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Penguin, Random House merger approved in Canada

The Department of Canadian Heritage and the Competition Bureau have approved the merger of two of the country’s largest trade publishers: Bertelsmann-owned Random House of Canada and Pearson-owned Penguin Canada.

The merger, expected to take effect this summer, was announced in October. So far approval has been granted in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.

A press release from Penguin Canada notes that, once the merger is complete, Beterlsmann will own 53 per cent and Pearson will own 47 per cent of the new entity, Penguin Random House. It will encompass the two former companies’ publishing assets in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa, as well as Penguin’s China operations and Random House’s operations in Spain and Latin America.

“Pearson and Bertelsmann believe that the combined organisation, the world’s leading consumer publishing company, will have a stronger platform and greater resources to invest in rich content, new digital publishing models and high-growth emerging markets,” the release says.

 

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Simon & Schuster to begin library lending in New York

Simon & Schuster, the last of the Big Six multinational publishers to venture into ebook library distribution, will make its entire ebook catalogue available to libraries in New York City. A one-year trial will begin at the end of April at New York and Brooklyn public libraries and by mid-May in Queens. There’s no word on Canadian distribution yet.

S&S did not disclose details about ebook rates, though it stipulated fairly generous conditions compared to other publishers. Unlike HarperCollins, S&S won’t limit the number of times a book may be checked out. However, S&S has stipulated that titles may be checked out only one user at a time.

Unlike Penguin, which instituted a six-month lending delay after titles go on sale in stores and online, new titles will become available for purchase upon publication.

Ebook titles will be available to libraries for a one-year term. Following the lead of Penguin, the one-year expiration date is designed to mimic the shelf life of print books. Titles will also be available for purchase through libraries, presumably to patrons who don’t want to wait on the hold list until the book becomes available.

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Allen Lane Canada to distribute Margaret Thatcher biography

Penguin Canada has confirmed its Allen Lane imprint will handle Canadian distribution of the authorized biography of Margaret Thatcher.

Following the death of the former U.K. prime minister on Monday, Penguin U.K. imprint Allen Lane announced it will publish Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One: Not for Turning on April 23. The Canadian release is slated for April 30.

The Bookseller reports that the biography, by Charles Moore, was “commissioned in 1997 on the understanding that it would not be published during her lifetime.”

In an official announcement, Penguin U.K. states that Moore was given full access to Thatcher’s private papers and interviewed her extensively. Moore was also able to speak freely to former and existing civil servants, and was given access to government papers normally held back from public view. Thatcher did not read the manuscript before her death.

Covering the years up to 1982, Not for Turning precedes a second and final volume, Herself Alone, which Moore is currently completing.

The biography will be published in the U.S. by Alfred A. Knopf.

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Are HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster next to merge?

Although speculation over the name isn’t as entertaining as the Penguin Random House merger, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster are being touted as the next publishing companies to join forces.

HarperCollins owner News Corp, which had previously expressed interest in purchasing Penguin, is said to be in talks with S&S’s parent company, CBS. Although talk of a deal is still speculative, News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch is planning to spin off his publishing assets into a separate company next year.

According to the Financial Times, “Two people familiar with the situation cautioned that News Corp had expressed interest but that there had been no formal negotiations between the two companies, and another warned that a deal may not happen.”

If HarperCollins and S&S do merge, the new entity will become the world’s second-largest trade publishing company, after Penguin Random House.

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Poll: what’s your favourite Penguin-Random House merger name?

Penguin House?

As soon as news broke that Penguin and Random House may merge into a mega-publishing house, social media began musing on the would-be company’s new name, with some pretty hilarious results.

Twitter quickly embraced the hashtags #RandomPenguin and #PenguinHouse, and a parody account called @Penguin HouseGo, whose bio claims “I’m in your House. Randomizing your Penguin,” appeared a few hours ago.

Quillblog has collected some favourites from the Twitterverse. Vote for yours, or add your own suggestion below.

 

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Is a merger in the works for Penguin and Random House?

Penguin House?

Are the big six publishers about to become the giant five? According to the Financial Times, Bertelsmann and Pearson are in talks to merge their respective publishing divisions, Random House and Penguin.

If a deal is successful, inside sources say Bertelsmann would reportedly have a stake of more than 50 per cent, with both companies’ CEOs taking leadership roles.

Although rumours of a merger have been floating around for a few months, it is still unclear whether the deal could pass competition regulations in certain countries.

In August, German publication Manager Magazin first reported on the talks, also suggesting a deal between Random House and News Corporation division HarperCollins was a possibility. A Bertelsmann spokesperson called the story “speculation.”

