Because I'm still not "real" posting, I just thought I'd share some of the news items I finally read today. Yes, not only am I slow on my blog posting, I'm also slow on my e-mail reading.
Harper Mystery Book from PWDaily, August 1, 2006
HarperCollins reps have been selling a new, secret September title for a little more than a week without disclosing its title or author to accounts. Speaking about the mysterious work, which is coming out from Morrow, publicist Debbie Stier would only confirm that the imprint does indeed have "an embargoed book that reps are selling without a title or author." While Stier quashed a rumor that the work is a White House expose from a former member of the Bush administration, she refused to offer any details about it. In a note to booksellers, Morrow said the book will have a September 12 laydown. PW has also learned that the imprint is championing the book as "a shattering, provocative and mesmerizing true story" which "will receive major national media attention" in both the U.S. and abroad. Additionally, one bookseller told PW that the mysterious work, dubbed Title to be Revealed, is a biography and is going to press for 300,000 copies.
So how does the bookselling community feel about betting on something they know so little about? Vivien Jennings at Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Ks., said the approach got her attention, but that doesn't mean she'll be placing a huge order. One thing that's a red flag for Jennings is the promise of heavy media attention since it's something she says can be a blessing or a curse. Citing books like Ron Suskind's June release, The One Percent Doctrine--which she thinks has not sold as well as the author's previous book, 2004's The Price of Loyalty, because of early media coverage releasing key facts revealed in it--Jennings said "we have been repeatedly burned on supposedly mediagenic leaking books where they let too much air out of the balloon."
Doug Dutton, owner of Dutton's Brentwod Books in Los Angeles, said he too was skeptical of the gravity of Morrow's book. While he ordered 20 copies of Title to be Revealed for each of his three locations, Dutton added that, with embargoed books, he's often "hoping for something of real substance, and am usually disappointed."
Tosh Berman, a bookseller at Book Soup in West Hollywood, Calif., nonetheless hadn't heard of the book until he was contacted by PW. Nonetheless he said that, with so little information provided on the book, he thinks the approach "could backfire." At Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif., head book buyer Marie du Vaure said she bought 30 copies of Title to be Revealed. Calling the purchase "a total shot in the dark" du Vaure nonetheless said she had to have the book and, because of the publicity effort, "couldn't be caught without it." More optimistic about embargoed titles than the other booksellers, du Vaure said such books usually do fairly well at her store. "It's irritating, but ultimately we've always sold the embargoed titles and have never been stuck with a lot of books left over."
So, can a mystery book truly succeed? Will the media push sales or destroy the book by revealing its innards?
Dumbledore Really Is Dead from PW Children's Bookshelf, August 3, 2006
"It was more like a rock concert than a book reading," said one enthusiastic fan, and indeed, if someone had stumbled into Radio City Music Hall on Tuesday or Wednesday night and heard the high-pitched screams from the audience, it would have been easy to assume that the latest teen sensation was appearing on stage. Which, in fact, was the case. J.K. Rowling, in her first visit to the U.S. in six years, took part in a benefit reading along with Stephen King and John Irving, billed as "An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp." Proceeds from the two sold-out shows went to Doctors Without Borders and the Haven Foundation.
Rowling read last, after King and Irving (who had their own legions of screaming fans). When she took the stage to a standing ovation, one audience member yelled out, "Don't kill Harry!" To which Rowling replied, as she took her seat, "No pressure there!" Seated on an oversize throne, she read a passage from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and then fielded pre-selected questions.
A few of her answers yielded new information. In reply to a question from surprise guest Salman Rushdie and his nine-year-old son that involved an elaborate theory about how Professor Dumbledore comes back to life in Book 7, Rowling said, "I feel I have to be explicit. Dumbledore is definitely dead. You shouldn't expect Dumbledore to pull a Gandalf." A cry immediately erupted from the crowd, to which she commented, "All of you definitely need to move through the five stages of grief and get past his death." She added that she'd heard about a Web site, dumbledoreisnotdead.com, which is devoted to conjecture similar to Rushdie's theory, and said, "I imagine they aren't happy right now." (Of course, over at dumbledoreisnotdead.com, a post later that evening speculated that her statement was likely a red herring.)
Rowling also told the audience that people often think she has planned out the Harry Potter storylines much more than she actually has. For instance, she said, "This afternoon in the shower I believe I changed the title of Book 7," after thinking she'd definitely decided what it would be.
A clear high point of the evening for Rowling was when an audience member asked King which literary characters scare him, and in his answer he said, "Frankly, I was surprised by how scary [Rowling's] Death Eaters were," to which Rowling replied with pride, "I scared Stephen King!"
Addressing the question of what the future holds for her, post-Harry, Rowling said that she had a book for slightly younger children that was half finished, and that she would "probably go back to that. But I think I'll need a little mourning time." To which the questioner replied, "So will we."
As I've said before (though I can't find where), Dumbledore is dead. I don't understand why everyone keeps wanting him to come back to life. Death happens. Even to people (and characters) we like. So let's move on with life and anxiously await the arrival of book seven.