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Posts Tagged ‘Crown’

Who Spiked the Water at 1745 Broadway?

It’s been a very strange week for the world’s largest publishing company. First we had Wednesday’s surprise announcement that Crown svp and publisher Steve Ross would be moving to Collins, with Tina Constable stepping in to take his place. Now comes last night’s announcement that Daniel Menaker was jumping ship from Random House‘s eponymous imprint, though it remains to be seen if the party line that the decision was “absolutely mutual” will hold up under scrutiny.

Maybe it’s because the current edition of Publishing Revolving Door takes me on a time warp all the way back to 2003 – ancient history for some, but important history nonetheless. Menaker, after 26 years at the New Yorker, first joined Random House in 1995 and continued uninterrupted there save for a sixteen-month stint at HarperCollins, which ended in 2003. The company he returned to was not the company he left behind. They had moved to sleek new offices in an office condominium between 55th and 56th streets; Ann Godoff was gone in one of the most publicized oustings in recent memory; Little Random had been absorbed in the same umbrella containing Ballantine and its holdings; and at the center of the new-look imprint was, and still is, president and publisher Gina Centrello. Taken together, these were clear signs of the company’s increasingly commercial shift that would play out in a major way over the next four-plus years. And yet Menaker was hired to give Little Random a distinct literary bent, which he did in the form of novelists Benjamin Kunkel, Arthur Phillips, Gary Shteyngart and Jon Clinch as well as former poet laureate Billy Collins, even if said acquisitions didn’t necessarily pay off in terms of sales.

No matter how much Menaker, Centrello and the Random House brass want to downplay the bottom line, it’s difficult to play by their rules in light of the company’s most recent shakeups – not to mention their gutting of the sales force, Bertelsmann‘s attempts to patch up the mothership after getting scared straight by former minority shareholder GBL’s threats to take their holdings public (Bookspan, anyone?) and a downturn in profits. All of which has to make one wonder about the overall health of Random House – and if more “unexpected” news is just lurking around the corner.

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Constable Succeeds Ross as Crown VP and Publisher

Instead of waiting weeks and weeks for speculation to mount on who would replace Steve Ross, Crown has gone ahead and announced his replacement right away – and they are promoting within. Publishers Marketplace reports that Tina Constable will take over as vp and publisher of Crown and Crown Business and Crown Forum in July 1. She has been executive director of publicity (a successor will be hired for that position.) At the same time, director of marketing Philip Patrick will add responsibilities as vp and publisher of Three Rivers Press and publisher of e-books and digital content for the Crown Publishing Group.

Steve Ross Leaves Crown to Run Collins

We were forwarded the news with the subject header “HOLY MOTHERFREAKING POOP” and that pretty much sums up my reaction to the news that Crown Senior Vice President and Publisher Steve Ross has been hired as president and publisher of their Collins division, reporting to Brian Murray and starting in July. He replaces Joe Tessitore, who is retiring from the position this summer. Murray says in the announcement, “The combination of Steve’s publishing acumen, business savvy and experience is ideally suited to lead Collins to the next level. I look forward to working closely with Steve to build Collins into a market leader in non-fiction publishing and to identify new areas of growth for the company.”

Random House Films Goes for Infested

PW Daily reports that Scott Sigler‘s INFESTED, just signed to Crown as part of a major three-book deal, has been selected as the next book-to-film project for Random House Films. The book will be brought to the screen in partnership with Rogue Pictures (a sister company to the studio aligned with RH Films, Focus Features). The deal was arranged by RH Films president Peter Gethers and the co-presidents of Rogue, Andrew Karpen and Andrew Rona. Random House Films will also get filmmaking rights to the unpublished second novel in Sigler’s series.

Crown Cancels Madonna Nanny Deal

Publishers Marketplace reports that Crown has decided to cancel their plans to publish Melissa Dumas‘ LIVE TO TELL: My Life as Madonna’s Nanny, which had been pre-empted by Lindsey Moore in a major deal. The house simply says “it will not be publishing the memoir to be authored by Madonna’s former nanny, Melissa Dumas. The rights to the book have been released to the author, who is represented by Martin Literary Management.” Which, of course, leaves us to wonder why a) Crown keeps making book deals they have to cancel b) what really happened. A Crown spokeswoman had not as yet returned contact attempts.

Long-Delayed Tenet Memoir Set for April 30

AP’s Hillel Italie reports that the much-delayed memoir by former CIA chief George Tenet finally, finally has a publication date of April 30. “It’s a confirmed date,” HarperCollins publicist Kate Pruss told The Associated Press. She declined to say whether the manuscript for AT THE CENTER OF THE STORM had been cleared by the CIA, a standard procedure for former officials that reportedly had held up publication, but said “April 30 is the date the book will be in stores.”

Those who have followed Tenet’s somewhat torturous publication path will remember that the book was initially bought by Crown in 2004, the deal cancelled in March 2005 and picked up by HarperCollins in January 2006. The book’s publication date was pushed back from last month.

Jason Pinter Moves to St. Martin’s Press

After what could be classified as a tumultuous week, former Crown books editor Jason Pinter has landed at a new home: St. Martin’s Press, where he’ll be starting duties there as an Editor on March 26. An announcement sent out by St. Martin’s Press editor-in-chief George Witte adds that Pinter will be acquiring commercial fiction – thrillers and mysteries – as well as nonfiction in pop culture and other categories. Understandably, we’re very pleased with this turn of events.

