Friday, April 13, 2007

Shortlist Announced for the 2007 Man Booker International Prize

Thu Apr 12, 8:04 PM ET
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters)

Salman Rushdie, Chinua Achebe and Margaret Atwood are among 15 authors selected as finalists for the 2007 Man Booker International Prize, the award's organizers said on Thursday.

The 60,000-pound ($118,000) award is presented every two years to highlight a living writer's continued contribution to fiction on the world stage. The inaugural prize was awarded in 2005 to Ismail Kadare.

It differs from the prestigious Man Booker Prize because it is available to fiction writers of any nationality so long as their work was written in or translated into English.

The 2007 nominees announced in Toronto also include John Banville, Peter Carey, Don DeLillo, Carlos Fuentes, Doris Lessing, Ian McEwan, Harry Mulisch, Alice Munro, Michael Ondaatje, Amos Oz, Philip Roth and Michel Tournier.

The panel of judges is chaired by U.S. literary critic Elaine Showalter and includes writers Nadine Gordimer of South Africa and Colm Toibin of Ireland.

The winner will be announced in early June.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

BEA/Writer's Digest Books Writers Conference

The fifth annual BEA/Writer's Digest Books Writers Conference will be held on Wednesday, May 30 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York.

The all-day event, which takes place prior to the BookExpo America trade show, offers information sessions and workshops on the business and craft of writing. The keynote speaker is best-selling author Jodi Picoult. Breakout sessions on writing novels, screenwriting, humor, young adult, poetry, short story and magazine writing, featuring Don Maass, Christina Katz, John Warner, Sharlene Martin and more! Will Schwalbe, senior v-p and editor in chief of Hyperion and Judy Hottensen, v-p and publisher of Miramax Books will also be speaking. Plus, the editors of Writer's Digest Book, Writer's Digest magazine and Writer's Market!

You'll also have the opportunity to pitch your book idea and get instant feedback from the largest collection of agents of any conference in our famous PITCH SLAM SESSION!

The registration fee is $199, which includes a 6 month subscription to For more information, visit

Registration is at

The Passing of an American Icon

I am so sad to post that Kurt Vonnegut passed away yesterday.
from AP:

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at age 84

NEW YORK - Kurt Vonnegut, the satirical novelist who captured the absurdity of war and questioned the advances of science in darkly humorous works such as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle," died Wednesday. He was 84.

Vonnegut, who often marveled that he had lived so long despite his lifelong smoking habit, had suffered brain injuries after a fall at his Manhattan home weeks ago, said his wife, photographer Jill Krementz.

The author of at least 19 novels, many of them best-sellers, as well as dozens of short stories, essays and plays, Vonnegut relished the role of a social critic. Indianapolis, his hometown, declared 2007 as "The Year of Vonnegut" — an announcement he said left him "thunderstruck."
He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.

"I will say anything to be funny, often in the most horrible situations," Vonnegut, whose watery, heavy-lidded eyes and unruly hair made him seem to be in existential pain, once told a gathering of psychiatrists.

A self-described religious skeptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his points of view. He also filled his novels with satirical commentary and even drawings that were only loosely connected to the plot. In "Slaughterhouse-Five," he drew a headstone with the epitaph: "Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."

But much in his life was traumatic, and left him in pain.

Despite his commercial success, Vonnegut battled depression throughout his life, and in 1984, he attempted suicide with pills and alcohol, joking later about how he botched the job.

"I think he was a man who combined a wicked sense of humor and sort of steady moral compass, who was always sort of looking at the big picture of the things that were most important," said Joel Bleifuss, editor of In These Times, a liberal magazine based in Chicago that featured Vonnegut articles.

His mother killed herself just before he left for Germany during World War II, where he was quickly taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge. He was being held in Dresden when Allied bombs created a firestorm that killed an estimated tens of thousands of people.

"The firebombing of Dresden explains absolutely nothing about why I write what I write and am what I am," Vonnegut wrote in "Fates Worse Than Death," his 1991 autobiography of sorts.
But he spent 23 years struggling to write about the ordeal, which he survived by huddling with other POW's inside an underground meat locker labeled slaughterhouse-five.

The novel, in which Pvt. Pilgrim is transported from Dresden by time-traveling aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, was published at the height of the Vietnam War, and solidified his reputation as an iconoclast.

"He was sort of like nobody else," said Gore Vidal, who noted that he, Vonnegut and Norman Mailer were among the last writers around who served in World War II.

