HarperFlamingo: Highlighting the Literary
Judy Quinn -- 9/1/97
New imprint provides umbrella marketing for house's already successful adult trade area
When HarperCollins editor-in-chief and associate publisher J lle Delbourgo and HarperPerennial publishing director Susan Weinberg were given a mandate to form a literary imprint by president and CEO Anthea Disney, they didn't have to scurry to fill slots in the list.
"What we've been saying in house is that HarperFlamingo has already arrived," Delbourgo said. "We didn't have to create this list from scratch."Indeed, the new imprint, launching in January as a distinct subset of the adult trade division, serves to highlight both the established literary authors the house has (Barbara Kingsolver, Armistead Maupin, Doris Lessing, Annie Dillard, Oscar Hijuelos and Milan Kundera will all be published under the imprint) and the newer ones it hopes to build. HarperFlamingo's inaugural list includes Isabel Allende's nonfiction Aphrodite: Stories, Recipes and Other Aphrodisiacs; Cloudsplitter, Russell Banks's fictional re-creation of the Harpers Ferry raid; Louise Erdrich's next novel, The Antelope Wife; and Brazilian writer Paulo C lho's The Fifth Mountain, the first of his novels to be published from New York (he was previously published by Harper San Francisco). Also on the inaugural list: Jo-Ann Mapson's Loving Chl , a sequel to her 42,000-copy-seller, Hank &Chl ; Janice Daugharty's third novel, Whistle; award-winning short-story writer Marya Hornbacher's account of her anorexia and bulimia, Wasted; African American p t Lucinda Roy's first novel, Lady Moses; Mark Doty's next collection of p try; and paperbacks from Robert Boswell, Mike Magnuson and others.
For Weinberg, the HarperFlamingo imprint addresses the problem she had when she arrived at Perennial in 1993: how to make more distinctions among what is a varied and large trade list. "I had this great name, HarperPerennial, but we were using it for everything from Louise Erdrich to Martha Stewart parodies. We were feeling like we were stretching the name out." The imprint also serves to highlight a strength perhaps not sufficiently visible to the trade and/or consumers: "We have a literary fiction program, but no one recognizes that we publish it," said Weinberg.
At one point, the editors toyed with calling the entire imprint HarperPerennial, but Delbourgo hit what she calls her "Bingo!" moment when an international sales rep suggested they name it after HarperCollins U.K.'s well-known literary imprint, Flamingo. Here, too, the editors say the name merely underlines a relationship already in existence. "We'll definitely be working co-publications and co-acquisitions, which we've always done, more," said Delbourgo. "I'd love to see more international fiction coming into the house." To further that aim, Delbourgo is sending two key HarperFlamingo staffers, executive editors Terry Karten and Robert Jones, to the Frankfurt Book Fair for the first time this year.
Delbourgo hopes to offer 15-20 HarperFlamingo titles each season, but she noted that the imprint is "not driven by numbers or quotas. It's going to be very much in terms of the number of books that are right to be published in this imprint; there will be smaller seasons and richer seasons." For example, Weinberg noted, the inaugural list lacks a major lead HarperFlamingo trade paperback, to be remedied this spring with the reprint of the current hardcover bestseller The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, an acquisition, Weinberg is quick to point out, that was made before HarperFlamingo's formation, not to fulfill an imprint agenda.
The key advantage of the imprint, said Delbourgo, is to "provide an umbrella under which we can market and raise the profile of all our literary authors, rather than doing it in a scattershot way." Key components of HarperFlamingo's marketing push will be highlighting the imprint's image, authors and titles on HarperCollins's website and, perhaps even more significantly, with an alliance this fall with the online magazine Salon, which will feature excerpts and interviews with HarperFlamingo's authors and editors. There will also be publication of a Flamingo Reader, a showcase of excerpts. Additionally, the team of HarperFlamingo editors -- including Disney -- will host regional dinners to introduce the list to the trade.
But even Delbourgo admits that it "has not been an easy time at the house; it's been a painful time and there's been so much distortion." She and Weinberg, for example, could think of only one out of the house's recently publicized cancellations that even had the potential to be a HarperFlamingo title. "We didn't cancel in this area; it's a strength for us," said DelBourgo.
Then there is the issue of another imprint launch, Cliff Street Books, which, like Regan Books, is a separate unit that can also acquire HarperFlamingo-type literary fiction. Such duplication d sn't bother Delbourgo. "This house has a combination of focuses and there will probably be other new ventures, either around a genre, subject or a person. All can make sense," she said. "Hopefully we'll prove our sincerity through our actions."
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