Steve Ross hadn't been in his new office at HarperCollins for a week when he found himself plunking down a hefty sum for his first acquisition: the next book from flashy self-promoting entrepreneur Donald Trump. Ross, who recently took the reins of the house's Collins division, closed a “big seven-figure deal” for Trump's next book, Think Big and Kick Ass—in Business and Life, on his first Friday on the job. Ross sees the book, scheduled for release October 16, not only as a major get for Collins Business, but also as a harbinger of the future of the imprint, which he intends to restore to its former glory in the business publishing sphere.
Ross, who decamped from a 10-year run at Random House as v-p and publisher of Crown (where he oversaw, among other divisions, Crown Business), for the Collins job, said the Trump acquisition makes a statement. “We're back in the business of business,” he said, adding that the imprint has been “floating leaderless for quite awhile.” While Collins Business (re-branded in 2005 after being known as HarperBusiness) has been lagging in cachet compared to some of the more successful business imprints, like Free Press and Crown Business, Ross said the unit will get a boost from a more selective acquisitions process and a reinvigoration of its backlist.
Ross, who is currently searching for a publisher for Collins Business, is expecting big things from Trump's book, which he described as the author's version of The Secret. The title is being coauthored by Learning Annex founder and Trump friend Bill Zanker, and the two are promising significant financial support to back the book. The money, which Ross called an “almost embarrassing” sum, will go toward TV, radio, billboard and print ads. The Donald will do a 14-city tour and his kids, Ivanka and Donald Jr., will hit the road for promotional efforts as well. Ross said Trump will push the book hard, and sees the title as a “culmination of his whole philosophy.” Think Big may also be the subject of a cover story in Inc. magazine in November. A 500,000 first printing is planned.
After Trump, Ross intends to repackage some of the imprint's bestselling titles. “I think we have the gold standard of business authors, and I always admired the list from afar,” he said, citing Collins Business authors like Peter Drucker (Management), Benjamin Graham (The Intelligent Investor) and Jack and Suzy Welch (Winning). While the division still sees strong sales on its best known and bestselling title, Jim Collins's Good to Great, attention will be given to other titles that may be languishing. Management, for example, will come out in a new, revised edition in summer 2008. The publication, Ross hopes, will be another step toward Collins Business “regaining our leadership role among business book publishers.”