[ PW Home ] [ Bestsellers ] [ Subscribe ] [ Search ]

Publishers Weekly News

Booknews: A Craze for Collectibles
Edited by Judy Quinn -- 2/21/00
PBS's 'Antiques Roadshow' and online auction sites bid up books category

When Doubleday Select sent out a mailing to solicit new members for its Antiques and Collectibles Book Club at the end of last year, it received a response that quadrupled its previous membership.

The reason? In a unusual licensing arrangement with the popular PBS show, the club is now called the Antiques Roadshow Book Club.

Add the burgeoning of online auction sites to the popularity of this show, which, with 14 million viewers weekly, is PBS's most watched show ever, and it's "an amazing moment in time for the collectibles category," said club director Jackie Decter. Collectibles books, particularly in the categories of glass, furniture, pottery and silver, are gold right now, she added. "I'm seeing more and more books being produced and orders in higher quantities."

Workman is receiving the most direct benefit: even before a new season of shows began airing on January 10, its Antiques Roadshow Primer was selling strongly enough for the publisher to go back to press prior to official release, supplementing an initial 310,000-copy printing with an additional 20,000 copies. And in a rare move, both the Literary Guild and Book-of-the-Month Club acquired and are featuring the book, a clear signal that a collectibles discussion and companion guide, especially one linked to the hit show, is a no-brainer seller in today's climate.

The current Roadshow momentum--it's even been the subject of spoof/homage on shows such as NBC's Frasier and Will and Grace--is all bemusing good news for Dan Farrell, now U.S. director of book distributor the Antique Collectors Club.

Farrell, who gets a producer credit on the U.S. version of the show (since he originally bought the North American rights from the BBC), provides the traveling reference library for show appraisers and also benefits from its book license deal with Workman. He admits to plenty of frustration at the time it has taken show producer WGBH to approve a tie-in book. "But it's not too late," Farrell said, and it looks like plenty of publishers agree.

Next fall, Warner plans to publish Hidden Treasures, a book by popular Roadshow appraisers Leigh and Leslie Keno, for which the publisher paid a reported $1-million advance. S&S so far has sold just under 50,000 copies of the November 1999 Fireside release The Official eBay Guide to Buying, Selling and Collecting Just About Anything and there are many unofficial online auction guides as well.

Workman also has just made a deal with WGBH to do another Antiques Roadshow tie-in book soon (focusing on 20th-century collectibles) and will be introducing a page-a-day version of its Antiques Roadshow calendar for 2001.

Crown, whose Kovels' Antiques and Collectibles Price Guide is a perennial Three Rivers Press bestseller, is now beginning a year-long marketing campaign to raise the profile of the House of Collectibles line, which it just took over from Ballantine.

"Yes, the auction craze is helping book sales--but it could be helping much more," said Three Rivers editorial director Linda L wenthal. "The challenge is beefing up antiques and collectibles sections in the bookstores so that book-buyers are aware that these amazing resources exist."

A Three-Hour Tour

On February 7, C-Span2's Book TV debuted its Signature Series and dedicated three hours to conversation with and viewer calls for historian John Lukacs.

BookTV plans to feature one author a month in this new program, which will air noon-3 p.m. EST on the first Sunday of every month.

"We're trying to devote time beyond just books that are brand new," said executive producer Connie Brod. "We want to get viewers interested in backlist, in an author's whole body of work."

Lukacs's most recent book, his 20th, Five Days in London, 1940, is already a word of mouth hit. Yale University Press has gone back for three printings for the October 1999 release, for a current 35,000 copies in print. "Even if we were to see a spike from Sunday, it would be hard to sort out the cause--the marathon on Book TV, the Philadelphia Inquirer review that ran the same day, or the many other good things that are continuing to happen for this book," said publicist Brenda Kolb.

The 70-something scribe attracted the expected glowing print reviews and support from bricks-and-mortar booksellers. His WWII tome also benefited from online bookselling--Amazon.com's history editor sent an e-mail to customers predicting the book would be on it's the site's history bestseller list for months to come.

Two other Signature spotlights already in the works: author Richard Rhodes on March 5 and Joan Didion May 7.

Chimps Are People, Too

Since 1980, Boston-based animal rights Steven M. Wise has literally gone to the dogs for his clients. He has saved more than 100 dogs that were ordered to be put to death as vicious, defended the rights of condominium and cooperative owners to have companion animals, and sued to stop the U.S. Patent Office from issuing patents for genetically engineered animals.

In his new book, Rattling the Cage: Towards Legal Rights for Animals, just out under the Merloyd Lawrence imprint from Perseus Publishing, Wise presents the case for according chimpanzees and bonobos, or pygmy chimps, legal status. They share, he notes, 98% of a human's DNA structure, and their brain structures are also similar. Legal recognition, Wise argues, would help protect them from physical abuse.

The broad appeal for Wise's book is evident from the way he found an editor. The unlikely pairing of Boston Brahmin Lawrence, an independent editor with the Perseus Books Group, and the suburban activist, who with his wife, Debra Slater-Wise, founded the Center for the Expansion of Fundamental Rights in 1995, came about largely through Lawrence's own interest in the earth. "I have two grandchildren," she explained, "and I care about what kind of world they inherit."

