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Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Trachtenberg’

If the WSJ Says Stephenie Meyer is the Next Big Thing, It Must Be True

And for once, a headline is both cheeky and sincere; every message board I lurk on and nearly every bookstore I frequent seems to have someone swooning over the romantic adventures of Bella and Edward, starcrossed lovers because he’s a vampire and she isn’t. So no wonder Stephenie Meyer – whose books were originally bought by Little, Brown for $750,000 in a world rights deal- has more than earned out the publisher’s investment. And now, with ECLIPSE selling more than 150,000 copies in its opening day of sales, it is safe to say that “life after Harry” might not be so bad after all.

“We were anticipating the book would be very big, but it has exceeded our expectations,” Steve Riggio, chief executive of Barnes & Noble, told Jeff Trachtenberg. “As booksellers, we’re thrilled.” Little, Brown, too, thought ECLIPSE might sell 40,000 copies in its first week based on past success of TWILIGHT and NEW MOON. “I’ve been in this business for 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Megan Tingley, the imprint’s publisher. So they’ve gone back to press, Meyer continues to pack in thousands at signings and it should be interesting to see what the reception will be when the fourth and final volume comes out next year.

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HP-8: The Friday Roundup

  • The WSJ’s Jeff Trachtenberg wonders if it is at all humanly possible to keep a lid on spoilers once HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS is available to one and all as of July 21.
  • Bloomsbury sure hopes and prays no one breaks the embargo and spoils it for everybody.
  • HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX’s Wednesday box office: $44.8 million, a record.
  • B&N has 1.2 pre-orders for DEATHLY HALLOWS. Borders will report their numbers imminently, no doubt.
  • Jean Hannah Edelstein looks forward to the end as it means J.K. Rowling might write something different from now on.
  • A new survey reveals that over half of adults think Harry will survive. None of the questions asked adults whether they think Harry Potter eats beans or looks like George Wendt.
  • Let The Web Be Your Travel Agent

    The concept of free and Google Book Search and electronic publishing might scare off many a trade publisher, but for the right projects, perfect matches can be found. The WSJ’s Jeff Trachtenberg looks at how travel publishers are embracing the web for their needs, realizing that by offering free Web content based on their books, they can attract enough traffic to generate advertising and other revenue — as well as promote their titles. Publishers such as Wiley, Frommers and Fodor’s are realizing that by offering free Web content based on their books, they can attract enough traffic to generate advertising and other revenue — to the tune of $10 million and $15 million in advertising annually — as well as promote their titles.

    These initiatives raise a question in Trachtenberg’s mind: Could this go further, where advertisers are targeting readers of a particular author? So far, the country’s biggest-selling writers have steered clear of ads. James Patterson, the former ad executive turned novelist, offers all sorts of free content on his Web site, including brief excerpts of some of his novels. But the site hasn’t solicited advertising, concerned that ads for other businesses could turn off Patterson fans and hurt book sales. “We’re considering side businesses but we have to put them through the filter of whether it advances the value of the Web to our readers,” says Steve Bowen, president of James Patterson Entertainment. “It’s a hollow victory if you end up undermining your core business.”

    A Further Look at Random House Films

    The WSJ’s Jeff Trachtenberg turns his attention to the partnership between Random House and Focus Features and its first collaboration, the Sofia Coppola-directed “Reservation Road”. It’s based from a book by Jonathan Burnham Schwartz and stars Jennifer Connelly and Joaquin Phoenix. The plan is to release two or three such films each year, culled from Random House’s backlist of 33,000 titles. So far, titles in the works include Dean Koontz‘s THE HUSBAND, Ross MacDonald‘s THE GALTON CASE and Yasmina Khadra‘s THE ATTACK. The partners will share production costs, hoping to recoup their investments by selling foreign distribution rights and bringing in other investors. In exchange for its investment, Random House has a voice in picking screenwriters, directors, and actors.

    Random House says its move into the film business isn’t mainly about increasing profits via movie tickets and DVDs. Rather, it’s about selling books. “We’re doing this primarily to sell more books as movie tie-ins,” says Peter Olson, CEO of Random House. “If the movies do well at the box office and as DVDs, that’s an additional bonus.” A strategy which worked in a big way with the tie-in to PERFUME (sales jumped to more than 100,000 copies sold from 13,000 copies annually for Patrick Suskind‘s novel) and which offers high hopes for Schwartz, now betting that movie will also give a boost to his next novel, THE COMMONER, published in January by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. “My hope is that it will catch some of the wind from the movie promotion,” he says.

    What of the Harry Potter Offshoots?

