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Posts Tagged ‘Peter Olson’

Random House Donates $1M to First Book

Random House announced Monday that it was donating $1 million to First Book, a nonprofit organization that has given millions of books to needy children since its founding in 1992, reports the Associated Press. “As publishing professionals who spend our days surrounded by and immersed in books, it is difficult to imagine a world without them,” Random House chairman Peter Olson said in a statement.

“But this is a disturbing reality for millions of children in our country who do not have any books at all in their homes or schools or daycare centers. We know that one of the leading imperatives in raising the national literacy rate is to ensure that children have access to books.” Random House added that over the years it has donated more than 13 million copies of its own books.

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Facts & Figures of Random House

Tucked away in the business section, New York Magazine featured some revealing, if still unsurprising factoids about the book business as seen through the eyes of America’s largest trade publisher, Random House. Every week the company releases 67 new books, but it’s the the 33,000-book backlist that supplies 80 percent of its profit. Fiction provides 55 percent of Random’s revenue while under 10 percent of revenue comes from top-10 bestsellers.

And as for the best way Random House makes money? Underpaying writers. “The most-profitable books are highly successful authors early in their career with a contract that doesn’t reflect their success,” says CEO Peter Olson. Some writers sign multi-book contracts, which pay off big if the first book’s a blockbuster. As for the reverse, well, the piece doesn’t mention how many big blockbuster debuts turned a profit or ruined a writer’s career, alas – that’s a statistic that would really have revealed much…

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.

Weisberg Departs from Random House

PW Daily reported yesterday that Don Weisberg, who has headed the large Random House sales group since Random’s acquisition by Bertelsmann in 1998, will leave the company February 28. Weisberg, who is executive vp and COO of North America, also oversees Random House of Canada. All of his duties will be assumed by Edward Volini, Random’s deputy chairman.

n his memo to employees, Random chairman Peter Olson said that he and Weisberg “have been discussing his desire to consider and to pursue new professional challenges….I have tried hard to change his mind over the past few months but ultimately respected his wishes to move on.” While Olson was aware of Weisberg’s plans, the news of Weisberg’s departure came as a surprise to Random’s employees, including the sales force. Olson’s decision to not replace Weisberg with someone with a sales background is also a surprise. Weisberg developed strong credibility with accounts, and Olson called him “a pragmatic and customer-oriented leader and thinker… who ran the sales group with an open mind and great heart.”

The news might also be an extra surprise in the wake of recent sales force firings, anywhere from a few individuals to more than 3 dozen, and may make one wonder what, if any, further plans Random House has with regards to gutting modifying its sales force…