UPDATE: Pearson has released a statement confirming “it is discussing with Bertelsmann a possible combination of Penguin and Random House. The two companies have not reached agreement and there is no certainty that the discussions will lead to a transaction. A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.”

 

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Joseph Boyden’s new novel to examine Canada’s formative years

Joseph Boyden’s writing interweaves the multifarious spirit of Canadian experiences by drawing upon a wealth of northern narratives. His first novel, Three Day Road (Penguin Canada), examines the trauma of the First World War through the story of two young Cree men, while his 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning novel Through Black Spruce (Viking Canada) questions the death of tradition in First Nations communities. Now, Boyden’s new novel, The Orenda, to be published by Hamish Hamilton Canada, takes a further look back into Canada’s formative years.

The Orenda opens in the 1630s with the kidnapping of a gifted Iroquois child, and the arrival of a charming Jesuit missionary, who interposes himself into the native community, in order to lead them onto the path of Christ.

Boyden’s long-time editor Nicole Winstanley, president and publisher of Penguin Canada, acquired the book. In a press release she says:

History is often portrayed in fiction in soft-light and sepia-tones … With The Orenda, Joseph brings a vivid immediacy to the violent collision of social, political, and spiritual forces that forged the beginnings of our country.

Publication is planned for September 2013.

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IFOA’s International Visitors Programme: the schmooze factor

The 2011 cohort at Niagara Falls (Photo: IFOA)

Less than 24 hours into a September business trip to New York City, three people had already asked Iris Tupholme the same question: how could they land an invitation to the International Visitors (IV) Programme? In truth, the guest list is chosen collectively by a committee, which Tupholme chairs, but that fact didn’t stop her peers from trying to wrangle a spot in what has become one of the industry’s most coveted networking events.

Launched in 2008, the five-day IV Programme runs in conjunction with the International Festival of Authors at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, which kicked off its 2012 edition on Oct. 18. Participants arrive on the first Sunday of the festival and spend the following week attending publisher-hosted breakfast and lunch meetings, touring bookstores and literary agencies, taking in festival readings, participating in pitch meetings, and attending presentations. It’s a fast-paced symposium that immerses visitors in the Canadian publishing industry and, ideally, sends them home with a list of promising Canadian authors and attractive foreign-rights opportunities.

“Five years ago, we started it with the goal of bringing a small group of editors and publishers and an occasional agent or literary scout to Toronto for a series of meetings with colleagues, and attending readings by our Canadian authors and others,” says Tupholme, the vice-president, publisher, and editor-in-chief at Harper­Collins Canada. “It has blossomed from there.”

Tupholme first approached IFOA director Geoffrey Taylor about creating the IV Programme in 2005, after attending the Visiting International Publishers program in Sydney, Australia. Creating an IFOA-related networking event was already in the festival “job jar,” says Taylor, so the pair began developing a program designed for publishing professionals in mid-career who might not be able to attend major international book fairs in Frankfurt or London.

But right from the beginning, says Taylor, “everyone wanted to be a part of it at a much more senior level.” The program also fills the annual networking gap created when Reed Exhibitions announced the permanent cancellation of BookExpo Canada in 2009.

Sales pitches at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre (Photo: IFOA)

Funding for the IV Programme comes primarily from the Ontario Media Development Corporation, with the balance covered by the Department of Canadian Heritage, Authors at Harbourfront Centre, individual publishers (who might sponsor a party or event), and foreign arts councils or funding bodies affiliated with program participants. The program pays for airfare, accommodation, meals, and ground transportation for all “fellows,” while “distinguished guests” (such as agents) cover their own travel costs.

“The exact mechanics vary from year to year,” says Taylor, who emphasizes that the distinction is purely financial. All invited guests participate equally in the week’s events.

While organizers can’t quantify the number of deals and foreign-­rights sales that have resulted directly from the program, most alumni confirm that they have, indeed, discovered Canadian talent in Toronto.

Ziv Lewis, foreign-rights manager for Israel’s Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir Publishing, learned about Deborah Willis’s Vanishing and Other Stories (Penguin Canada) during the 2010 IV Programme and recently published a Hebrew translation. Lewis also met Andrew Kaufman in Toronto, and Kinneret will release an Israeli edition of Kaufman’s second novel, The Waterproof Bible (Random House Canada), in early 2013.

Likewise, London-based literary scout Rosalind Ramsay learned about Katrina Onstad’s novel Everybody Has Everything (McClelland & Stewart) during a 2011 visit to Westwood Creative Artists, and has since encouraged Netherlands publisher Artemis/Ambo Anthos to secure Dutch rights.