The two met through the intercession of an Animal Legal Defense Fund lawyer, whom Lawrence asked about the best person to write on the rights of animals. The lawyer recommended former ALDF president Wise, who has published extensively on the subject in various law reviews, taught the first course in animal rights at Vermont Law School and is currently conducting the first-ever course on the subject at Harvard Law School. Lawrence coached Wise on how to write a book proposal, and he was such a quick study that the book, which includes a foreword by Jane Goodall, was immediately snatched up by Perseus, as was a sequel on the legal rights of certain other animals.

Rattling the Cage, which is being published 25 years after philosopher Peter Singer first argued for Animal Liberation based on moral concerns, is the only book, said Wise, "to argue in the law's values, not my values. Every other book is usually by someone who has a certain philosophical bent. What I do instead is try to understand what values we have in the common law."

What also distinguishes Rattling the Cage is its back matter. Wise said he "went through the roof when I first saw the index," which left out every one of the 50 nonhumans, including his own companion animals, Marbury and Alice (a dog and a cat) that he had deliberately named in the book. He remedied the matter by re-indexing the book himself, so that the dolphin Kama now has equal billing with humans like Lewis Leakey.

On sale in January, Rattling the Cage has already shaken up sales expectations. Wise has done so many appearances on NPR--including interviews on Fresh Air, Weekend Edition, Morning Edition and The Connection--and been written about in so many magazines, ranging from Salon to Time, that Perseus went back to press before the February 8 publication date, bringing the in-print total to 25,000 copies. Wise is about to embark on an unusual 11-city tour that includes stops at the Los Angeles Zoo, as well as at academic enclaves such as the University of Oregon's Environmental Conference. The book is also being heavily marketed over the Internet: Perseus has e-mailed targeted information to more than 1000 animal rights groups. --Judith Rosen

Agent Just Says 'No'

As literary agent for John Gray and Richard Carlson, among others, Patti Breitman knows what it takes to make a self-help blockbuster. She also knows that to admit to anyone at a party that she's an agent means being bombarded by pitches all night. "So I tell people I say 'no' for a living, and the answer they come back with is almost always, 'Boy, oh boy, I wish I could learn to say 'no.' "

So was born How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty: And Say Yes to More Time, More Joy, and What Matters Most to You, coming from Broadway Books next month.

Breitman knew she was onto a topic that would attract a wide audience, and one that needed an update. The only two general "no" books she knew about, Why Do I Say Yes When I Want to Say No? and When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, had each sold over three million copies but were published nearly 30 years ago.

For help, Breitman hooked up with college friend Connie Hatch, a professional writer, to craft what she calls "a simple, practical book of tools and examples--what to say and how--for busy people in the '90s."

When now former Broadway Books publisher Bill Shinker said "yes" to the book, there was a sense, said Breitman, of having come full circle. Shinker had been her mentor at every stage of her career, hiring her as his secretary at Avon, bringing her on to do marketing and sales at Warner, and buying Men Are from Mars, Women are from Venus when Breitman, now based in California, first became an agent.

Broadway is backing the book with a significant 50,000-copy printing. And the book is already a BOMC One Spirit and Quality Paperback choice, and foreign rights have been sold in seven countries, including Germany and the U.K.

Clients and friends also have offered much support--particularly the glowing back-of-book endorsements.

Following her own advice to her authors, Breitman has committed three months of her time exclusively to the promotion of her book, which will include a 10-city tour. She has hired a freelance publicist and a media coach, and spent some of her advance money to help in this extra promotion. All of this "means I've said 'no' to my clients, and set limits on my career," she said.

In fact, the book gives her a perfect excuse to say " no" at any time. Epitomizing the real message of her book, that learning to say "no" to those things that are unimportant in life means learning to say "yes" to those things that are, Breitman has for some time put a cap on her client list, and g s hiking in the California hills without a shred of guilt that she's not constantly tackling paperwork back home. --Roxane Farmanfarmaian

Travel, Science to Be 'Best'

Houghton Mifflin is adding The Best American Travel Writing and The Best American Science and Nature Writing to its Best American annuals this fall.

Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods) will guest-edit the inaugural volume of The Best American Travel Writing, which will be released in October. Series editor is Jason Wilson, a three-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award, founder of the travel journal Grand Tour and instructor of travel writing at Rosemont College in the Philadelphia area. David Quammen (The Song of the Dodo) will be the guest editor for the inaugural volume of The Best American Science and Nature Writing, also due in October. Burkhard Bilger, a senior editor at Discover magazine, a contributing editor at Health magazine and an adjunct professor of science writing at New York University, is series editor.
Back To News
Search | Bestsellers | News | Features | Children's Books | Bookselling
Interview | Industry Update | International | Classifieds | Authors On the Highway
About PW | Subscribe
Copyright 2000. Publishers Weekly. All rights reserved.