If you notice an unusually large number of copies of a book called Modern Tactics in Higher Education circulating soon, don't worry, it's not the start of an education craze in the industry. Instead, it is all part of an unpredictable publishing strategy for Hearst Books' lead spring title, Married Lust: 10 Secrets of Long Lasting Desire by Pamela Lister. More than a year after HarperCollins acquired William Morrow, Hearst, a former Morrow imprint, is set to unveil its new line of books next month with a strategy that exhibits a closer relationship with the company's magazines and their consumers.
Exhibit A is Married Lust. Written by a contributing editor at Redbook, the title features a reversible dust jacket—the fake Modern Tactics in Higher Education on one side acts as a mask for Married Lust for parents who want to work on their sex lives but don't necessarily want to advertise it to the kids. "It's a little bit of a gimmick, but it has a point," said Redbook editor-in-chief Lesley Jane Seymour. Working with Lister, Seymour decided to create the stealth cover out of consideration for Redbook subscribers who were concerned about their children seeing magazine cover lines that contained the word "sex." The magazine's editors remedied the problem and didn't want to have the same issue with the book, hence the double cover. "It's not so much about the purchasing of the book but being able to have it around the house without your kids saying, "Mommy, what does 'lust' mean?" explained Lister.
Married Lust, with a first printing of 50,000 copies, is "the most requested book in the catalogue," said Jacqueline Deval, the company's vice-president and publisher. This is good news, and not just for couples looking to rev up their sex life. It's the bold beginning of a new Hearst Books, or so the company hopes. After Harper bought Morrow, Deval said, the Hearst Corporation retained the book company (and its six employees) and folded it into the magazine division. "There are about a thousand advantages to becoming part of the Hearst [magazine] company and they're more apparent to me everyday," said Deval. According to Michael Clinton, senior v-p of the Hearst Magazine Division, one of the biggest advantages of the coordinated book and magazine division is that it adds to the overall brand.
Under Morrow, Hearst Books produced about 10 branded books a year. Now it will average 30, said Deval. The branded books are leveraged from its stable of magazines, including Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Country Living, Town & Country and Victoria.
"Synergy" is perhaps the most overused word of the 21st century, but it's the best way to describe what Hearst Books is trying to do. "Becoming part of the magazine division made a lot of sense," said Deval. "Now we're much more integrated with the whole process, from marketing and selling the books to growing articles."
Hearst will focus on creating original content books that will be co-branded with the magazines. The company will cross-promote the books on its Web site, in the magazines, on the Hearst-owned Argyle network of TV stations (which owns the A&E Network) and will excerpt some content for advertorials in the magazines. While the reorganized Hearst will flex its marketing muscles by taking advantage of internal partnerships, the company is also utilizing some unusual external relationships as well. For example, Chrysler used a Victoria book, The Pleasures of Tea, as a gift for women who test-drove one of its vehicles. Earlier this year, Hearst teamed up with Wal-Mart, and the companies have developed five co-branded books with Popular Mechanics on plumbing, painting and hardware.
But Married Lust is the company's first big test of its new synergistic strategy. The idea for the book came when Seymour wanted to build and expand the Redbook brand. "I thought, 'What else can the magazine be? What sections do people like the most?" she said. "The core of Redbook is about happy marriages, and a part of that is sex. Our readers aren't willing to give up their sex lives."
The basis of the book was a survey conducted on redbookmag.com, where 10,000 men and women answered questions about their sex lives. Lister, who spent eight years as Redbook' s sex and marriage editor, until she left to spend more time with her children, seemed a natural to write the book.
But Lister told PW that she thinks the book will get attention not just because of the covers or the subject matter. Of course sex sells, she said, but it goes beyond that. "So many of the sex books out there have to do with being a gymnast or an acrobat in bed," she explained. "This book goes to the heart of what people are really thinking about, which is desire and how do you keep that feeling of yearning after 10 years of marriage and three kids?"
Apart from answering that million-dollar question, Deval said she plans to keep the focus of Hearst Books on trade nonfiction. Any fictional titles that might spring from the pages of Hearst magazines will have to find another publisher. (Indeed, this June, Warner will publish Diary of V: The Affair by Deborah Kent, which grew out of the author's ongoing stories on redbookmag.com)
Hearst will be keeping busy with its nonfiction line. Also on the spring list are House Beautiful's Pools and Esquire'sThings a Man Should Know About Sex. In the fall, Hearst will publish The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook, with a first printing of 185,000 copies. And another title in the works is based on Redbook's "Simple Solutions" column. As for the future, Deval said, "Synergy is the way it has to be right now."