Wednesday, March 29, 2006
It was an interesting day. In addition to the significant focus on education and literacy—both adult and child—discussed in my prior post, the discussions ranged from “What the book business can learn from the film business about creating audiences,” with Michael Lynton, Chairman & CEO of Sony Pictures & Entertainment interviewed by Robert Miller, President, Hyperion to “The political perspective on reading & literacy" with the Honorable Eliot Spitzer, NY State Attorney General, interviewed by Richard Sarnoff, President of Random House.
Mr. Lynton’s perspective was inspiringly evenhanded, indicating that books and films have much to learn from each other. Big budget films must develop and deliver a universally accessible message. But the marketing and selling of niche films and DVDs are learning from books about how to catalogue and reach smaller, more focused audiences. He confirmed that the traditional business model is shifting with changing advertising revenue, and reinforced the sense of advertiser malaise. He touched on the ongoing blurring of fact & fiction in all media, and the challenges and risk of innovation for us all. Piracy, for films as well as books, is a major issue—a story he shared was that off-shore ships that had been used for narcotics had been repurposed and are now creating bootleg DVDs!
Eliot Spitzer and Richard Sarnoff had gone to both grade school and college together. They noted that if you’d played 7th grade soccer with someone, no matter how accomplished they became in later life, you simply could never truly take them seriously. I found Mr. Spitzer’s ability to take any question, frame it & articulate what he could speak to & why quite impressive. Subjects discussed were broad, covering issues of piracy, his gubernatorial race and copyright—something he believes in protecting. As you may know, both the AAP and the Author’s Guild have filed suit against Google over copyright, so that was good to hear!
We also heard from one of the co-authors of Freakonomics. His talk reinforced how dedication, commitment, the investment of time, energy and creativity all count for a lot—but it also takes luck and timing to deliver a blockbuster. His sage advice for a successful book? Four things: 1) Have something interesting to say. 2) Say it in an interesting way. 3) Create a story that people want to talk about. 4) Get lucky. Good advice!
Monday, March 20, 2006
Give up? OK, the answer is they have all volunteered their time and donated their photo to the Get Caught Reading campaign! The Association of American Publishers, has a program called Get Caught Reading, designed to inspire reading. If you check out the website you’ll see the posters.
Continuing to create new readers was the subject of the AAP Annual meeting this year, with challenging negative trends on reading in all sectors and ages from Dana Gioia, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts and little positive to report from U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings either.
But there were also some truly inspiring stories from Dr. Barry Zuckerman, MD, CEO of Reach out and Read and Jane Hileman, CEO of American Reading Company. Much like romance readers, these reading advocates shared an indomitable spirit of optimism despite all odds, and an unshakable faith that believing—caring, trying—can and does work miracles. Much as we all know love does.
I know many of our authors contribute their time and expertise to literacy. One of the things that we discussed at the AAP was the idea of creating a “Literacy Day” that would allow us all to work together to help build awareness and potentially build some ties between the many literacy organizations. Right now, there are many organizations, but nothing to pull them together or share best practices or help leverage success. Making our nation and the world a more literate place is a goal we all share, and it seems like we could do more to work together on this.
An award recipient mentioned in his acceptance speech that his real “competition” wasn’t another publisher or entertainment option—it was the disengaged, lazy and uninvolved person. He said that rather than compete with his peers, he’d rather join his colleagues in an effort to convert more non-readers to readers. I thought that was a great way to look at one's goals—and rethink your allies!
While I think of reading as a wonderful gift, it really is a basic survival skill--something every adult and child should be able to master. Let me know what you think of a Literacy Day and if you have any thoughts or suggestions I can take back to the AAP.
Just to let you know my family believes in starting that reading habit early, here is a photo of my brother Bill reading one of his favorite Luna titles to his four month old son--who is clearly quite intrigued by the story! Bill is a big fan of Luna...and of Gold Eagle's Mac Bolan. Maybe we'll wait until Will is a few months older before Bill introduces him to The Executioner series....
Monday, March 13, 2006
I was lucky enough to be up in Toronto last week and had a chance to visit with Dianne Moggy, Editorial Director, Global Single Titles right when something amazing was happening. Here’s what she said:
“The numbers kept growing until I quickly realized that 10% of the titles on the New York Times hardcover and paperback bestseller lists—the top 35 on each list—were our books! Its particularly rewarding to have The Island by Heather Graham in the top 15, as our hardcover program only launched in 2000. And I think I actually yelled when I realized that Mercedes Lackeys second hardcover with Luna, our romantic fantasy program, was on the extended list!
