More perhaps than most parts of the business, the signing of new books has been particularly hard hit by the events of the past couple of weeks. The pitching of a book by an agent to an editor, who then has to rally marketing colleagues behind it; the arduous business of working out contract and payment terms; the placing of a new work on a list that may be two years away all require a degree of energy, attention to detail and, yes, optimism that has been hard to muster under the cloud of sorrow and confusion that still hangs over us all. And the fact that this sad inertia has overtaken the business only weeks before the Frankfurt fair, that important foreign rights marketplace, has made it even more depressing. As agent Stuart Krichevsky put it, "We didn't even think of submitting things in the past week, and we haven't been following up, either, waiting for people to get their breath back. Like everyone else, we've mostly been reading the newspapers and watching TV." His rights person, Patty Moosbrugger, had elected not to go to the Frankfurt fair.
Michael Carlisle at Carlisle and Company, agreed: "We're still all in shock—and I think that we, like most agents, are full of conflicted feelings: we want to submit only projects that could be seen as worthy contributions, and yet we don't want to seem aggressive and venal; we don't want to offer anything misconceived or that could be seen to be exploitative." With this in mind, he had turned down a projected book on American heroes, illustrated with pictures from the tragedy, as "inappropriate at this time." However, he is planning a Frankfurt trip, along with his rights director, and hoped to announce some new—and appropriate—deals next week.
So the comparatively meager news in this week's column, unless otherwise indicated, is not as fresh as we would wish it to be, but consists mostly of word about deals concluded before September 11. As to instant books about the tragedy, that's limited, as far as we can make out, to a couple of productions by online operations, with an on-demand audience in view: BookSurge.com, with an oral history about the dreadful day, and fictionwise.com, with a tribute to the many firefighters who lost their lives—both saying that their profits would be donated to appropriate good causes. In print, Harper's ReganBooks is lining up contributors to a literary anthology centering on the tragedy called God Bless America ; pub date uncertain as of now.