Saturday, October 09, 2010

PublishersLunch - Frankfurt Report
The Big Events' Non-Events

With digital discussion and diminished expectations for future print sales ever more present at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, the crystallizing moment came down to this: the Nobel prize was given to a well-known, widely-translated author with a big backlist--but none of those many English editions are available as ebooks. I don't think that's a statement you'll hear again in the future, and it encapsulates many of the dichotomies and conflicts of the current transitional moment. (Since the Carmen Balcells Agency has been reluctant to grant those rights, no English ebook editions are currently expected.) It will be interesting to look in contrast at what happens to ebook sales of the newly-crowned Booker Prize winner next week.

The next most notable news, already mentioned, was another non-event: Google Editions remains not alive yet (even if just barely), another piece of the landscape that will be dramatically different this time next year. (Though one person familiar with company's plans confirmed that up until sometime recently plans were being made for a Frankfurt launch of the service, with a tie-in to a major new release.)

Otherwise, I learned more on the floor about significant news announcements and product launches that are scheduled for the next three weeks than current news stories "breaking" here. Fair news was so light that one of the printed dailies took a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt press release from September 13 and made it their lead story.

We have evolved so far past the expectation of competition for a "big book" at Frankfurt that most people don't even ask anymore. And the quest for a big story will soon fade along with that. Even this year's guest of honor, Argentina, had a quiet presence--particularly compared to previous guests like China. Rights pitching (and sometimes trading) continued apace, as did the steady stream of half-hourly interactions of all types imaginable. Besides big, getting a handle on the essence of the Frankfurt Book Fair may be getting harder.

So we'll close with one deal not made at the fair but certainly given higher profile now: Farrar, Straus recently acquired a new novel Mario Vargas Llosa, El Sueno del Celta, about Roger Casement (hanged in 1916 for his role in the Easter Rising revolt in Ireland). Alfaguara has the Spanish version scheduled for publication November 3, and Farrar originally scheduled their translation for 2012 but may now try to accelerate that.

News: 1.5 Million Copy First Printing for Bush Memoir; Wylie Reaches Deal with French Publishers; And More

Crown has set a 1.5 million-copy first printing for George W. Bush's memoir Decision Points, due out on November 9. There will also be an enhanced e-book edition featuring video highlights of Bush's presidency, photographs not included in the hardcover book and personal correspondence.

Andrew Wylie has evidently resolved the digital rights dispute with French publishers, which led to an open letter sharply critical of the agent's practices of keeping e-rights (without mentioning Wylie by name.) "The story is ancient history. It is all solved. We have spoken to the French publishers involved," Wylie told The Bookseller. Flammarion chief executive Teresa Cremisi said: "Everything will be resolved. It was like a summer fever--amazing. But he has now abandoned his project and that is a good thing."
The Bookseller

In other e-rights news, agent Andrew Nurnberg voiced his concern that some American publishers may try to use e-book negotiations to break existing rights boundaries. "The big thing that's in the air all the time," Nurnberg told Publishing Perspectives, "is that territoriality is not so much about physical books. Now the question is moving toward territoriality for e-rights. Some publishers say, 'No way, we can't keep these held to any particular territory. It's no longer physical. If it's out there then it can't be controlled.' They want to use it as a back door to break territoriality and to acquire world English language rights."

But other agents dismissed Nurnberg's fears. Carole Blake of Blake Friedman agency said: "It would be a very foolish publisher who tried to blackmail an author into doing that. It would upset the whole publishing dynamic if one let the digital edition seep into another market. The publishers we have seen haven't been pushing for that. Anyone trying to do that would really mess up their relationship with the author and the agent."
Publishing Perspectives

Amazon is said to be close to launching an app store for Android phones, possibly as soon as this month.

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