The publisher of Louisa May Alcott, Benjamin Franklin, J.D. Salinger, and David Foster Wallace, to name just a few, is going all out, especially this month, the official anniversary month, to celebrate its 175th. Look up and you’ll see an anniversary banner marking the Hachette Book Group booth (3627), of which it is a division. Inside there are 175th anniversary tote bags, tattoos, and booklets on Little, Brown’s history, dating back to when it was incorporated by Charles Little and James Brown in Boston in June 1837. The logo has been quietly added to the spines of all Little, Brown 2012 releases since January. And it will appear on the fall list—including Tom Wolfe’s first novel with the press, Back to Blood; Scott Spencer’s pseudonymous horror novel, Breed; Michael Koryta’s thriller The Prophet; and the final volume of William Manchester’s Winston Churchill biography, The Last Lion, completed by Paul Reid.
Of course, a celebration isn’t complete without a party. For Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch, tonight’s anniversary gathering headlined by the Kit McClure all-female big band, which will play Duke Ellington’s “My Little Brown Book,” encapsulates the goals of the anniversary: to capture the “fun” and “joy.” He wants to see everyone dancing too. Beyond that, Pietsch and the team at Little, Brown have long looked to BEA to build books by giving away huge stacks of ARCs. “We still believe there are few things more powerful than handing someone a book,” says marketing director Heather Fain.
“We really believe in BEA as a gigantic opportunity to join us in reading all these great books early,” adds Pietsch. “It’s a show from which The Lovely Bones emerged, The Historian, and Room. We work hard to publish books that we can get behind for years and years and years,” he says. This year one of several books the press is hoping to make is Iraq veteran Kevin Powers’s debut novel, The Yellow Birds. “That’s the first great novel I’ve seen out of Iraq,” says Pietsch. “There’s been some powerful narrative nonfiction. He conveys a sense of a war without a mission.”
Backlist not only plays a key role in the press but in this year’s celebration. Little, Brown kicked off the year with a bookseller promotion of 25 backlist titles on the spring list, and is following up with another 25 in the fall, from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson to Frances FitzGerald’s Fire in the Lake. Plus backlist titles are being repositioned for the frontlist. “Backlist,” notes v-p, digital and paperback publisher Terry Adams, “is the stuff that makes us want to get up in the morning. We’re so proud of it.”
In a bit of serendipity, the 18th edition of bookseller John Bartlett’s Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, edited by Geoffrey O’Brien, is coming out during the anniversary year. First published in 1855, Bartlett’s will be available for the first time as what Adams calls “a very cool app” for iOS, Nook, and other Android devices. He should know since he’s been spending half his job on getting it right so that users can add pictures and tweet them to friends.” There will also be a second Bartlett’s app, a game app. Not that Little, Brown is overlooking other backlist titles. It’s using the anniversary to repackage Evelyn Waugh’s fiction in four formats: trade paperback, hardcover, audio, and e-book.
Backlist is also a driving force behind a 14-book/14-day e-book promotion planned for later this month, June 25 to July 9. Included among the seven fiction and seven nonfiction e-books priced at $3.99 are Michael Connelly’s first novel, The Black Echo; William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways; and David Sedaris’s Naked.