“Wednesday, the day the list is released, is quickly becoming my favorite day of the week as our bestseller news has been so positive this year. And just wait until we launch Spice, a program of erotic fiction in May—watch for Tease by Suzanne Forster and Getting Even by Kayla Perrin in book stores in May.”
So to review the many recent successes, Heather’s The Island will be on the March 19th New York Times hardcover list—totally excellent. And it will debut at #14 on the Publishers Weekly hardcover bestseller list for March 13th. Heather is one of those amazing authors whose work with us has included titles at Harlequin, Silhouette, MIRA and in HQN as Shannon Drake. Her Killing Kelly is on the paperback NYT list as well, but this is our first Heather hardcover to hit the top 15 on the NYT, so there was dancing in the corridors!
HQN is delighted to be represented on the New York Times list by Linda Lael Miller’s McKettrick’s Choice. It has been very exciting to have launched HQN and created a home for authors of Linda’s caliber and a place that welcomes sweeping romance. Here, her McKettrick Brothers Trilogy, begun in 2002 takes a new turn with Holt’s story.
HQN has also been home to a lot of NASCAR excitement. With a licensing deal signed between Harlequin and NASCAR, the gang headed down to Daytona and Pam Britton signed hundreds of copies of In the Groove for men and women alike. As many of the male persuasion said, “Got to get something to take back to the woman.” Hey, it’s a special kind of chivalry, don’t knock it! The racing circuit has some 70 million fans, 40% of them women, and as Kerry Tharp, NASCAR’s Public Relations director said: “Women are rapidly becoming the most active and dedicated fans of the sport. These Harlequin books are a way for the sport to reach out directly to them.”
Also truly delightful to see is Mercedes Lackey’s One Good Knight on the New York Times hardcover list—her second hardcover for Luna. Mercedes is no stranger to bestseller lists, but Luna was just “born” in 2004 with Mercedes launching the line with The Fairy Godmother—a wonderful book I might add—so it is especially nice to see this kind of success and recognition. Misty is a spellbinding storyteller too!
It gives me a warm glow to see Sandra Brown’s A Secret Splendor on the New York Times hardcover list no less. I have been in this business so long I remember the original Silhouette Intimate Moment cover on that book! And what a fabulous story it was. It is very satisfying to know that so many new readers are continuing to discover and rediscover what great storytellers and what compelling stories are told in series.
And of course, no week would be complete without tribute to the quintessential dream-weaver of all time, Nora Roberts, with Cordina’s Royal Family: Gabriella & Alexander and The MacGregors: Alan ~ Grant on both the NYT and USA Today lists. When it comes to creating families that live in our hearts and minds long after the page is closed...she wrote the book!
And let me just mention a few USA Today best-sellers this week—Candy Camp’s An Independent Woman, Stella Cameron’s Body of Evidence and Kasey Michaels A Gentleman By Any Other Name.
Did you know that the New York Times won’t list a title without having a physical book in hand? Well, the call came in for The Island, but when Eva Steinberg, our New York liaison with TheTimes for many years, went to get a copy, there were none on the shelf! An advanced reading copy would not do. Undaunted, she headed for our local book store, purchased a copy & messengered it over—she was delighted to hear it hit the list the following day.
I don’t like to be too bestseller centric—we’re focused on growing authors, increasing sales and building readership. Sometimes that’s reflected by bestseller performance, but not always. Each bestseller list counts sales in different places in different ways. Publishers have different distribution patterns that sometimes favor being well represented at stores that are counted by certain lists…or not. So while it’s truly delightful to celebrate these occasions, it’s important to keep our eye on the “donut”—that is building sales and a readership, whether that real growth is reflected in list performance or not.
Sometimes it takes every member of the village pulling together to make things work!
Thursday, March 02, 2006
This story is about Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, and is a Reader's Ring Book Club selection. The author takes us back to first century Galilee and Judaea where we see the world through Joanna’s eyes. There is certainly a powerful Christian element—Mary is Joanna’s cousin and Jesus is key figure in the story, but I read all the Rosemary Sutcliffe and Mary Renault stories when I was younger and this story captured me in the same way theirs did. I seamlessly entered a different world, a different time and lived—and for a time felt I understood—a different culture and people.
I loved visiting there and was sad to have the story end. Now I’m waiting for publication so I can read it again in book form! Or maybe I'll get the audio version. It's read by Gabra Zackman, the same reader that got such great reviews reading Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder—see my prior Read With Your Ears blog.
I didn’t read The Red Tent because I’m not all that interested in the Biblical angle per se, but many in the office have read both and assure me that if you liked The Red Tent, you’ll find Two Women of Galilee a worthy successor to Anita Diamant’s bestseller.
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