The cultural exchange can also happen in reverse. During the 2010 program, former Picador editor Sam Humphreys (now publisher at Penguin U.K. imprint Michael Joseph) introduced Coach House Books editorial director Alana Wilcox to Eye Lake, a novel by U.K.-based Canadian writer Tristan Hughes. After connecting with Humphreys in Toronto, Coach House bought Canadian rights and published the novel in October 2011.

Schmoozing at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre (Photo: IFOA)

Agent Gray Tan, president of the Grayhawk Agency in Taipei, sold The Man with the Compound Eyes by Taiwanese author Ming-Yi Wu to his fellow 2011 IV participant Lexy Bloom, a senior editor at the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group in the U.S. Tan and Bloom became friends during the program, and two months later, Bloom bought Wu’s novel for the Vintage and Anchor imprints.

Perhaps most importantly, representatives from independent Canadian presses have a chance to rub shoulders with influential visitors during the IV Programme. Alumnus Aram Fox, a New York City literary scout, introduced Coach House’s Wilcox to more than a dozen publishers at the 2010 Frankfurt Book Fair after the pair connected in Toronto. “Scouts aren’t that excited to see smaller presses,” says Wilcox, “but [Fox] was open, has the greatest contacts, and arranged the meetings.”

Many alumni agree that running IV during the festival gives the event a cozy atmosphere often lacking on a trade-show floor. The intensive schedule also encourages long-lasting bonds. “It’s something completely different from meetings at book fairs,” says Tan, who represents The Cooke Agency, Random House of Canada, McClelland & Stewart, and the Beverley Slopen Literary Agency in the Chinese market. “Sure, we would still love to do business with each other, but the priority is simply to make friends and exchange ideas and experiences.”

“A huge amount of trust and goodwill is generated, and I imagine that many Canadian authors have benefited indirectly as a result of that goodwill,” says Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. In addition to Barley, directors from some of the world’s leading authors’ festivals – including the Melbourne Writers Festival, Beijing’s Bookworm International Literary Festival, and the International Literature Festival Berlin – have participated in the IV Programme, and in 2010, the five festivals formed a unique partnership known as the Word Alliance.

Organizers say they don’t plan to expand the number of fellowships available in future years. The current group size of roughly 20 participants – including both fellows and distinguished guests – ensures each visitor has a meaningful experience, says Taylor. The 2012 IV Programme, however, saw the addition of a Canadian editorial fellowship (awarded to Trena White, publisher of Douglas & Mc­Intyre) and a new industry prize known as the Ivy Award. The committee also hopes to create events for the growing list of program alumni and institute a juried IV application form to replace what’s currently a more subjective selection process.

Alumni suggestions for improving the program are strikingly minimal. “I hope the ‘speed date’ part of quick meetings with Canadian publishers and agents can be modified according to the needs of each IV [participant],” says Tan. “Otherwise 10 minutes is just too short.” Barley says the focus on meetings and socializing comes somewhat at the expense of attending literary events, but he adds, “This is a very minor quibble. The organization of the IV Programme is 99 per cent right.”

Overall, past participants have nothing but praise for the event – including the annual field trip to Niagara Falls. Many souvenir photos are snapped while these literary VIPs sport the requisite yellow ponchos. Visiting the landmark site is also one of the most relaxed moments in an otherwise demanding week. “You make people get up really early in the morning, you pour them onto a bus when they’re barely awake, they suddenly arrive somewhere and they get soaking wet,” says Taylor. “What’s not to love about that?”

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BookNet bestsellers: cookbooks

Chef Michael Smith, who has this week’s best-selling cookbook, is a relative newcomer compared to Jean Paré, whose classic Company’s Coming series appears on the list five times.

For the two weeks ending Sept. 30:

1. Fast Flavours: 110 Simple, Speedy Recipes, Michael Smith
(Penguin Canada, $32 pa, 9780143177647)

2. The Looneyspoons Collection, Janet and Greta Podleski
(Granet Publishing, $34.95 pa, 9780968063156)

3. Canadian Living: 150 Essential Whole Grain Recipes
(Transcontinental Books, $29.95 pa, 9780987747426)

4. The Vegetarian’s Complete Quinoa Cookbook, Mairlyn Smith
(Whitecap Books, $30 pa, 9781770500976)

5. Rob Feenie’s Casual Classics: Everyday Recipes for Family and Friends, Rob Feenie
(Douglas & McIntyre, $29.95 pa, 9781553658733)

6. Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood, Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming
(Whitecap, $29.95 pa, 9781552859940)