"He was imaginative; our generation of writers didn't go in for imagination very much. Literary realism was the general style. Those of us who came out of the war in the 1940s made it sort of the official American prose, and it was often a bit on the dull side. Kurt was never dull."

Vonnegut was born on Nov. 11, 1922, in Indianapolis, a "fourth-generation German-American religious skeptic Freethinker," and studied chemistry at Cornell University before joining the Army.

When he returned, he reported for Chicago's City News Bureau, then did public relations for General Electric, a job he loathed. He wrote his first novel, "Player Piano," in 1951, followed by "The Sirens of Titan," "Canary in a Cat House" and "Mother Night," making ends meet by selling Saabs on Cape Cod.

Critics ignored him at first, then denigrated his deliberately bizarre stories and disjointed plots as haphazardly written science fiction. But his novels became cult classics, especially "Cat's Cradle" in 1963, in which scientists create "ice-nine," a crystal that turns water solid and destroys the earth.

Many of his novels were best-sellers. Some also were banned and burned for suspected obscenity. Vonnegut took on censorship as an active member of the PEN writers' aid group and the American Civil Liberties Union. The American Humanist Association, which promotes individual freedom, rational thought and scientific skepticism, made him its honorary president.

His characters tended to be miserable anti-heros with little control over their fate. Vonnegut said the villains in his books were never individuals, but culture, society and history, which he said were making a mess of the planet.

"We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard... and too damn cheap," he once suggested carving into a wall on the Grand Canyon, as a message for flying-saucer creatures.

He retired from novel writing in his later years, but continued to publish short articles. He had a best-seller in 2005 with "A Man Without a Country," a collection of his nonfiction work, including jabs at the Bush administration ("upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography") and the uncertain future of the planet.

He called the book's success "a nice glass of champagne at the end of a life."
In recent years, Vonnegut worked as a senior editor and columnist at In These Times. Bleifuss said he had been trying to get Vonnegut to write something more for the magazine, but was unsuccessful.

"He would just say he's too old and that he had nothing more to say. He realized, I think, he was at the end of his life," Bleifuss said.

Vonnegut, who had homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons in New York, adopted his sister's three young children after she died. He also had three children of his own with his first wife, Ann Cox, and later adopted a daughter, Lily, with his second wife, the noted photographer Jill Krementz.

Vonnegut once said that of all the ways to die, he'd prefer to go out in an airplane crash on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. He often joked about the difficulties of old age.
"When Hemingway killed himself he put a period at the end of his life; old age is more like a semicolon," Vonnegut told The Associated Press in 2005.

"My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I'll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children."
Associated Press writers Michael Warren, Hillel Italie and Chelsea Carter contributed to this report.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Last week there was a front page article in the Sun Sentinel about the Palm Beach County Library System: Palm Beach County libraries face skyrocketing costs to overhaul facilities.

The article was basically chastising the library for failing to build new libraries in a more timely manner and for the skyrocketing prices that have completely blown the budget. Buried in the middle of the article was a brief allusion to the hurricanes that have decimated the building industry.

There was also a couple of quotes from two of the county commissioners, one of whom felt the county needed to suck it up and somehow find the money to finish building the libraries. But the other commissioner intimated that libraries were for old people and that everyone else has Internet, so why do we need more and better libraries.

As a lifelong library lover, I took great exception to her remarks. I waited several days to respond as I needed time to avoid just responding in anger. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Sun Sentinel and they wrote back and asked me to condense. I did the best I could in the very limited space I was allotted, and they trimmed a bit more. Here is the end result:

County's libraries a priceless resource for the asking

Malcolm Forbes once said, "The richest person in the world -- in fact all the riches in the world -- couldn't provide you with anything like the endless, incredible loot available at your local library." What this article failed to mention was all the great loot that is available for Palm Beach County residents at their library. And it is appalling that a county commissioner could be so unaware of all that the library offers the community.

Libraries are not the refuge of the homeless and aged, but are vibrant, bustling community centers, offering services that many people simply aren't aware of: wireless access, computer classes, kids' storytimes, book discussion groups and one-on-one tutoring for adults who don't know how to read. All for free.

The Internet is a mess. Anyone can post anything they want, and they do so regularly. But there are hundreds of databases that have the most accurate, up-to-date information that you simply cannot access for free on the Internet -- databases like, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times archives, Consumer Reports, and practice exams for standardized tests like the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and the Scholastic Achievement Test, all of which can be accessed by library card holders. For free.