Former Madonna Nanny Tell-All to Crown

Not two days after Entertainment Weekly reported on a proposal by Madonna’s former nanny, Melissa Dumas, making the rounds, Publishers Marketplace reports that a deal’s been struck for LIVE TO TELL: My Life as Madonna’s Nanny by Lindsey Moore at Crown. The September 2007 release went for “major deal” (aka $500,000 and up) money, and Sharlene Martin is the agent of record for the book, pitched as “an account of working in all four of the pop star’s homes and the details of her home life, including such matters as house rules (no noise-even running water — while Madonna is sleeping, and a ban on television, newspapers or magazines)”. In other word, a tabloid’s wet dream just sold for big bucks.

When Being Dooced Is Only One Side of the Story

Sometimes, even us freewheeling bloggers like to exercise a little restraint. Because reporting on publishing people getting fired for what’s clearly a case of going overboard on a small matter is, frankly, not the best use of our time and resources. But since Gawker‘s now gone ahead and presented their (extremely flawed) version of Jason Pinter‘s abrupt exit from Crown, it seems like a good idea to present a more well-rounded, if still somewhat unattributed account of what precipitated this event.

First, the obligatory disclosure: I count Pinter as a friend, someone who bought another friend’s book and has also written a seriously kickass debut thriller that is (deservedly) receiving a good deal of pre-publication buzz. So much for objectivity, but don’t take my word for it, see what agent Kristin Nelson said (albeit without mentioning Pinter specifically by name) late last week: “it’s so sad when I get the news of a departure. Someone I liked. Enjoyed working with. Knew their tastes and what would work for them. Now I’ll have to scout out whoever fills their shoes. See who gets added to the dance card.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. When reached for comment, Crown publicity director Tina Constable would only say that Pinter is no longer with the company and had no further comments, but Gawker is correct that Pinter’s termination resulted from the now-deleted blog post comparing and contrasting Chris Bohjalian‘s B&N-related success to Ishmael Beah‘s Starbucks-induced sales. Sources indicate that Crown publisher and senior vice president Steve Ross ordered Pinter to take the post down on February 23, which he did. A week later, without any warning or any indication that there would be further action taken, Pinter was informed he had violated Random House’s blog policy and had one day – last Friday, March 2 – to collect his things, inform his authors that he would no longer be working with Crown and absorb what had just happened.

Sources indicate that Pinter’s termination was not an easy decision, as a visibly upset Ross, as well as publisher Jenny Frost, were forced to do so at the behest of more senior Random House brass. Such sentiments are understandable considering the post in question never even made mention of Bookscan numbers – that was added in later, by me, after checking with additional sources. And from what I understand, access to Bookscan is hardly proprietary information – it’s not like actual Random House sales figures were being bandied about or, in the last publicized case of an employee fired for blogging, actual criticism of Random House employees was made public.

If anything, Pinter’s firing has less to do with him and more to do with his now-former company’s woes. Laying off the bulk of their sales force and then openly lying about it? Getting rid of an editor here, a small department there and scrambling to do something, anything to compensate for not just a bad year, but Bertelsmann‘s overall shortfall thanks to buying back the 25 percent stake that a minority shareholder wanted to take public? In short, this is a classic case of corporate publishing at its cowardly worst, taking a passive-aggressive action that may cover their ass in the short term, but adds yet more grist to the public relations disaster mill in the long term.

So yes, GalleyCat wishes Pinter well. He has a book to promote soon, another due out in February and a third to write under contract, with more in the future. There are job offers to consider and options to mull over. Indeed, rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated. And if anything, drinks are on us, not the other way around…

Could Starbucks Trump B&N as Publishing Power Brokers?

So posits Crown editor & thriller writer Jason Pinter after comparing and contrasting the opening one-week sales of Chris Bohjalian‘s THE DOUBLE BIND – picked as Barnes & Noble‘s second store-wide pick – and Starbucks‘ sophomore choice, Ishmael Beah‘s A LONG WAY GONE. According to the March 4 edition of the New York Times bestseller list, Bohjalian’s THE DOUBLE BIND will debut at #3 on the hardcover fiction list, while Beah’s A LONG WAY GONE will come in at #2 on the hardcover non-fiction list, which is impressive enough.

Go a little deeper into the first-week Bookscan numbers (which account for anywhere from 50-70% of total sales) and things get really interesting. That’s because Bohjalian sold over 17,000 copies in his first week, while Beah’s book moved over 26,000 units – and of Beah’s total Bookscan-accounted sales, over 19,000 were from “other” stores. “I can only assume this means Starbucks,” said Pinter. “In fact, if this is correct, Beah sold more copies at Starbucks alone than Bohjalian sold in total.”

But before we anoint Starbucks as the true heir apparent to Oprah, Pinter cautions that “there’s a major difference between offering one book for sale and offering thousands.” (Ron would also point to Beah’s moving appearance on The Daily Show last week as another potential prime mover for sales, as Jon Stewart put the comedy on hold for five minutes and confessed the memoir “made my heart hurt.”) “At the same time,” Pinter concludes, “it’s very curious to see that Beah seems to be outpacing an author with a bestselling Oprah pedigree, primarily due to the efforts of one store. And that store being considerably more famous for their double venti half calf mocha lattechinos than their success pushing literature.”

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