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Hot Deals: New Deals in a Brave New Bertelsmann World
Judy Quinn -- 7/27/98
With mystery author Robert Crais's move from Hyperion to Doubleday hardcover and Ballantine paperback publication, literary agent Aaron Priest has made one of the first arrangements that incorporates both the Random House and BDD sides of the nearly month-old merged Random House Inc. Crais's current three-book contract with Hyperion was broken by mutual agreement, said Priest. He noted that the new deal (made with Doubleday president Steve Rubin and Ballantine president Linda Grey) involves comparable money (rumored to be in the high six-figures) but adds what he believes is a stronger marketing commitment to break out Crais, who currently sells in the mid-20,000 hardcover range. "I figured, these guys just bought each other, so let's see if they want to work together," Priest said. He wanted Ballantine as the paperback partner so Crais wouldn't compete with Dell mystery author and Priest client Harlan Coben. The other logical BDD pairing of Bantam as paperback partner was also rejected, since Crais had been published there in the past. The first and planned breakout book in the new deal is the tentatively titled The Devil's Cantina, another in Crais's series featuring L.A. detective Elvis Cole; it's half again as long as his previous book. No firm publication plans are set.
The merger also created an unusual situation in the bidding for Wake Up, I'm Fat, a proposed book by Camryn Manheim, a star of the ABC-TV law drama series The Practice who's become a vibrant role model for large women. Crown had approached Manheim before the merger and set a low-six-figure floor for the auction, but by the time of that event, held by agent Alex Smithline of Vigliano Associates, the merger was official. Three non-Random House Inc. publishers participated in the auction with Crown. When Smithline went back to Crown for its topping privilege as floor holder, Crown ended up passing that privilege to new Bertelsmann sister Broadway, a surprise move to the other players. Broadway's Lauren Marino, who took the book with a rumored $350,000 bid, will serve as editor of the book, tentatively planned for publication next summer.

And in an auction that included only non-Bertelsmann publishers Morrow, HarperCollins and Riverhead, Random House editor-in-chief Ann Godoff won, with a rumored $400,000 North American rights bid, Colors of the Mountain, a memoir of China's cultural revolution by now U.S.-based lawyer Da Cheng. Godoff plans publication sometime in late 1999 or early 2000 and believes in the book so strongly that she thinks it will lead to a profitable paperback auction. By then the bidding rules for the various Bertelsmann players will (hopefully) have been worked out.
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