Yes, there have been budget issues and building issues, but there has also been a huge real estate boom with skyrocketing prices and a scarcity of building supplies. The boom has busted, but prices haven't come down, at least not yet. You cannot fault the county for [hurricanes] Jeanne, Frances and Wilma and the aftermath of those storms. But you can continue to support your local library, and I hope County Commissioner Mary McCarty rethinks her comments and tries to help the county deal with the money crunch in a more productive way.

Jailed Cuban Journalist to Receive PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award

New York, NY, April 10, 2007—PEN American Center today named Normando Hernández González, a Cuban writer and journalist who was arrested along with 74 other journalists and democracy and human rights activists in a March 2003 crackdown, as recipient of its 2007 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.

The award, which honors international literary figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression, will be presented at PEN’s Annual Gala on April 30, 2007 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Distinguished writer, historian, and PEN Trustee Barbara Goldsmith underwrites the award. Candidates are nominated by International PEN and any of its 141 constituent PEN Centers around the world and screened by PEN American Center and an Advisory Board comprising some of the most distinguished experts in the field.

The Advisory Board for the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Awards includes Carroll Bogert, Associate Director of Human Rights Watch; Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation; Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, International Secretary of International PEN; Aryeh Neier, President of the Open Society Institute; and Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Normando Hernández González is a writer and independent journalist. He is the director of Camagüey College of Independent Journalists, a group of journalists who seek to serve as an alternative to the State-owned press in and around Camagüey.

On March 18, 2003, Hernández was arrested along with 74 other journalists and activists considered to be dissidents by the Cuban government. The youngest of those arrested in this notorious crackdown, Hernández, now 38, was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment under Article 91 of the Cuban Criminal Code for reporting on the conditions of state-run services in Cuba and for criticizing the government’s management of issues such as tourism, agriculture, fishing, and cultural affairs.

For several months following his imprisonment, Hernández was kept in solitary confinement and allowed only four hours of sunlight a week, no access to television or radio, and extremely restricted communication with his family. In August, after engaging in a hunger strike with seven other inmates in protest of the deplorable prison conditions, Hernández was transferred to Kilo 5½ prison in Pinar del Río, over 400 miles from his home and family.

In Pinar del Río, Hernández was denied access to the outside world in any form, and forced to share a small, filthy cell with insects, rodents, and prisoners considered dangerous or mentally unstable. He was badly beaten by the Prison Chief of Security and contracted tuberculosis before being moved to Kilo 7 prison in Camagüey.

Hernández suffers from tuberculosis and a chronic gastro-intestinal disorder, which have caused him to lose at least 35 pounds. In December 2006, he was rushed in critical condition to the Amalia Simoni Provincial Hospital in Camagüey after suffering from fainting spells. During his hospital stay, he was kept in a room without a bed, table or chair for an entire week.
On December 27, State Security soldiers removed Hernández from the hospital and took him back to prison. Doctors claimed that the hospital was lacking in the resources needed to treat Hernández’s condition.

In announcing the award today in New York, Freedom to Write Program Director Larry Siems praised Hernández’s exceptional courage and integrity. “When the March 2003 crackdown began, Normando Hernández González eluded arrest for 24 hours so he could celebrate his daughter’s first birthday, and then he turned himself in.

"Since then, he has endured abusive treatment in prison conditions that clearly violate international norms, to the extreme detriment of his health—the youngest of the 75 detained in the crackdown, he is in danger of dying from the conditions of his detention.

"Yet he has refused to renounce his commitment to expand freedom of expression and essential rights in Cuba, publishing critical and personal essays and protesting the treatment of other prisoners. Hernández embodies PEN’s highest ideals, and we are proud to honor him as this year’s recipient of the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.”

Noting that 59 of the 75 journalists and activists arrested in March 2003 remain in prison, Siems appealed to organizations around the world to join in pressing the Cuban government to release Hernández immediately and move quickly to release all who have been jailed in Cuba in violation of their universally guaranteed rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

“Over the last four years, international pressure led to the release of Raúl Rivero, Marta Beatriz Roque, Manuel Vázquez Portal, and 13 more of the most prominent detainees. But 16 out of 75 is not a victory. Behind those released are dozens more who are serving unjust sentence in unconscionable conditions. They, too, must be freed.”