    The question is very much on the minds of many who follow everything related to Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling and the WSJ’s Jeff Trachtenberg asks the question in more detail. With the final volume in the series slated for publication on July 21, will it mean that few additions will be made to the more than 190 Potter-related titles in print and the thousands of fan fiction pieces? Perhaps, but that won’t stop some. “My suspicion is that there will be a rush of books after the series ends,” says Daniel Nexon, an assistant professor in the government department at Georgetown University who co-edited HARRY POTTER AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, published last year by Rowman & Littlefield. “Having the final book out will generate a lot of buzz, and they’ll look at that frenzy as one last big marketing opportunity.”

    But that flurry will eventually slow as time passes. “We’ll probably see fewer titles. The energy that comes from a release of a new book in the series will be over,” says Roger Scholl, the editorial director of Bertelsmann AG’s Currency/Doubleday business imprint, who edited Tom Morris‘s IF HARRY POTTER RAN GENERAL ELECTRIC. Still, some caution against underestimating the passion of Harry Potter readers. John Granger, an English teacher at Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pa., says academics will attempt to fix Rowling’s place in the cultural firmament, much as they continue to do so for such writers as Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie. “I’m fairly certain Potter-mania will not go the way of disco and the hula-hoop,” says Granger, who is currently working on HARRY MEETS HAMLET AND SCROOGE that will explore Harry’s literary antecedents.

    S&S Launches Video Channel

    Simon & Schuster announced this morning that they have reached an agreement with video company TurnHere to launch a book-centric internet video channel to promote S&S authors and their new releases. The companies will produce videos with in-depth information on featured books and authors as well as sneak previews of upcoming titles. The channel, called Bookvideos.tv, will launch in early June.

    “Readers have long hungered for greater contact and more information about authors,” said Sue Fleming, Vice President, Online and Consumer Marketing for the Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group. “Now readers will have a way to view and share compelling content about our authors, available on a 24/7 basis. Bookvideos.tv will allow readers to easily use the internet to replicate, for the digital age, the critical and time tested word of mouth excitement that comes from talking about a good read. Working with TurnHere to tap this huge potential audience is an exciting new way of marketing for us, and we expect to find legions of new readers while at the same time giving a new experience to dedicated fans of our authors.”

    The WSJ’s Jeff Trachtenberg has more on the story
    along with a telling observation from The Book Report’s Carol Fitzgerald: most readers don’t know which publishers actually publish their favorite authors. “They could say, ‘Why don’t you have John Grisham?’”, even though he’s published by Doubleday.

    This Summer, It’s All About Diana

    The Wall Street Journal‘s Jeff Trachtenberg looks at the plethora of books that have something, anything to do with Princess Diana – just as the 10th anniversary of her death approaches. The article focuses primary attention on Tina Brown, as the end result of a seven-figure advance for her take on the princess – THE DIANA CHRONICLES – hits stores on June 12. Doubleday is printing 200,000 copies of the book, Trachtenberg says, deemed a comprehensive biography that promises new insights regarding Diana’s pursuit of Prince Charles, her sad early years and how she used the media to her own ends. Beyond juicy details, Brown says she set out to write a book that examined the princess in a media and social context while discussing the impact of celebrity culture: “Why Diana was important, why she continues to fascinate, and what we should make of her 10 years after her death.”

    But some are skeptical that Brown will find success, considering a number of books – let’s not forget Paul Burrell‘s “embargoed” account – didn’t live up to sales expectations. “It’s a gamble for us,” said Vivien Jennings, owner of Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan. “Will there be new information and pictures people haven’t seen before? And will there be so much news coverage that people won’t have to read the book?” Jennings says she has ordered 20 copies of THE DIANA CHRONICLES because those who are interested will want to buy the book immediately. “We can’t miss a sale,” she said. the Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Ill., has ordered only two copies, based on weak sales of recent Diana-related titles. “Publicity could save [it] but there isn’t a lot of enthusiasm in the heartland,” said owner Roberta Rubin. One potential bright sign: a customer has already reserved a copy. “Somebody has gotten word, so I’ll buy a few more,” said Rubin.

    Marketing to Teens is Tricky

    The Wall Street Journal’s Jeff Trachtenberg picks up on the growing popularity of young adult fiction, but also of the accompanying problem when a book straddles the young and adult line – and who then is the primary market. Take Larry Doyle, author of I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER (concerning which Ron already displayed much enthusiasm). With a 15 year old protagonist and a very teen-friendly plot, his agent (Sarah Burnes of the Gernert Company) split her submissions between adult and young adult publishers. To Doyle’s dismay, Trachtenberg explains, potential young-adult editors told him in explicit detail how they intended to “shape” his book for their readership. Their advice included: Tell it in the first person, increase the female quotient and write chapters in which male and female narrators alternate. This carefully manicured approach, he was told by one publishing house, was “what we usually do.” So it was with some relief on Doyle’s part that the book migrated from the desk of HarperCollins Children’s associate publisher Elise Howard to that of Lee Boudreaux at Ecco, where it’ll be published in May.

