Friday, November 21, 2008

Go you good horse!

We know that all publishers are born gamblers, but retailers are usually rather more risk-averse. But just to break the mould, I hear that a prominent bookseller who says they never usually have a flutter ended up having a very nice win on Melbourne Cup day after trusting their instincts and plunging $20 on a 36/1 outside chance, based solely on the horse’s name: Juggle the Books!

Rememberance of Frankfurts past

A lovely Frankfurt story, passed on to me by a weary foot-soldier who says he ‘won’t even look at another sausage for months: you could say I’m wurst for wear.’ When everything was packed up on the Australian stand on the final day, a notebook was left unclaimed. Luckily Maree and Kathy from the APA had a good idea who had left it behind, and the notebook travelled back to Melbourne with my correspondent and was returned to its grateful owner. And was the notebook full of highly confidential business information and irreplaceable international intelligence on hot rights deals? Well, maybe it was, but the owner was most relieved to get it back because ‘one of my Frankfurt contacts had the most marvellous recipe for Madeleines and I wrote it on the front of the notebook.’ How delightfully Proustian!

A catty conversation

According to the Galley Cat blog, an attendee at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair swears he overheard the following catty conversation between two publishing industry pros:
‘Where were you? You missed our appointment.’
‘I know. I'm sick of remaindering your books.’
‘You might have called to cancel.’
‘I was busy talking with a real publisher whose books actually sell.’

How very Gallic!

When French novelist Jean-Marie le Clezio was announced recently as the recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, the big American publishers searched their back-catalogues in vain—the few titles of his they did have rights for were long out of print. Smarting from the pre-prize pronouncement from Nobel Prize secretary Horace Engdahl that ‘American literary culture is too isolated, too insular. They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature,’ one hears that a number of US-based publishers hoped to rectify this embarrassing situation by bidding for translation rights to Le Clezio’s newest book at Frankfurt. But it wasn’t to be. Anne-Solange Noble, rights director for the venerable French publisher Gallimard, was playing a particularly Gallic game of chat et souris: ‘When an American publisher asks me about the book I reply with “Why are you interested in this Le Clezio? What do you know about his other books?” I tell them that I'll note their interest, but I don’t need to rush the sale, I’ll sell the rights later.’

[Since I write this, I've learned that Simon & Schuster have now picked up rights for le Clezio in the US]