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Archives: January 2007

RULES Author Sued for Defamation

Remember THE RULES? The prehistoric dating guide so popular in the 1990s that now seems a quaint memory today? Not exactly, but one of the book’s co-authors, Ellen Fein, is back in the news as a result of a $5 million dollar lawsuit slapped on her earlier this week, reports the Associated Press. The charges? That she called Dr. Larry W. Rosenthal, a Manhattan dentist, a “big fat liar” on a website she created. also says in papers filed in Manhattan state Supreme Court that Fein has tried to put the bite on him for $100,000. “Among other things, the Web site carried a statement accusing Dr. Rosenthal of lying, which continues until this day, and incorporated defamatory statements” from BadDentist.com, a site created by another of Rosenthal’s patients, the lawsuit says.

Fein’s lawyer, Ann McGrane, said she planned to file a motion to dismiss Rosenthal’s lawsuit and said she was sure it would be granted. She would not comment further.

You’ll Believe a Mouse Can Fight

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This summer, comics writer/artist Mike Oeming is finally publishing a project he and Bryan Glass have had in development for years, a fantasy epic called The Mice Templar (above). Newsarama gets the inside story on the book’s origins, including a stint in the famous Robert McKee screenwriting seminar, but the very nature of the project raises big questions for comics fans…because one of the biggest surprise hits of 2006 was David Petersen‘s Mouse Guard (below).

“I won’t lie, I was freaked out!” [says Oeming on first learning about Guard] “Then I saw the previews and I saw David was going for a very different vibe. Once I read it, I realized they were as similar and yet different as any superhero team book. Justice League and the Fantastic Four are both superhero books—people fighting evil in tights with superpowers in a large city—but they are completely different. Templar and Guard are of the same genre, the same specific genre, but are executed quite differently…

“David’s book has an air of sweetness about it, and I mean that in a great way—it’s very endearing, yet has an undercurrent of danger and menace…a great balancing act. Templar I think is the opposite: it’s more menace and danger with undercurrents of sweetness.”

The good vibe is mutual, with Oeming and Petersen both showing up in the article’s comments thread to praise each other’s work.

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Nicole’s Family Steamed Over New York Article

Our colleagues at FishbowlNY are reporting that the family of murder victim Nicole Brown Simpson is demanding a retraction from New York after reading yesterday’s profile of Judith Regan, which describes a meeting with HarperCollins representatives in Indianapolis to determine how big a chunk of the If I Did It proceeds it would take for the Browns not to mind so much that OJ was making money off his wife’s death. The thing is, Brown family attorneys wrote to New York owner Bruce Wasserstein, that meeting never took place…at least not with anybody affiliated with the Browns.

D-Nasty’s 1st Serial Goes to Radar

Dana Vachon is OK.jpgRadar sent us a note yesterday afternoon to let us know that they’d picked up the first serial rights to Mergers & Acquisitions, the debut from Dana Vachon (left), which they describe as “a thinly-disguised novel about hijinks in the investment banking world.” We’re further told that the magazine beat out New York and The New Yorker for the excerpt, which threw me for a momentary loop: Can you remember the last time New York ran fiction? (And none of your snide jokes, now!) Anyway, the Vachon-filled Radar goes on sale in two weeks.

Today in AMS: Annual Meeting Delayed (again), More From Radio Free

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that AMS has, as expected, postponed its annual meeting more than a month following the resignation of one of its directors. Robert Robotti resigned in the wake of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and he had advocated the company go ahead with its annual meeting slated for January 24 – a meeting that would have been the company’s first in four years. Now it’s been rescheduled for February 23, and the company named Marc Ravitz, executive vice president of New York’s Grace & White Co., to fill the vacancy left by Robotti. Grace & White, together with affiliated persons and entities, controls 12 percent of Advanced Marketing’s stock.

