Wednesday, August 29, 2007


A bit of news about HarperCollins, Rupert Murdoch's book publishing company, from Publishers Lunch (subscription only):

Pantheon [a division of Random House] seemed to hit a stroke of good timing in late March when they released the translation of Nicolas Sarkozy's 2006 French bestseller TESTIMONY: France in the Twenty-First Century just as he emerged as the leading candidate in the multi-stage French presidential election, which only got better when Sarkozy won in early May. But they registered sales as tracked through Bookscan of approximately 1,600 copies, and now in record time a revised version of the same book will be relaunched on October 1 from a different publisher.

Sarkozy joins the stable of political figures at HarperCollins....

Harper editor Terry Karten ... says that their announced first printing is 30,000 copies....

So what's going on here? A division of Random House published Sarkozy's book and it bombed (not surprisingly, given the fact that most Americans don't pay the slightest attention to the politics of other countries) -- but Murdoch's HarperCollins is going to publish the book again, a mere five months after it bombed, and the plan is to print nearly twenty times as many copies as it just sold? Hunh? From a publishing point of view, does that make any sense? (The new edition will be somewhat revised and in paperback, but that's not enough to justify the much larger print run.) And then, according to the story, HarperCollins is going to publish another Sarkozy book (which also won't sell)?

No, that makes no sense as a pure publishingt decision -- but this is Rupert Murdoch's publishing house we're talking about. HarperCollins, of course, canceled a book by Hong Kong's last English governor that was critical of China's government, and also published a book by Mao's daughter, at a time when Murdoch wanted to expand his Chinese broadcast ventures. Murdoch's newspapers backed Tony Blair in 1997, "ensuring that the new government would allow him to keep intact his British holdings." And Murdoch has, of course, cozied up to Hillary Clinton, probably on the assumption that it'll be her government he'll have to deal with in the U.S. starting in '09.

So what does Murdoch want in France from Sarkozy? I'm not sure -- but I bet he'll get it.

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