This is the 21st year that the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Awards have honored international literary figures who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising or defending the right to freedom of expression. The awards are an extension of PEN’s year-round advocacy on behalf of the more than 1,020 writers and journalists who are currently threatened or in prison.

Forty-two women and men have received the award since 1987; 30 of the 32 honorees who were in prison at the time they were honored were subsequently released.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Operation Scribe

Having wrested readers away from mysteries, thriller writers band together to hunt down some literary cachet.
By Kathleen Sharp
Special to The Times
April 8, 2007

As a glance at any bestseller list will attest, thrillers have become America's favorite reads, edging aside their venerable cousins, mystery books. The difference between the genres is not just elementary: One consists of brain-teasers in which readers try to figure out who killed the girl next door. The other is a heart-racer that we finish to learn whether the girl's leader will be blown up. The essence of the distinction sometimes boils down to dramatic props: arsenic or anthrax, detective or conspirator, bloody corpse or bloody ticking clock?

But if thrillers have won over audiences, the big riddle consuming their writers these days is why America's top critics routinely dismiss suspense books, calling them beach reads or brain candy or, worse, ignoring them completely.

And so, tired of the snubs and determined to get the respect they feel they deserve, thriller authors have formed their own breakaway group: the International Thriller Writers (ITW), a challenge to the older and better-known Mystery Writers of America (MWA), known for its prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Awards.

Infused with its mission, ITW arrived in Los Angeles on a recent Saturday to launch its "Brunch & Bullets" luncheon series, which drew about 100 Southern California thriller fans who paid $150 each to chat with bestselling ITW authors. (Disclosure: Last year I edited the group's newsletter.) It was an auspicious setting: the Renaissance Hotel at Hollywood & Highland, around the corner from the site of the Oscars ceremony at the Kodak Theatre and, as it turned out, in the middle of a large antiwar demonstration. Several authors had flown in from the East Coast, but all appeared to be in their element, sandwiched between the twin cultural exports of entertainment and armed conflict — the basic ingredients of a thriller, by the way.

A new generation of thrillers

On the hotel's second floor, attendees walked past balconies overlooking crowds of policemen in riot gear. The scene, replete with potted palms and bullhorns, could have been ripped from an espionage classic by Graham Greene or John le Carré, except this was a new world order and another generation of writers was chomping at the bit to break from the narrowly defined course of Cold War spy novels.

"In this room today are authors who've written 100 New York Times bestsellers and have sold 200 million books," said author Jon Land, who introduced ITW's headliners.

Romantic suspense maven Sandra Brown discussed her book "Ricochet," which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Suffice it to say Brown has never been profiled in the New Yorker, although she's written 65 novels that have sold 70 million copies worldwide. Paranormal thriller author Heather Graham described "The Dead Room," her latest in a string of 100 books, including several New York Times bestsellers. Military thriller author Gregg Hurwitz, legal thriller bestseller John Lescroart and financial thriller writer Christopher Reich bantered at the bar, a sign of just how expansive the genre has become in the last decade.

ITW used its L.A. event to announce those books nominated for its new Thriller Awards, whose winners will be revealed at its conference this summer, two months after the Edgars. "It's a healthy rivalry," said Reed Farrell Coleman, former executive vice president of MWA. "But they've motivated us to take some steps we needed to take."

When ITW first organized 2 1/2 years ago, many longtime MWA members began to openly question their membership. "We were the big boys on the block, and we'd grown complacent," said Coleman. The 62-year-old Edgars had become a premier literary award, but thrillers were often passed over. Yet, during the early 2000s, annual sales of thrillers were jumping as high as 34%, and in 2002, the British Crime Writers Assn. inaugurated its Steel Dagger Award for best espionage book. Still, major U.S. critics continued to write about the death of the spy genre so often its cadaver could have collected royalties.

It was at a Bouchercon Mystery Convention in October 2004 that Gayle Lynds and David Morrell discreetly asked some thriller writers to meet hours before that group's awards banquet. The covert meeting snowballed into history after all 35 authors voted to join the mild insurrection and form ITW.

It helped that the revolt was led by two name writers. Short and avuncular, Morrell wrote what's been called the "father of all modern action novels," "First Blood," which became the 1982 movie that introduced the John Rambo character. An English professor at the University of Iowa, he continued writing books, including "The Brotherhood of the Rose," which became an NBC miniseries in 1989. His 28 books have been translated into 26 languages, and his newest, "Scavenger," received a starred notice in Booklist.