On the Perseus & PGW front, the bankruptcy court is still scheduled to meet on February 12 to decide whether the 70 cents on the dollar offer is doable. Publishers Weekly’s Jim Milliot and Claire Kirch report on the “alarm bells” set off by the potential deal. “How can we maintain our visibility when we are becoming an ever-smaller piece of a larger puzzle?” asked Michael Wiegers, executive editor at Copper Canyon Press, which is distributed by Perseus’s Consortium unit. Another Consortium client, Jim Perlman of Holy Cow Press, said he is concerned that with the addition of PGW, Consortium “will lose their ability to handle books with the knowledge and concern they’ve displayed in the past.” Several PGW clients voiced similar questions, wondering where they will fit in at Perseus. “The viability of our list in this marketplace depends in part on a fairly intimate familiarity with what we do,” one PGW publisher said, and another wondered what the “pecking order” will be when all the companies are combined.

As always, for the skinny on the failing fortunes of AMS, check out new offerings from Radio Free PGW. Today they look at the $19 million in books that AMS lost at their Indiana distribution center in 2004, why Perseus may require even longer “float” times than did PGW; and also point people to Mr. Popman’s Place for a breakdown of what might possibly be the real reason AMS hasn’t reported its earnings in several years (hint: a faulty computer system.)

Finally, a disgruntled AMS employee (or management type? Who knows) has decided to strike back. And so we get the lovely “AMS Has WMD” blog, which seems solely designed to take potshots at Radio Free PGW. Make of it what you will, whether from a trolling or humorous perspective…

The Prospective Banning of Les Miserables II

In France, a huge fight is brewing as the highest appeal courts are set to decide today whether a contemporary sequel to Victor Hugo’s LES MISERABLES should be banned – and if so, what this might mean to future attempts to “sequelize” classics or other works of note. The result would be a culmination of a more-than-five year battle between Hugo’s great-great-grandson, Pierre Hugo, and Francois Ceresa, whose two-tome sequel COSETTE OU LE TEMPS DE ILLUSIONS (Cosette or the Time of Illusions). “I hope to set a legal precedent for all descendants of celebrities, be they writers, artists or musicians, to protect the spirit of their forebears,” Hugo, 59, a writer and goldsmith, told The Daily Telegraph.

Intellectual property rights lawyers said the ruling could set a precedent in cases pitting literary works considered to be in the public domain 70 years after their author’s death against an author’s “moral rights” — which are by law timeless and guarded by his descendants. And lawyers for Ceresa argued that to ban his novel would violate freedom of expression and deter artists from turning to great works for inspiration. Literary lawyers worry that they will be swamped with real or fake descendents of celebrated authors seeking compensation.

If he loses, Hugo pledges to keep battling. If he wins, the book will be pulled from stores and the editor ordered to pay legal fees. But what was Hugo’s take on the LES MISERABLES musical? Evidently, his great-great grandfather would have enjoyed it “quite thoroughly.”

Making Money from Government Commission Reports

Fortune’s Eugenia Levenson analyzes why freely available and lengthy government reports, such as the 9/11 Commission and Iraq Study Group Reports, are selling like gangbusters. The latter book, published by Random House imprint Vintage, has spent six weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and has already sold over 125,000 copies, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which captures 70 percent of total book sales. That’s despite the fact that the text is freely available online and was downloaded 1.4 million times from a sponsoring Web site in the first week alone.

But it all started with the release of the 9/11 Commission Report, which certainly caught publishing by surprise with 1.5 million copies sold to date. “Everyone was surprised by the retail performance of the 9/11 report,” says Jonathan Burnham, a senior vice president and publisher at HarperCollins. “It seemed to sell to a much broader audience than ever before for that kind of material.” But the real reason for success? The cost, or lack thereof. There are no acquisition costs, since the documents are in the public domain, and are fairly cheap to produce. And because anyone can publish the materials – though the ones who get their first reap the most lucrative rewards – multiple players can be rewarded. “One company shouldn’t have the monopoly on something that’s in the public domain,” says Josh Linsk, CEO of Filiquarian who has sold over 600 copies of the paperback edition. “I just thought there should be more options.”

UPDATE: C.E. Petit points out that the government commission craze began much earlier, with the 1987 Tower Commission Report (released in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra Affair) issued in a mass market paperback edition by Bantam and earlier, in hardcover by Random House.