7. The Soup Sisters Cookbook, Sharon Hapton and Pierre A. Lamielle
(Appetite by Random House, $22.95 pa, 9780449015599)

8. The Book of Kale: The Easy-to-Grow Superfood, Sharon Hanna
(Harbour Publishing, $26.95 pa, 9781550175769)

9. The Chew: Cooking, Entertainment, and Style
(Hyperion/HarperCollins, $21.99 pa, 9781401311063)

10. Simple Dinners, Donna Hay
(HarperCollins, $34.99 pa, 9781443416559)

11. Most Loved Slow Cooker and Soup Recipes, Jean Paré
(Company’s Coming, $29.99 cl, 9781927126288)

12. 5-Ingredient Slow Cooker Recipes, Jean Paré
(Company’s Coming, $16.99 spiral bound, 9781897477069)

13. Healthy Slow Cooker, Jean Paré
(Company’s Coming, $16.99 spiral bound, 9781897477434)

14. Canadian Living: The One-Dish Collection
(Transcontinental, $26.95 pa, 9780981393896)

15. The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
(America’s Test Kitchen, $37.95 spiral bound, 9781933615998)

16. Adding Vegetables, Jean Paré
(Company’s Coming, $16.99 spiral bound, 9781927126271)

17. Canadian Living: The Slow Cooker Collection, Elizabeth Baird
(Transcontinental Books, $22.95 pa, 9780980992458)

18. Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen, Michael Smith
(Penguin Canada, $32 pa, 9780143177630)

19. Mostly Muffins, Jean Paré
(Company’s Coming, $16.99 spiral bound, 9781897069035)

20. Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking, Caroline Bretherton
(Dorling Kindersley/Tourmaline, $39 cl, 9780756686796)

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Q&A: Emily Pohl-Weary debuts new Toronto reading series

This morning, author Emily Pohl-Weary sent off a draft of her new manuscript, a YA novel titled Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl (to be published by Penguin Canada imprint Razorbill in 2013), just in time to talk with Quillblog about Impossible Words, a new reading series hosted by Toronto’s Academy of the Impossible.

The series, a bi-weekly, salon-style event, puts established writers on stage with emerging talents from Pohl-Weary’s youth writing group, the Toronto Street Writers. The 16-date series kicks off with George Elliott Clarke on Sept. 8, followed by Mariko Tamaki (Sept. 22), Krystyn Dunnion and Anand Mahadevan (Oct. 13), and Hiromi Goto (Oct. 27).

Why did you decide to start a reading series?
I get a lot of energy out of the Toronto Street Writers, so I thought bringing their enthusiasm and desire to learn about all aspects of the literary world and authors would make for really interesting conversations on stage. They’re not afraid to ask questions like, “How do you make a living?” “Why do you write?” “What does it mean to be a black man in a largely white literary community?”

There’s a formality to a lot of literary readings and events. When you bring youth into the mix who are curious and dying to learn, they break down those walls that make us feel removed from the discussion.

What is the Toronto Street Writers?
Toronto Street Writers is a free weekly writing group for young adults between the ages of 16 and 29. We meet every Tuesday, from the end of October to June, at the Academy of the Impossible to try our hands at writing all different kinds of genres. We bring in professional writers and artists to teach their craft to the youth and create a mentorship situation.

How did the group get started?
It started in 2008, in Parkdale, the neighbourhood where I grew up, in response to a very violent summer. I was looking around at my younger siblings and their friends, and then seeing that some of the boys in the neighbourhood couldn’t read. It’s so hard to function in this society if you don’t have the ability to communicate.

We get 20 to 25 people a week, and at least one or two of them are new.

How did you select the authors for this series?
When we applied for funding from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts, the Academy’s operations manager, Irfan Ali he is the driving force who made this series happen – and I brainstormed as many different writers as we could. We wanted a range of people who work in different styles and genres, and have different cultural backgrounds and interests and come from different parts of the country.

How does the series tie into Academy’s mandate?
At the Academy, we’re always looking to put the power into the audience’s hands – people who don’t traditionally have power. In this case, we’re telling the youth, “You are interviewing this established author, you have the ability to lead the conversation. You must read their work and prepare for the discussion, and you’re going up on stage with them.”

It’s an opportunity for them to shine, and I think they will. In situations where they are respected and supported, they always do wonderful things.

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Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

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Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

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Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Fans wait in line to have their copies of Empress of the Night signed by Eva Stachniak

Lesley Strutt, Dean Steadman, Amanda Earl, Alastair Larwill and Frances Boyle

Frances Boyle, Dean Steadman, Lesley Strutt and Alastair Larwill

Amanda Earl

Jewel of the Thames launch

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