Lynds has been called a master of the modern espionage novel, known for her female protagonists. The tall brunet once worked at a California think tank, where she had access to top-secret government files. After turning to fiction, she worked with Robert Ludlum to create the Covert-ONE spy series, writing three of those books, including "The Hades Factor," which became a CBS TV miniseries in 2006.

She's now the bestselling author of eight books, including "The Last Spymaster," which follows a spy-turned traitor who breaks out of prison and is hunted by a troubled female CIA agent. Publishers Weekly listed the work among the all-time top 10 thrillers, along with classics by Greene and Le Carré.

In no time, ITW attracted other authors, including Douglas Preston, Katherine Neville, Lincoln Child and M.J. Rose. A board was assembled with Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen and others. Today, ITW boasts 540 authors and 9,000 or so newsletter subscribers — while MWA has 1,800 authors and 1,200 newsletter subscribers.

Struggle for publicity

Underlying this friendly fire is that all authors must fight to get noticed into today's mercenary marketplace, Coleman explained. "Publishers are spending less money to promote their authors, and writers' organizations like ours are picking up the slack."

MWA has long promoted its member authors by publishing anthologies of short stories. ITW borrowed that idea by compiling the first anthology of thriller stories, edited by ITW member James Patterson. The book was acquired by Mira Publishing and received attention outside of New York, but Janet Maslin gave it a withering review in the New York Times. "Thriller" went on to sell 130,000 copies and has earned ITW about $400,000, making it one of the top-selling anthologies ever. Who knew?

To lure more fans inside its tent, ITW hosted its first ThrillerFest convention last summer, in Phoenix, where a Filipino knife master and a Delta Force trainer taught shut-in writer types how to create lifelike assassins. Best of all, ITW finally hosted its own awards banquet that weekend, honoring debut authors, midlist talent and hoary masters such as the renowned Clive Cussler.

Now, the group is homing in on young public-school readers. A quarter of the proceeds from the Saturday event went to the L.A. Unified School District chapter of the Reading Is Fundamental literacy program, along with boxes of thrillers. "Anything that gets kids excited about reading is great," said Marilyn Fils, an assistant principal at Bertrand Avenue Elementary. Thrillers allow students to explore not just U.S. society but other geopolitical realms as well, Morrell explained.

To further expand its house of spies, ITW also welcomes other legitimately published writers, including MWA members such as Coleman. But MWA has become more vigilant, hiring its first public relations firm, actively promoting next month's Edgar awards, and expanding its own youth literacy programs. All of this activity brings to mind a race in which two camps hurtle toward the same objective in heroic ways — yet another definition of a thriller.

But the mystery remains. Will the illustrious MWA lose its crown to ITW? Will the literary establishment ever give thrillers their due? At part of its not-so-secret "special" operations, ITW is infiltrating that elite force in July by bringing its trench-coated conventioneers to Manhattan. "We want to be in the heart of the publishing industry, where agents, editors and reviewers can join our new community," explained Lynds.

"And don't forget the fans," added Morrell. "We love them!"

Sunday, April 08, 2007

PAPERBACKSWAP BOOK CLUB REACHES ONE MILLION BOOKS, the nation's largest book club, has passed a major milestone for book lovers everywhere, making over one million books available for free trading.

Co-founders Richard Pickering and Robert Swarthout developed the online book club to allow readers from across the United States to trade books for free. In less than 24 months, the online phenomenon has peaked the interest of thousands of book fans across the United States. The excitement has continued to grow as the club surpassed one million books available.

"We see our members trade about 35,000 books a week," says Co-Founder and avid reader Richard Pickering. "With this explosion of interest in trading books, our members can select from any genre to satisfy their literary desires."

The club operates on a simple premise: a club member selects a book they want and the system sends an email to the member that has the book. That member then mails the book to the requestor and a credit is exchanged for a future book.

To mail the book, the sender easily prints two pieces of paper from his or her printer and then wraps them around the book, attaches postage (usually $1.59) and pops it in the mail. No post office visit is required.

When the sending member wants to order a book, another member returns the favor and mails them a book free of charge. This credit-for-book trade system also applies to their sister music site,

Matthew and Mary Stinnette of Chesapeake, VA have been active members of for one year and were just recently declared the official winners of the club's "1,000,000 Books Contest" by selecting the exact date and time that the one millionth book would be posted.

