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Posts Tagged ‘Joel Rickett’

Michel Leaves William Morris UK for PFD

The Bookseller’s Joel Rickett reports that Caroline Michel, the former managing director of HarperPress, has left her current post as m.d. of William Morris UK for a chief executive position with rival literary agency PFD. Michel has been brought in over the heads of the PFD management team, who have been attempting to negotiate a 4m pound buyout from parent CSS Stellar.

Michel’s appointment was made by David Buchler, the new executive chairman of CSS, who has promised to reshape PFD. It is likely to scotch any possibility of a management buyout at the literary and talent agency, as well as the 8m pound offer from Chorion. The reaction of the 14 lead PFD agents to the news is not known (though the internal rumor mill must be humming bigtime.) Michel is meeting her new team this afternoon.

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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.”

Design for Publishing

The Bookseller’s Joel Rickett offers the scoop on what it’s like to sit in on a jacket cover meeting at a publishing house. In these notoriously fraught affairs, Rickett writes, editors, marketeers, publicists and sales staff plough through piles of cover mock-ups fresh from the art department. Dozens of jackets may be quickly approved, but sooner or later there’s a stumbling block: the editorial director loves a cover, but the sales director hates it. The designer is sent back to their Mac with a brief to incorporate 17 new elements from previous bestsellers, while simultaneously trying to make it look “more original”. Most of the decision-making is internal unless someone like Amanda Ross, producer of the Richard & Judy book club show or B&N’s Sessalee Hensley objects, and then they go back to the drawing board.

But now there are more options, especially with regards to backlist titles. “Research can be useful to take an author up a level,” says Ed Christie, sales and marketing director of Transworld and RH Children’s Books. “Sometimes publishers can get stuck in a loop, and research breaks the cycle. You’ve still got to be bold, not slavish, but you can learn from a particular market.” The new-look Vintage Classics, launching in the UK this August, also benefited from outside market research. Vintage publishing director Rachel Cugnoni said the groups “wanted something they could trust, that wasn’t too overstated, with a sense of aesthetic style. Books that would feel as happy in Heal’s as in bookshops.”

But as Egmont publisher Helen Stables pointed out, no matter how solid the research is, it cannot supplant good design skills. “Any data you get needs to be translated by an excellent art director into a bestselling cover. It is a guide to target audience preference, not a substitute for creative excellence.”

Jodi, Jodi, Jodi

When you’re a #1 bestselling author after a double-digit number of books, no wonder media outlets – not to mention an entire publishing industry – sit up and takes notice. For Jodi Picoult, who not all that long ago was deemed hard to classify and impossible to market, success in America and overseas is a long time coming, and the Observer’s Louise France seems, if not surprised, a bit taken aback at how book clubs and readers have embraced Picoult so readily, even if the literati and critical press continue to ignore her.

Not that Picoult cares much anymore. “I set out wanting to be a commercial fiction author, which means you don’t get any literary clout. I will never be thought of in the same way as someone like Joyce Carol Oates, though I’m more prolific* and probably read by more people,’ she says. ‘I tell my publicist not to send me the New York Times, which if they do write about me only do so in order to be snide. But the best revenge is when I end up top of their bestseller list. Which happens all the time.”

More to the point is why this happened and how Picoult’s success has now really opened the door for other thoughtfully commercial women’s fiction (think of the recent NYT bestselling success of Laura Lippman‘s WHAT THE DEAD KNOW) to be successful. Ultimately it comes down to stories that provoke discussion and empathy. “Book clubs need books they can talk about,” Picoult says simply. “Not just books that are fluffy, with happy endings.” Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller, agrees. “Women in book clubs relate to her characters. They can ask themselves: what would I do in the same situation?” An irresistible question answered every year by Picoult’s books, by and large.

*Okay, someone wasn’t counting up properly, considering just how prolific Oates is over the last 45-odd years.

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Dateline LBF: New Independent Bookseller Buying Group

At first I was ready to bitch and moan that the Bookseller only made its LBF daily content available in a flash/PDF-style booklet but over the course of the day they are making select pieces available as standalone links, which is good. The top story, penned by Joel Rickett, focuses on a new buying group for independent booksellers headed by former Ottakar’s marketing director Paul Henderson called Leading Edge, originally founded in Australia where it has 175 member bookshops. They are given access to a centralized website with a range of promoted titles, as well as marketing support such as customer catalogs. They can opt to buy the stock via wholesalers or direct from publishers.

“We can give independents an industry voice and a sense of community,” Henderson explained to the Bookseller. “The [Booksellers Association] can’t be solely representative of indies—its role is to be a general trade body. We can champion independents.” he service will begin to gather members in May, offering a free six-month subscription. The full fee is expected to be £130 per month, for access to an initial range of 150 to 200 titles a month at special terms. It pitches itself as a “completely transparent and accountable support group whose success is predicated on being able to provide value to all parties”.

…And Yet More Awards

The second wave of Nibbies – aka the British Book Awards – have been announced, this for the book trade and publishing industry. Publishing News has the full list and it makes me wonder – why is there no similar award list given out in the US for Best Literary Agent, Best Publisher, Best Editor and the like?

Meanwhile, the oddest literary prize of the year has also been awarded, and the Times reveals the Diagram Prize winner: Julian Montague‘s THE STRAY SHOPPING CARTS OF EASTERN NORTH AMERICA: A GUILD TO FIELD IDENTIFICATION. The book took Montague, a New York-based artist, six years to complete. “The content is utterly irrelevant,” Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller, said. I’m not so sure, having witnessed an accident or two involving stray shopping carts – wouldn’t you like to know how they are classified?! Well? Well???