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October 18, 2012

David Mitchell basks in ‘Cloud Atlas’ boost

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 3:29 pm

With the Wachowskis-directed film version of his intricate book ‘Cloud Atlas’ out soon, David Mitchell finds himself ‘happily bewildered.’

By Carolyn Kellogg

No strangers approach David Mitchell for an autograph as he eats lunch at a Japanese restaurant on Sawtelle Boulevard. Nor does anyone bother him when he stops by Diesel Books in Brentwood to sign copies of his novel. The acclaimed British author of “Cloud Atlas” looks like a slightly hip literature professor, a lean 43-year-old in a wide-wale corduroy jacket.

The $102-million movie version of “Cloud Atlas,” directed by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, might just take Mitchell from well-regarded to widely known. He even makes a cameo in the film, playing a futuristic double agent.

The movie has already provided a considerable boost for the book, a labyrinthine literary novel first published in the U.S. in 2004. When the five-minute trailer was posted online in late July, orders for the book cascaded in; publisher Random House rushed an extra 125,000 copies into production.

“Random House was surprised, people all over the world who think about the marketing effects of trailers were surprised,” Mitchell says. “I’m still surprised.”

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March 19, 2012

Banned novel makes Indie Foreign Fiction Prize longlist

Yan Lianke

| By Katie Allen

A novel banned by the Chinese government has made the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2012, worth £10,000.

Yan Lianke’s novel Dream of Ding Village, about a blood-selling scandal in contemporary China, was given a “three nos” order—no distribution, no sales, no promotion—in 2005.

Its English translation, published by Corsair, is joined on the 15-strong longlist by titles translated from the Spanish, Hebrew, Norwegian and nine other languages, with Random House imprints taking six of the 15 titles, including Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84: Books 1 and 2.

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March 8, 2012

Dr. Seuss’s Little-Known Book of Nudes

By Maria Popova

What happened when the beloved children’s author tried to write for adults

One hundred eight years ago today, the world welcomed Theodor Seuss Geisel, better-known as Dr. Seuss—legendary children’s book author, radical ideologist, lover of reading. Among his many creative feats is a fairly unknown, fairly scandalous one: In 1939, when Geisel left Vanguard for Random House, he had one condition for his new publisher, Bennett Cerf—that he would let Geisel do an “adult” book first. The result was The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family, which tells the story of nudist sisters who, after their father’s death, pledge not to wed until each of them has “brought to the light of the world some new and worthy Horse Truth, of benefit to man.”

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February 8, 2012

Best Publishing Companies to Work For

By  Jeremy Greenfield

The book publishing industry is populated by intelligent, hard-working people, many of whom are delighted to have the opportunity to turn their passion – the printed word – into a paying job.

Those working at places like Random House, John Wiley, Oxford University Press and Penguin might be a bit more delighted than their colleagues at other publishers. Those companies topped our informal list of Best Publishing Companies to Work For.

Employees at the best-rated publishing companies like working there because of strong industry brands, good communication between layers of leadership and departments and the learning experiences available.

At Penguin, “people are empowered to do things,” said Paige McInerney, vice president of human resources at Penguin Group USA. “It’s the best place in the world to work. I’ve been here 20 years and there’s a reason for that.”

More on working at Penguin at Digital Book World tomorrow. Other companies on the list contacted for comment did not respond before press time.

The Best Companies to Work For list (below) was generated by, a popular employee-reviews website, in partnership with Digital Book World. Each company is assigned an overall rating by its employees who choose to do so on the Glassdoor website. Ratings are on a five-point scale with one being “very dissatisfied” and five being “very satisfied.” Companies with fewer than 10 ratings posted on the site by employees were not considered in the ranking.

There are hundreds of publishing companies in the U.S., many no doubt worthy of distinction as top employers, but, unfortunately, many did not have enough reviews on to be included in this piece. Further, there are companies in this ranking that aren’t directly competitive with each other, like Random House and McGraw-Hill, for instance. We included all of these companies on the list because though they may not be competitive in the marketplace, they compete for talent and, as a result, should be viewed side-by-side as employers.

The average ranking for companies on Glassdoor across all industries is 3.0. The average among the publishing companies in our list is 3.08.