"My family lives and breathes on!" says Matthew Stinnette. "There isn't any other site as awesome as this one, and we, especially my wife and teenage daughter, visit it nearly every day. I have had a household of happy readers since we joined the club, thanks a million to PaperBackSwap."

"The best part about our club is our members," says Swarthout. "What started as a trading system has turned into a social community of readers that share so much more than books. Our members transcend miles and become best friends through club communications, discussion forums and coffee-time chat rooms."

For more information, visit

Pat Conroy to publish 1st book since '95
Sat Apr 7, 5:31 PM ET

"The Prince of Tides" author Pat Conroy says he's finishing his first novel in more than a decade, and it will mark a return to the same dysfunctional characters he's known for.
Conroy's last book was a cookbook published in 2004.

"I loved writing that book. ... Now, of course, everybody in this new book is dying and driving themselves off cliffs," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "So I'm back to normal."

The new novel is set in Charleston and is already nearly 700 pages, Conroy said. "It drives me nuts. But long-windedness ... there's nothing you can do about it. I wanted to write a 250-page novel, but I realize I can't even write a prologue that's 250 pages."

Conroy, 62, said his wife Cassandra King, author of "Queen of Broken Hearts," is a much happier writer.

"I'll hear her cackle with laughter at some funny line she's written," he said. "I've never cackled with laughter at a single line I've ever written. None of it has given me pleasure. She writes with pleasure and joy, and I sit there in gloom and darkness."

Conroy has not published a novel since 1995's "Beach Music." He spoke to the newspaper to promote a fund-raising appearance he's making for a library foundation.

Iowa Library’s Cat Has a Rich Second Life as a Biography

Watch out, Marley.

In a hotly contested deal, the life story of Dewey, a rescued cat who lived for 19 years in a library in a small town in Iowa, has sold for about $1.25 million to Grand Central Publishing.
With an eye toward creating the feline answer to the best-selling “Marley & Me,” John Grogan’s memoir of his misbehaving yellow Labrador retriever, Grand Central bought the book, currently titled “Dewey, a Small Town, a Library and the World’s Most Beloved Cat,” on Monday by making an offer high enough to pre-emptively shut down an auction.

“You can’t underestimate the market out there for people who love animals,” said Karen Kosztolnyik, the senior editor at Grand Central who will edit the book; co-authors will be Vicki Myron, the head librarian in Spencer, Iowa; and Bret Witter, a former editorial director at Health Communications, the publisher of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books.

“You look at ‘Marley & Me,’ and that book has been a publishing phenomenon,” Ms. Kosztolnyik said. “I think there are equally as many cat lovers out there. We see this as having that kind of potential.”

The authors’ advance raised some eyebrows in the publishing industry, given that “Marley & Me” reportedly sold to William Morrow less than three years ago for an advance of about $200,000. To date it has sold 1.85 million copies in hardcover, according to Nielsen Bookscan, which tracks book sales in most bookstores and online retailers, although not mass-market outlets like Wal-Mart.

“It’s stunning, the advances being paid,” said Robert S. Miller, president of Hyperion, a publisher that looked at the “Dewey” proposal but declined to bid. “If it might be the next ‘Da Vinci Code’ or the next ‘Marley & Me,’ the ante just increases,” Mr. Miller said. “The problem is that even as the biggest best sellers sell more copies, there are fewer of them, so the publishers paying these advances do so at increasing risk.”

According to publishing executives, “Dewey” will need to sell at least 250,000 copies in hardcover to cover the cost of the advance. Sales to foreign publishers or paperback sales could offset some of that cost.

“Dewey,” which was sold on the basis of a 45-page proposal with about 10 photos of the fluffy orange cat, will tell the story of how the kitten was found in the late-night book drop of the public library in Spencer, a town in the northwest part of the state, and adopted by Ms. Myron and the other librarians. Slowly, over the course of his 19-year life, Dewey became a town mascot who lifted the spirits of residents hit hard by the 1980s farming crisis. In the process he attracted the attention of tourists, cat-calendar makers and filmmakers. He appeared in “Puss in Books: Adventures of the Library Cat,” a 1997 documentary, and another film made by Japanese documentarians. When he died last November, his obituary ran in more than 250 publications, including USA Today and The Washington Post.


Search This Blog