This spring, bestselling author Jean Auel will publish The Land of Painted Caves, the sixth and final installment in the Earth's Children series, which began with the 1980 classic The Clan of the Cave Bear. Some 30 years later, with more than 45 million copies in print in 30 languages, Auel is one of the most successful international authors in history, revered by a following of loyal fans, lauded by critics, and even embraced by the academic community for her vivid, accurate portrayals of prehistoric life. So, how best to treat the long-anticipated finale to this epic series? How about an ambitious, 10-territory, one-day international laydown, in multiple languages?
"The goal of the international launch is to try to level the playing field for all of the publishers, in all of the languages, by having everyone publish at the same time," says Jennifer Weltz of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, noting that many Europeans are able to, and sometimes are quite content, to read in English. "When you have a beloved author who hasn't published a book for many years, readers become so eager they will grab whatever book is there first, and that can affect translation sales. Jean views all of her publishers as equally important, and she wants them to have an equal opportunity to find readers."
Coordinating such a far-flung effort is no small feat, though Weltz and her partners have some experience to draw on. In 2002, Weltz and the Naggar Agency masterminded what was then an unprecedented international launch for Auel's fifth book in the series, The Shelters of Stone. In one day, more than two million copies were released in bookstores all over the world, and a gathering of journalists and publishers from more than 20 countries celebrated publication by touring the prehistoric caves in France's Dordogne region, led by Auel herself.
"Afterwards, I swore never to do anything like that again!" Weltz laughs, remembering the hard work it took to pull off the launch. But the effort proved worthwhile: The Shelters of Stone became an instant "international megahit," PW reported ("The Return of Cave-Lit," Feb. 18, 2002). It landed atop many U.S. bestseller lists and debuted at #1 in 16 other countries in its first week of publication—an astonishing feat, especially considering that Auel's previous book in the series, The Plains of Passage, was published 12 years earlier.
The upcoming international launch of The Land of Painted Caves is no less ambitious than the 2002 effort, although it is somewhat more manageable. International publicity efforts began weeks ago, with Auel doing dozens of phone interviews, but there will be no French caves this time. Instead, Weltz and Auel are in London, hosted by U.K. publisher Hodder & Stoughton, where from February 28 through March 7 the foreign press will gather for a steady stream of media events and interviews, leading up to March 29, when the book will go on sale in the U.S. (Crown); U.K. (Hodder & Stoughton); France (Les Presses de la Cité); Spain (Maeva); Netherlands (A.W. Bruna); Norway (Aschehoug); Sweden (Bra Bocker); Finland (WSOY); Denmark (Rosinante Forlag); and Germany (Heyne).
Meanwhile, with the announcement of The Land of Painted Caves came news that Auel's previous books would be released in e-book editions for the first time. Beginning in October 2010, e-book editions of Auel's previous books have been published in the U.S. through Bantam, ramping up to the launch of The Land of Painted Caves. E-book editions of the new book will also be available in a number of territories, including the U.S., Spain, and the U.K., on the same March 29 pub date, although final e-book plans in other European countries, Weltz says, have yet to be determined.
It's a Small World
As the London leg of the international launch begins, Weltz reflected on the cooperation among Auel's international publishers. "It's exciting to see this group of important people get together and share information and ideas," Weltz tells PW, "and to build on ideas in ways you don't often see among publishers."
Hodder & Stoughton's publicity director, Kerry Hood, says working with the other houses has been "smooth and cooperative," dating back to the 2002 international launch: "Indeed, we can work together, as things like video content filmed of Jean has been shared, and Hodder's jacket artwork is being used by nine of Jean's foreign publishers. We have all shared promotional ideas with each other, with everyone choosing different things to emphasize in their campaigns that are right for their markets."
Julia Bauer, Auel's editor at German publisher Heyne, agrees: "Cooperation with the other international publishers has been great. We were in close contact and shared many wonderful ideas and plans." While Bauer concedes that coordinating a one-day international laydown of books is "rather costly and laborious," it is also vital, she says, especially for an author of Auel's stature. "Naming a big international laydown day is a valuable marketing tool in and of itself, as it creates so much attention on the bookseller side," she says. "The press department also benefits from a one-day laydown as it can put all the focus on this one day, so the book has a great entrance with booksellers and press for the audience."