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December 3, 2011

Cover story: a year of beautiful books

It is not just jacket design that has upped its game in recent years… Victorian letterpress blocks. Photograph: Alamy/Steven Heald

This year for the first time more ebooks were sold than hardbacks. Publishers have responded by bringing out exquisite new releases and revamps of classics.

By Kathryn Hughes

In his recent Booker acceptance speech, Julian Barnes did the usual polite thing of thanking his editors and his agent. But then, just when everyone thought he was done, he veered off in an entirely unexpected direction to pay animated tribute to Suzanne Dean, “the best book designer in town”, who had turned his prize-winning novel into “a beautiful object”. The Sense of an Ending does indeed come clad in a lovely cover, an elegiac visual riff on dandelion clocks, which darkens at the edge to black, an idea of mourning that then runs over the edges of the pages themselves. At least it does in the early editions. Such little touches are both fiddly and expensive (which comes to the same thing) so subsequent reprintings have left off the darkened page ends. It’s a decision, Dean herself admits, that is going to make the first editions of the novel just that little bit more desirable in years to come.

Whatever might be thought of Barnes’s novel, there was wide agreement that his public acknowledgment of the book’s designer was a “moment”, one that needed to be parsed for its implications. And chief among those implications seems to be that judging a book (at least partly) by its cover has become a legitimate thing to do. In addition to Dean at Random House, there is currently a whole slew of art editors, production directors and book designers who are going about their business with a new spring in their step. Nothing raises the spirits more than knowing that people are noticing your work, think it good, and want you to do more.

Publishers have started building their marketing strategies around form rather than content. The Everyman Library, which is coming up to the 20th anniversary of its modern relaunch, makes much of its books’ elegant two-colour case stamping, silk ribbon markers and “European-style” half-round spines. In 2009, to celebrate its 80th birthday, Faber republished a collection of its classic poetry hardbacks illustrated with exquisite wood and lino cuts by contemporary artists. Not to be outdone, Penguin will next year be reissuing 100 classic novels in its revamped English Library series in what its press release describes as “readers’ editions”. What other sort could there be, you might wonder?

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November 6, 2011

Inside Books: The bother of embargoes

Terry Pratchett

By Emily Rhodes

Last week there were a few bookish grunts of dissatisfaction when Terry Pratchett beat Martina Cole to the Number One slot.

Pratchett’s Snuff sold 31,904 copies and Cole’s The Faithless only 31,136, yet there were cries of foul play. This was because some bookshops had broken the embargo on Cole’s book and sold it the week before publication. The feeling was that if only those bookshops had played by the rules and held off, then the previous week’s sales of 1,473 would have been added to the 31,000 and Cole would have beaten Pratchett to the top. (The fact that this was, in any case, the second week for Snuff – with staggering first week sales of 54,687 – is apparently beside the point.)

At first glance, one can see why Cole and her publisher Headline were miffed. Publishing a major title, with huge marketing and advance investment, only to be pipped to the post by Pratchett must be irksome to say the least. And knowing that they could have won, if only a few naughty booksellers hadn’t sold copies ahead of publication date, must make it all the more galling.

But, on closer inspection, what is there really to be so sniffy about? It’s not as though those 1,473 copies don’t count. Headline and Martina Cole still get their respective shares of sales revenue. Moreover, as those copies were sold in bricks-and-mortar bookshops, rather than on Amazon, the share for the publishers would have been rather a lot bigger. Thanks very much for the extra cash, I’d say, who cares about Number One?

As a bookseller, I have never, ever, been asked which book is Number One. Some customers, of course, ask for the bestsellers, or for one particular book I’d recommend, but never for the national Number One. It’s not like music’s singles chart – after all, no one tunes in to the radio on Sunday night to listen to the countdown for books. They can read it in The Sunday Times but that’s more-or-less it. (Incidentally, chart positions inside bookshops tend to reflect nothing more than publishers’ marketing budgets.)

