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Posts Tagged ‘Penguin’

Gibson To Take Second Life Plunge

With SPOOK COUNTRY due for publication next month, William Gibson‘s UK publishers are trying new marketing devices to get the book noticed. And one of them, according to the Penguin Books blog, is to bring Gibson to Second Life – a world he could have easily predicted in books like NEUROMANCER.

Over the next few weeks, reports Penguin Digital publisher Jeremy Ettlinghausen, Penguin is planning a range of William Gibson activities in Second Life: screening his “fine and strange movie” No Maps for These Territories; a competition to design an avatar for the man himself; giving away shipping containers packed with Gibson goodies and at the beginning of August, Gibson himself will be coming into Second Life to read from SPOOK COUNTRY and answer questions. “It was quite a thrill to give William Gibson himself a short tour of Second Life at the end of last year,” Ettlinghausen remarked to UK SF Book News. “And while I am not sure what he expected, I don’t think he expected that his avatar would be publicly mocked for its lack of aesthetic qualities.”

Could Pearson WSJ Bid Break up Company?

That’s the hypothesis the Independent’s Stephen Foley puts forward in reporting about the bid to buy the Wall Street Journal by Pearson (parent company of Penguin.) For Dame Marjorie Scardino, the chief executive who once said that the Financial Times would be sold “over my dead body”, failing to make a move on the Journal may not simply mean a reversion back to the status quo. In the words of one analyst yesterday, this could be “double or quits”.

Unlike Newscorp, Pearson doesn’t have easy and available access to cash, so they need a partner (rumored to be GE.) And then there’s the issue of the FT, a competitor to the WSJ and sliding in profit value. Many of the most bullish analysts and investors believe it is only a matter of time before the company is broken up, releasing value from an auction of the Financial Times.

In the end, the biggest problem may be Pearson’s own stakeholders. First there are the FT journalists who may be resistant to a cost-cutting, job-slashing merger, undermining the point of doing a deal. And most important of all, the shareholders. One clue as to their view is that Pearson shares are down 3.6 per cent since the idea of a bid for the Journal surfaced over the weekend, with the decline accelerating yesterday.

Pearson to Bid for Dow Jones?

The Telegraph reports that the parent company of Penguin and the Financial Times put in a bid for the Wall Street Journal-owning company late Friday night as “a desperate attempt to scupper the creation of a powerful international rival,” say analysts. “There is some logic to a bid. Pearson wouldn’t want the Wall Street Journal to be rejuvenated by [Newscorp owner Rupert] Murdoch,” said one commentator. “Murdoch has deep pockets, if he’s willing to run it at a loss and expand in Europe and Asia, the FT’s position only becomes harder.”

Paul Bates, analyst at Charles Stanley, said: “Cost synergies are limited because of the regional biases of the two. There will be some story sharing but otherwise it’s limited.” But geographically the two would be a good fit. “They complement each other quite well. The Journal isn’t particularly strong in Europe and likewise the FT, despite pushing for years and trying to make a go of it in America, hasn’t really succeeded.

Pearson Gets Critical Analysis

The Times’ Dan Sabbagh looks at the performance of educational publisher Pearson (parent company of Penguin) and its CEO, Dame Marjorie Scardino, over the last ten years, and wonders if it’s “unreasonable to ask whether it is time for Dame Marjorie to adopt a different strategy.” Especially because even though the focus on publishing has been good from a long-term growth standpoint, “unfortunately, so exciting is the education business that journalists fail utterly to pay any attention to it,” concludes Sabbagh. Ungrateful scribblers prefer instead to concentrate on the rest of the shooting match, which, after ten years’ hard work, looks hardly developed by comparison. Penguin and the businesses clumped around the Financial Times contribute a measly 33 per cent of profits, and the newspaper, which produced £80 million at the top of the last cycle, might manage 20 million pounds this year.

Which makes talk of unloading Penguin all the stronger for Sabbagh. “Penguin might be better off in a union with Bloomsbury or merged into a consumer-orientated media group that would not mind a stable earnings stream to offset the vicissitudes of advertising.”

Publishers Get Into the Speakers’ Bureau Game

At the New York Times, Celia McGee highlights the growing number of publishers who have set up separate speakers’ bureaus for select authors. In the last two years, several major publishing houses have set up speakers bureaus. HarperCollins was the first, in May 2005, followed by Random House (which outsourced its program to the American Program Bureau rather than build its own.) Knopf and Penguin established in-house speakers bureaus in 2006, and two other publishers, Holtzbrinck and the Hachette Book Group, may do the same.

A speakers bureau “goes beyond the traditional marketing opportunities,” said Jamie Brickhouse, who heads the HarperCollins enterprise. “It’s a way for authors to continue to raise their profiles and reach new audiences. It’s great for the frontlist and for the backlist, and has brought new life to authors who don’t have an ongoing book push.” The fees charged by such bureaus for authors (like James Swanson, left) can be steep – from $5000 to $35,000 an appearance depending on the author’s status. But some, like PW editor-in-chief Sara Nelson, expressed concern with the trend, worried that it put too much pressure on authors to hone their presentation skills, potentially at the expense of their literary development. “If whether you’re able to sell yourself as a speaker is part of finding a publisher or not concerns me,” she said.