    Which is all well and good, and there certainly is an unfortunate stigma to being published as a young adult writer (even as the market share increases, as does the overall quality) but Doyle’s nose-in-the-air attitude about YA fiction grates after a while. “If TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD or THE CATCHER IN THE RYE were published today, they’d almost certainly be young-adult titles,” he says. “But then they wouldn’t become classics, except in the sense that Judy Blume books are classics.” Something tells me this is a case of Doyle speaking without thinking (YA and middle grade classics off the top of my head: THE YEARLING, A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES) but then I suspect if a double-blind copy of M.T. Anderson‘s OCTAVIAN NOTHING was pressed into his hands, he wouldn’t recognize it as one of those oh-so-pesky YA books….

    UPDATE: Larry Doyle writes in to clarify some of the things in this post, as well as the original article. “I have no disdain for children’s literature, or literature read by young adults. I was wary of the prepackaged marketing of same, as a genre with specific conventions, then sold into a narrow channel of readership. That’s why I brought up MOCKING BIRD and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. They are
    both clearly children’s and young adult books, but both were published as general fiction. As was A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. It was
    an adult best-seller and shipped routinely to servicemen.”

    As for why KING DORK was included in the piece, Doyle said he brought the book up “as an example of a book that I thought deserved wider recognition but didn’t get it because of the marketing label. The movie will probably change that. I also, for what it’s worth, went out of my way to say that I didn’t think my book was a classic by any measure. I went with Ecco because of Lee, and because Harper-Collins convinced me I could reach a wider audience (including teenagers) by publishing there.”

    Not Exactly an Average American Marketing Plan

    Yesterday the WSJ’s Jeff Trachtenberg featured HarperCollins‘ efforts to reach the widest possible target audience for Chad Kultgen‘s hot-potato debut novel THE AVERAGE AMERICAN MALE, highlighting the still-unusual (though not for much longer) tactic of marketing a novel almost exclusively online. Originally, the publishing house thought to market the book cheaply with lots of stories in the press but that proved a no-go when the ribald novel purporting to show, in crudest possible fashion, how men really think proved to be too steamy for most newspaper and magazine editors to touch. Even with the more permissive atmosphere we enjoy online, Ron hesitated to embed the following clip without warning readers that while it’s not quite NSFW, it’s not exactly appropriate for work, either…

    This and two similar videos were uploaded to YouTube and have since spread elsewhere on the Internet, including MySpace. Now THE AVERAGE AMERICAN MALE has gone back for a third printing and the videos have become a Web sensation, with more than one million verified views in the past two weeks. “We needed to go where the average American male readership would be: online, passing around funny quirky videos,” said David Roth-Ey, editorial director of HarperPerennial, adding that he is talking about men under the age of 40. “If we were going to find them, it wouldn’t be by advertising in the New Yorker.” Still, the limits of the strategy are clear. Only a fraction of the million views has so far turned into sales, likely because the people watching the videos aren’t frequent book buyers. As Kultgen said, “Now we’ll see if the views translate into book sales.”

    Barack Obama Inspires Book Crashing Behavior

    The Wall Street Journal’s Jeff Trachtenberg reports on Black Dog & Leventhal‘s attempt to cash in on Barack Obama‘s presidential bid in record time – so much so, Trachtenberg explains, that less than a month after Obama formally announced his candidacy, Black Dog’s HOPES AND DREAMS: THE STORY OF BARACK OBAMA is hitting bookstores nationwide. Black Dog has printed 100,000 copies of the book, written by Steve Dougherty, including paperbacks priced at $9.95 as well as a special hardcover edition for Barnes & Noble priced at $9.98.

    “People can’t get enough of Barack Obama,” said Bruce Lubin, vice president of book development at Barnes & Noble, who expressed interest in a title if the book could be crashed – the quicker, the better. “We think there’s an audience.” Lubin declined to say how many books Barnes & Noble has ordered, but described the chain’s commitment as “strong.” The 128-page book, printed in a magazine-style size and full of photographs of its subject, is being offered in prime front-of-the-store locations and on current-events tables. The book’s publisher, J.P. Leventhal, said that altogether he has invested a bit less than $200,000 in the entire project. “It’s a gamble,” he says. “We will know in two weeks or so if it’s a success.” Because if not, that’s a hell of an investment to make and not get much out of it…

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