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Posts Tagged ‘ReganBooks’

Random House Revolving Door Widens Editorial and Marketing/Distribution Dichotomy

Last week’s post about Daniel Menaker‘s exit and the larger implications for Random House served as unwitting inspiration for Sara Nelson‘s column in this week’s issue of Publishers Weekly. After recapping what she terms (and I concur is) a “stunning” number of job switcheroos at Random House, Nelson wonders if all the gossip and chatter misses the overall point: that none of the departing RH executives, going back to Don Weisberg, the COO of RH North America who left in February, were replaced with external hires:

That…suggests that Random is indeed shifting focus, but not necessarily in fiction. At worst, the piling on of new jobs to longtime staffers with already full plates is a form of downsizing; at best, it might be that Random, like most publishers, will soon move its emphasis from the acquiring/editing side of the business to the less sexy but increasingly important distribution and marketing side. Editors and authors will always matter-somebody, after all, has to create all that “content” that will be disseminated in forms perhaps not yet invented—but the focus these days is more on selling direct, on digital “product” and on POD.

Nelson’s larger point is a good one, but I suspect that emphasis already began quite a number of years ago, and not just at Random House. Most of those at the executive level – and by that I mean Publisher, CEO or something in between – tend to come up from the marketing, distribution and publicity sides, and yet if a new imprint is formed, it’s usually named after its founding editor (most recent examples: Spiegel & Grau at Doubleday/Broadway; Amy Einhorn Books at Putnam. At least Twelve, Jonathan Karp‘s imprint at Grand Central Publishing, was never going to be named after him.) Eponymous editorial imprints seem to follow a common trajectory: a big announcement spurring a flurry of news, commentary and speculation; an 18 month or so gestation marked by sprees of acquiring not out of place at 5th Avenue department stores; and after a few years – best personified by the fate of Rob Weisbach‘s imprint at William Morrow in the late 1990s – a near-permanent place in the loss-leading category for the publisher. Never mind the irony that the most successful eponymous imprint, ReganBooks, is no more, shuttered in favor of the more anonymous (and temporary) “HC” logo.

So if, as Nelson concludes, publishing houses’ energies are moving even more strongly towards the “less sexy” side of publishing, perhaps it may make sense to question the wisdom of imprints named after editors – especially when in the end – with the exception of one Ms. Judith Regan – they are just as anonymous to readers as are the marketing & distribution people. In other words (and keeping the elemental theme going) maybe it’s not a question of air or water but earth and fire.

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Reganbooks Dismantling: “From Day 1, we knew we could not be continuing with that name”

The NYT’s Julie Bosman follows up last night’s breaking story with more details on the impending shutdown of ReganBooks a little more than a month after its creator, Judith Regan, was fired. Aside from the five staffers named yesterday who will move back to HarperCollins‘ New York headquarters, the publisher also laid off 10 employees in ReganBooks’ LA offices. The 10 employees were notified yesterday that they would be laid off, said Michael Morrison, the president and group publisher of HarperMorrow, a division of HarperCollins, in a telephone interview with Bosman. “From Day 1, we knew we could not be continuing with that name. We didn’t want to, nor could we.” Morrison added that none of the ReganBooks authors had yet been notified of the imprint’s closing – but they sure know now.

Regan also issued a statement about her namesake imprint’s closing, saying she was “blessed to have the opportunity to work with hundreds of fascinating authors over the years and honored to have published them under my name.” Such magnanimous words were a far cry from comments made about Newsweek’s OJ Simpson article on her namesake Sirius satellite radio show, as Radar‘s Jeff Bercovici reported. When Regan’s producer, Howie Green, slipped up and said the chapter recounted “how [Simpson] would have committed the crime,” Regan snapped at him. “No, it was how he committed the crime. Even today the mistakes the media made have been repeated by you, my producer, because it is so inundated, so insidious.”

HarperCollins Payment Plan to OJ Simpson Revealed

Court TV’s Hollywood Heat has unearthed the amended complaint by lawyers representing Fred Goldman in his lawsuit against O.J. Simpson to collect any money he (through his alleged dummy corporation, Lorraine Brooke Associates) obtained from ReganBooks & HarperCollins for IF I DID IT. And about a dozen pages in is a real gem: the actual contract between HarperCollins and Simpson, dated May 8, 2006, detailing the exact payment plan for the book for a total of $1.1 million:

  • $95,000 upon “execution of this agreement”
  • $95,000 upon acceptance of an outline
  • $95,000 upon acceptance of the first half of the manuscript
  • $95,000 upon acceptance of a “complete and final manuscript”
  • $95,000 for hardcover publication
  • $100,000 for paperback publication
  • $400,000 for O.J. Simpson’s “first interview” (aka the scuttled interview with Judith Regan for Fox)
  • $125,000 “retained by the publisher to pay the writer,” identified as Pablo Fenvjes.

Court TV adds that it is unclear how much HarperCollins actually paid Lorraine Brooke Associates, the holding company Simpson used to accept payment, but it seems fairly likely that Fenjves got his payment and the first four payments, as well as the “first interview” money, were delivered to LBA. And check out page 32 for the signatures of both Judith Regan and HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman, whom we need not remind you all was Publishers Weekly‘s Person of the Year for 2006, in part (as Kelly Jane Torrance noted) for the effectiveness with which she distanced herself from the project once the public backlash set in. Never has accountability been so visible in a single handwritten scrawl…