Free Book Scammer on the Loose

The Bookseller reports on an enterprising book collector who has been scamming publishers of free books for well over a decade. Peter Oosterbos, who also calls himself Fred, has approached Dutch publishers for over 15 years, claiming to be the book reviews editor for the non-existent Furore Magazine. Oosterbos, who communicates only by fax, has now contacted British publishers as well as Penguin USA and Italy, and Dutch publishers De Geus and Tirion. In mid-April he requested that Canongate forward 25 review copies. Canongate export sales manager Anna-Lisa Sandstrum said: “Most of the books were not frontlist titles, so I called a customer in Holland and they said this man had been pulling this scam for years.”

Hans van der Klis, a reporter for Dutch publishing magazine Boekblad, estimates that Oosterbos has received “hundreds, maybe thousands” of free books over the years. He said: “By now, most publishers in Holland know him. But he tries to target new PR people and publishers who may not have heard of him.” So if there’s a request pending from this guy at your publishing house, better steer clear.

War Over War and Peace

What to do when there are two competing versions of a classic novel, one that purports to be the “original” and one that call itself “Tolstoy’s intended version” or whatnot? If one is 1400 pages and one only 900, which one do you buy? Is it like getting a bare bones DVD or the director’s cut, or the real thing and a panned-and-scanned version?

The arguments are endless and the Times’ Dalya Alberge reports on the sniping between HarperCollins—publishers of the streamlined WAR AND PEACE—and Penguin, purveyors of the original version in a new translation. Tony Briggs, translator of the Penguin edition, says that the HarperCollins version should not even be called War and Peace. He said that Tolstoy named his abandoned draft ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL; that it never went near a publisher and that 200,000 words are missing, along with the main ideas. The fates of the principal characters are radically different—Prince Andrei, Count Rostov and Petya do not die and Platon Karatayev does not even feature.

Professor Briggs, Emeritus Professor at Birmingham University, and a senior research fellow at Bristol University, decries the draft version: “If you sent the last chapter to Mills and Boon, they would not accept it. It’s silly and sentimental. It is an exaggeration to call this work ‘the original’. There were many drafts and this one, although more detailed, was rejected and superseded like all the others. It is of little significance, except to a small body of scholars.” But Clare Reihill, editorial director of Fourth Estate, a HarperCollins literary imprint, said that that they were not misleading anyone, that the writing was “not Mills and Boon” and that they had not copied the cover. “In publishing, there are always periods when jackets look the same. All classics look like this now. I don’t think [Professor Briggs] can claim ownership of what’s currently seen as marketable.” In the end, sales will matter most, so we’ll just have to wait and see what readers are more inclined to pick up…

The Nibbies, Publishing Edition

The British Book Trade Awards announced their winners in Harrogate last night. There are a lot of them, so the highlights include Penguin winning Publisher of the Year, The Friday Project‘s Clare Christian as Young Publisher of the Year, Quercus getting the Small Press nod and Clare Alexander anointed as Literary Agent of the Year.

Penguin Going to Court on Plagiarism Charges

The long and grinding wheels of justice are finally about to find fruition in court, as literary editor Sam Leith reports on his blog for the Daily Telegraph. Back in 1994, Stu Silverstein decided to put together a miscellany of Dorothy Parker‘s uncollected verse. He selects and edits the book himself, gives untitled poems titles and does all the other things associated with editing a volume of poetry. After a round of submission to publishers, Penguin‘s offer comes in at $2000 and unsatisfied, Silverstein goes with Scribner. The book is published as NOT MUCH FUN.

Which is an apt descriptor of what happens next, for when Penguin’s Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker appears, the Uncollected section is essentially a verbatim copy of Silverstein’s book – down to editing errors and the titles he gave untitled poems. There’s not a whisper of attribution, either, says Leith, even though one of Penguin’s editors later tells the court she, quite literally, photocopied NOT MUCH FUN in preparing Penguin’s edition. A lawsuit is filed, and there’s much back and forth over the next 13 years, with Silverstein winning most of the battles but losing the most recent in the Court of Appeals.

And so, on July 17 at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse here in Manhattan, Silverstein will indeed have his day in court as his lawyers and Penguin’s face off in front of Judge John F. Keenan.

Getting a Publishing Job Almost as Difficult as Getting Published

So reports the BBC on the current state of the publishing industry’s employment climate, especially with regards to minority hires. Minority groups have typically been under-represented in the industry – a situation demonstrated by a 2004 survey commissioned by the Arts Council which found nearly half of those in the profession did not believe it was “culturally diverse”. Even those who have fulfilled their dream of working in the industry are still frustrated about its recruitment methods and attitudes to candidates from atypical backgrounds. Perhaps the disparity between London’s minority population (28%) and those working in London-based publishing houses (14%) indicates the larger problem.

“There are plenty of jobs out there in publishing for which people can apply but for some reason ethnic minorities are just finding it that much more difficult to get in,” says Sandy Officer, a production assistant at Hodder Headline who was taken on by the company on a special 12-month traineeship scheme in 2005 and subsequently securing a full-time job with the firm. “This industry is very much based on who you know and the contacts you have and you only find these contacts if you are already within the industry,” she says. But Penguin‘s Helen Fraser defends those in senior positions from any charges of myopia. “It is not the job of publishers to try and adjust social problems,” she says. “They are, above all, looking for writing talent. You can’t push them out of the way to change the social mix.”

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