Really, the only people who care about whether or not a book is officially Number One are the publishers. When I worked for a big publishing house, if a book from our division reached the top, an excited email was sent around announcing champagne in the breakout area at 5pm. For the abysmally-poorly-paid underlings such as myself, this was one of the most glamorous moments of the job. Champagne! And some – invariably beige – snacks. (Sadly, as the recession hit, the champagne changed to wine and beer, and the snacks to crisps. Eventually the drinks disappeared altogether, and we were left with nothing more than a celebratory email.)

In the battle of Pratchett vs. Cole, the publishers are none other than Doubleday and Headline, divisions of Random House and Hachette respectively. These are the biggest fishes in the publishing pond. more

November 4, 2011

Amazon Launches Lending Library Without the Big Six

By Calvin Reid with additional reporting from Rachel Deahl

As rumored for months, Amazon is getting into the digital book lending business, announcing the launch of Kindle Owners Lending Library for Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime members—who pay $79 a year for free shipping on products and streaming movies—can now borrow one book a month for free. But there’s a hitch: none of the big six publishers, all of which use the agency model to sell their titles, are participating in the program.

Nonetheless, the model isn’t quite the all-you-can-eat lending subscription service many observers had rumored. Amazon Prime members can only borrow one book at a time, even though the service claims to have “no due dates” for finishing the book. While Amazon touts that the service offers “thousands” of books to borrow and at least “100 New York Times bestsellers,” none of the titles in the program are from the largest trade publishers–Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Hachette. The program features titles from a variety of mid-size houses that continue to sell their books using the wholesale model, including W.W. Norton, Scholastic, and titles by well-known self-published authors such as Seth Godin.
Publishers using the agency model have complete control over the pricing of their books and, as some have noted, the model does not allow for the price to be changed or discounted. With the wholesale model, publishers cannot dictate final retail pricing. Amazon’s statement in launching the lending program said it is either paying a flat fee to publishers to feature its titles, or paying the standard wholesale discount for each book that is borrowed.
Nevertheless, PW has learned that some non-agency houses have declined to be a part of the lending program. One mid-size publisher that sells wholesale said the “fee” Amazon mentions is a “lump sum” payment that the publisher must allocate to its authors. The fee is said to be determined by Amazon by looking at the 12-month sales history of the titles in question. And according to our sources, some agents are starting to complain about the payment plan.
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October 24, 2011

A Tale of Two Industries: Amazon Delves Deeper into Book Publishing

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:55 pm

By Sean Griffin

Last week, Amazon announced its intention to further integrate into book and e-book publishing.  The company will release 122 original titles this fall, immediately putting itself in the same league as major publishers such as Random House and Penguin in terms of title count.


Amazon has been the primary agent shaping the publishing industry for more than the last decade.  But will the company be able to redefine the publishing industry from the inside the same way it has for the book retailing industry?  A few key factors suggest that it won’t. more

October 20, 2011

It’s war: Three big publishers announce plans to share sales info with authors … just like Amazon

      By Dennis Johnson

A Monday article in the New York Times by David Streitfeld about the threat Amazon‘s publishing company poses to the industry seems to have been the spark that finally ignited animated discussion, analysis, and maybe fear across the industry this week — and two days later, some dramatic reactions, as publisher after publisher announced on Wednesday that they were going to offer their authors access to live sales data, one of Amazon’s most talked-about offerings to authors.

As Julie Bosman reports in another Times report, the announcements came from Simon & Schuster, Random House, and the Hachette Book Group — S&S “announced the creation of an author portal, a Web site where authors and illustrators can check sales of their books, broken down by type of merchant and book format, including digital.” Random and Hachette announced they were underway with something similar that would be available soon. Random said its portal would also offer “marketing tools and related information,” while S&S’s portal “also features links to publishing news and instructional tips on using social media, blogs and videos to promote their books.”

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October 7, 2011

Random House Buys Rod Stewart’s Memoir

Amid the flurry of musician bios being acquired and published–Harry Belafonte’s latest is out next week, and Dutton just announced its purchase of Duran Duran bassist John Taylor’s book–Random House has nabbed Rod Stewart’s forthcoming autobiography. In a joint deal with Random House U.S. and Random House U.K., Arnold Stiefel of Stiefel Entertainment sold the currently untitled book, which is set for 2012. In the U.S., the book will be coming from Crown Archetype, with Tina Constable having handled the Stateside acquisition.

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