When Politics and Publishing Collide

USA Today’s Carol Memmott looks at the astounding success of Barack Obama‘s THE AUDACITY OF HOPE and whether book sales really do have an impact on campaign plans. Booksellers and political observers have been buzzing for months about the rock-star atmosphere at Obama’s appearances to promote the book. “Reaction to the book and the response he received on the tour contributed to his thinking about the presidential race, but it wasn’t timed for that purpose,” says David Axelrod, a political consultant to Obama. The soon-to-be presidential candidate signed on to write the book long before the idea of running for president ever surfaced, Axelrod says. “There is no question, however, that the book signings and accompanying forums gave him a great opportunity to interact with thousands of people throughout the country.”

These days, it’s almost a requirement for a candidate to write a book, and there sure will be plenty of them coming in 2007 and 2008. “But the smart ones write a book that becomes kinetic, because it’s a bit unusual,” said Douglas Brinkley, citing JFK and Jimmy Carter as presidents who were helped by the books they wrote before. “You don’t want it to smell like a policy-platform document.”

You Know You Want to Read It:New York Takes on Judith Regan

nymag-regan-cover.jpgAs the Daily News hinted yesterday, New York staffer Vanessa Grigoriadis reports on how the Judith Regan firing went down, and it’s a doozy of a story, especially in the way she lays out the dynamics of Regan’s relationship with the rest of HarperCollins, including CEO Jane Friedman, and its parent company News Corp. But, of course, you want to hear about how Regan staffers in LA were called into a meeting room to be told about her firing, only to discover she was still eating lunch at her desk. Or about the speculation that Friedman may have jumped the gun on cutting her loose. And, let’s face it, you kinda want to know what O.J. Simpson had to say for himself during that interview. (There’s also the story which many will describe as the time Regan nearly seduced the young Grigoriadis over to the dark side of the force, but since you’d never heard about that, you couldn’t really anticipate it.)

moynihan-regan.jpgGrigoriadis doesn’t get Regan to talk yet, but she does speak with some of the former publisher’s authors, like Maura Moynihan (seen at right with Regan) and raw-food advocate Natalia Rose. But my favorite detail is actually one that’s ancillary to the Regan saga:

“There were two secret books at HarperCollins in 2006, and we asked, ‘Are they worth it?’” says a HarperCollins editor. “Jane said that one of them was not that big a deal, but the book with Judith was going to be huge.”

I imagine all those bookstore owners who got suckered into blind-ordering the second memoir from Princess Di’s butler last fall are gritting their teeth just a little harder after reading that.

Today in AMS: the NoCal perspective, AMS’s side of the liquidation story

The SF Chronicle finally picks up on the AMS bankruptcy story as Ilana DaBare probes the Northern California angle. That’s because many of Publishers Group West‘s clients – like McSweeney’s, Amber-Allen and New World Library – set up shot in and around the Bay area, and are still very much reeling from every development stemming from a bankruptcy that occurred at the “worst possible time.” Take tiny Parallax Press, a nonprofit Buddhist publisher in Berkeley with six employees, was owed $150,000 of its total annual sales of $850,000. “Revenues from the three most lucrative sales months of the year are not available to us,” said Travis Masch, Parallax’s publisher. “This has a tremendous financial impact on us.”

Meanwhile, the San Diego Union Tribune has much more about the liquidation petition by AMS creditors. And not surprisingly, AMS isn’t happy with the idea at all – as the company’s attorney, Russ Silberglied, accused the creditors of exacerbating the company’s problems by cutting off book shipments and making the warehouse stores deal with rival distribution companies. “(The creditors), together with our competitors, are talking to our customers and trying to circumvent us,” Silberglied said. “It seems like the very definition of the harm that’s going to befall us. That’s our business. You know, if we can’t perform, if we can’t sell books, we can’t perform our business.”

And Bud Leedom, who publishes the San Diego Stock Report, said it’s possible AMS still has a shot at surviving its current difficulties. “I’d like to think there’s more to the company than liquidation,” said Leedom. “On the other hand, AMS’s business is all about relationships and the strength of its customers. Those relationships may be untenable because the customers can’t get information about the strength of the company.”

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