All things come to a beginning

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

You are what you read?

Published in the NY Times today:
"Hyperion Starts Imprint to Help Women Whittle the Book Choices" By MOTOKO RICH

Over the last several years, in an effort to more narrowly market to book buyers, publishers have brought out new imprints aimed at groups ranging from African-Americans and Latinos to Christians and political conservatives. Now, Hyperion is planning to start an imprint aimed at women. Called Voice, the imprint, which will publish its first title in April, is the brainchild of Ellen Archer, Hyperion’s publisher, and Pamela G. Dorman, a 19-year veteran of Viking. It will be just one of a number of new imprints aimed at female readers: Warner Books already has a women’s imprint called 5 Spot and in the fall is starting the Springboard Press, for baby boomers, with a large portion of its titles catering to female readers. Voice is specifically focusing on women from their mid-30’s and older and will have a resolutely anti-chick-lit bent, said its founders.


Next month, Hyperion’s sales force will begin marketing five titles to booksellers, starting with “The Feminine Mistake” by Leslie Bennetts, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine. In it, Ms. Bennetts argues that women who “opt out” of careers to raise children forfeit the financial, intellectual, emotional and even medical benefits of working outside the home. Other titles in the imprint’s first lineup include “Life’s a Beach,” a novel by Claire Cook, author of “Must Love Dogs,” which was made into a movie starring John Cusack and Diane Lane, and “The Empty Nest,” an anthology of essays on life after children leave the home edited by Karen Stabiner, a Los Angeles-based writer.


Ms. Dorman said she viewed the new imprint as being “kind of like a book group giving an imprimatur” to new titles. “People are overwhelmed by choice, and what they want is someone who is self-selecting for them,” she said. “We want to find people that they may not otherwise find and highlight them.”


“Any author’s greatest fear is that you’ll publish a book and it will kind of get lost in the shuffle on a large list at a large house,” Ms. Bennetts said. “The great appeal of going with Voice was that it was a highly targeted list with a very specific audience.”

Some in the publishing industry questioned whether women — who are widely believed to buy a majority of books — really needed an imprint of their own. “Pam’s a good editor, and I’m sure she’ll do a good imprint,” said David Rosenthal, publisher of Simon & Schuster. But, he added, “I’m always wary of ghettoization.” Jane Friedman, chief executive and president of HarperCollins, which has several niche imprints, including Amistad for African-Americans, Zondervan for evangelical Christians and Rayo for Latinos, wondered if women were too general a market for an imprint. “Taking the broad category of women is going to be a challenge because women are part of Spanish, African-American, spiritual, religious, and general-interest categories,” she said. “It really is going to depend on how they define women.”


To help Voice pinpoint what women want, Ms. Archer and Ms. Dorman have recruited a panel of 10 professional women to meet twice a year. Members include Subha Barry, a vice president in charge of global diversity for Merrill Lynch; Ellen Levine, editorial director of Hearst Magazines; and Candace Bushnell, a novelist. (Ms. Archer said Ms. Bushnell has evolved from writing chick lit.) Voice also plans to ask each of these women for the names of about 50 friends and colleagues to send copies of the books to help create buzz".

Yeay or nay?


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