons, those authors maybe get a little bit of an advantage.” But Gawker’s Emily Gould wishes the story was a little different. “The combination of fair-to-middling – or even strong but underdeveloped – talent with attractiveness and youth seems to be eternal catnip to publishers, if not reading audiences, and I think that’s a shame. What I am deeply, passionately opposed to is all the ridiculous praise that’s heaped on just-okay books because of the looks and pedigree and other accomplishments of their authors.”

Another feeling the adulation and backlash is Katherine Taylor (first talked about here last fall when I speculated she was a good bet for a Starbucks pick, which didn’t happen.) “I haven’t had a very long career as a writer, but while I was publishing stories, and when I got this book contract [for RULES FOR SAYING GOODBYE, published last spring by FSG] nobody knew what I looked like or who I was at all. My appearance had nothing to do with anything,” Taylor says. “But I’m not terribly concerned…The book is there, the book is always going to be there…I think the book stands on its own. All the noise surrounding it is just noise. I feel like whatever you have to do to get your book in the cultural conversation is all fair,” Taylor continues. “Because the bottom line is, you’ve put so much of yourself and so many years of your life into what you’re doing. The greatest tragedy would be if nobody noticed.”

New Orleans Author Nearly Blows Oprah Moment

chrisrose-lizsalapatas.jpgEver since I ran a story on my other blog,, featuring New Orleans authors TJ Fisher and Joshua Clark, people have been telling me that I should take a look at 1 Dead in Attic, a collection of the columns New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose wrote over the months immediately following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Actually, that’s the second version of the book; Rose self-published a batch of columns that covered September-December 2005, while the new Simon & Schuster edition adds stories from 2006. Liz Salapatas of LS Media sent a picture of her and Rose at an event she helped manage for him at TriBeCa’s Vestry Wines earlier this week, and S&S made sure that we knew about Rose’s misadventures with Oprah Winfrey.

“When I found out that Oprah’s people (a producer) called my people (my editor) to arrange an interview, it dawned on me that I was about to become a made guy, a best-seller, a millionaire, super model arm candy,” Rose jokes in his most recent column. “So I was drafting my letter of resignation to this newspaper when O’s producer said to me: ‘You need to understand —we’re not going to talk about the book.’”

“It turns out, they wanted my expertise, not as a book writer or even a newspaper columnist, but as the city’s most famously depressed resident, by virtue of my 5,000-word account about battling the disease which I published in the newspaper last fall—and which you can read in my book (am I allowed to say that?).”

Well, he went through with the taping anyway—a remote segment taped at his home, so he never even met Oprah—then refused to sign the waiver when they told him he would never be able to write about what it was like to be interviewed for the show. They kept his segment in anyway, and I have no idea if they mentioned his book on the show, but he got it on the website, at least.

The Racial Divide of Reading

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s piece on the frequency of reading among African-American populations isn’t exactly breaking new ground, but it is nice to have everything spelled out once more. A young black male has a better chance of getting teased for reading books instead of playing sports. Black children are less likely to have parents who read to them at an early age and expose them to books. Until recently, black adults were largely ignored by some book publishers who believed black people don’t read books. And many black people had not been reading books because there were fewer books on the market that appealed to them.

“The racial disparity in reading is a reflection of the differences in the kinds of backgrounds that children enjoy,” said Helen Faison, director of the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute at Chatham University. “We have to surround children early on with reading,” Faison said. “You have to create an environment where books are everywhere.” Authors like Brandon Massey notice the difference when men come up to get books signed for their wives because they won’t read something that “isn’t real.” But the lack of a book market for African-Americans pretty much died in the early 90s with the success of Terry McMillan and the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill case, which allowed the public to see a parade of intelligent African-American witnesses who graduated from Ivy League colleges testifying on national TV. “Publishers opened their eyes and saw a market they had totally avoided,” said literary agent Barbara Lowenstein.

John Thomas, superintendent of the Aliquippa School District, said the notion that black men who read books are less masculine is one that should be dispelled in the African-American community. “It’s just as powerful to carry a book as it is to carry a football or a basketball, because the power of knowledge is in the books,” he said. “If we prepare our bodies for the gridiron or the basketball court, to me it’s just as important to prepare your mind to survive in society. The body will soon wear out for athletic competition, but knowledge you have will carry you through life.”

CJR Rejects Fear of a Blog Planet

Shortly after the National Book Critics Circle wraps up its four-day self-lovefest, Columbia Journalism Review is sponsoring its own panel on “the future of book reviewing,” spinning out from themes that incoming literary editor Steve Wasserman will be exploring in an essay for the magazine’s annual book issue. In addition to Wasserman, the September 18 event PublicAffairs founder (and CJR vice-chair) Peter Osnos, FSG vp Elizabeth Sifton, former NBCC president Carlin Romano… and Mark Sarvas of The Elegant Variation.

Now, we should disclose right off the bat that the regard at GalleyCat for Sarvas is as personal as it is professional, so make of our enthusiasm what you will. He hardly needs us to champion him, though: Read his recent interview with Eight Diagrams and you’ll discover that he’s as thoughtful a commentator on contemporary literary criticism as you’re likely to find anywhere, let alone the blogosphere. So how is it the NBCC (of which he’s a member) couldn’t—or wouldn’t—invite him to come to New York a few days earlier?

Read more

Harper’s Roth-Ey to London as Morgan’s Desk Expands

David Roth-Ey, the editorial director for both HarperPerennial and the Harper paperback imprint, is heading to HarperCollins UK, where he’ll be the director for that house’s audio and e-book lines. Replacing him at East 53rd Street is Cal Morgan, who will retain his current title as an executive editor for Harper, continuing to acquire for the hardcover division while overseeing the trade paperback strategy.

“I just love and adore David,” said HarperPerennial publisher Carrie Kania when I called her yesterday about the personnel changes, “and I’m so excited that he has this opportunity to move to London, even though it’s devastating to me personally. When I started to think about who I could replace him with, the first person I thought of was Cal.” I asked Kania what the new duties for Morgan, who built his reputation for cultivating bestsellers as the editorial director at ReganBooks, meant in terms of the company’s plans for the paperback line. “HarperCollins is dedicated to trade paperbacks as an important format,” Kania said, “and Cal’s experience in marketing and packaging is going to be invaluable to us. Bringing him in underscores everything we’ve been saying about our commitment, and I’m really looking forward to working with him.” Morgan and Roth-Ey both assume their new responsibilities on September 10.

Running with Scissors Lawsuit Settled

The Boston Globe reports that the Turcotte family, which claimed author Augusten Burroughs defamed them in his best-selling book RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, has settled a lawsuit against the author and his publisher. Burroughs and his publisher, St. Martin’s Press, agree to call the work a “book” instead of “memoirs,” in the author’s note and to change the acknowledgments page in future editions to say that the Turcotte family’s memories of events he describes “are different than my own,” and expressing regret for “any unintentional harm” to them, according to Howard Cooper, an attorney for the family. He said financial terms of the settlement are confidential.

According to a statement from the family’s attorneys, Burroughs’ new acknowledgments note will say that the Turcottes “are each fine, decent, and hardworking people,” and that the book was not intended to hurt them. “With this settlement, together with our settlement with Sony last year, we have achieved everything we set out to accomplish when we filed suit two years ago,” the family said in the statement. “We have always maintained that the book is fictionalized and defamatory. This settlement is the most powerful vindication of those sentiments that we can imagine.”