The appointment of Phyllis Grann as vice-chairman of Random House set the industry's speculation gears in motion as agents and publishing executives wondered which authors were most and least likely to follow her.
Among Penguin's major authors—Patricia Cornwell, Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy —the least likely to leave is the one who would have created the biggest splash. Penguin has reportedly secured Tom Clancy by paying him additional money to erase his key-person clause with Grann; that clause would have allowed him to break his current two-book contract.
Another author not thought to be leaving is Nora Roberts. With a contract in place and a large Penguin backlist, she is also unlikely to jump because she has worked extensively with editor Leslie Gelbman, and Gelbman has no plans to leave. If that changes, agent Amy Berkower said, "We'll have to reevaluate." Roberts does have a key-person clause (with Grann) that would allow such a move.
But several authors are potential movers. Perhaps the biggest name on this list is Cussler. The writer has no contract at the moment for any of his Dirk Pitt novels, though he is working on several other titles for Penguin Putnam. As for the Pitt books, agent Peter Lampack said, "We'll take a look at the second half of the year," when Cussler is further along and the future of both Putnam and a Grann-influenced Random are more clear.
Also thought a reasonable bet to leave is Alice Hoffman. The Oprah writer and recent Blue Angel scribe has no contract with Penguin and a close personal relationship with Grann. Hoffman's editor is Stacy Creamer, now executive editor at Broadway Doubleday. Agent Elaine Markson said that since it never "occurred to us that Phyllis would ever leave," her client is "working away" at her new book with nothing yet decided.
One wild card, it emerged from these discussions, is Amy Tan. The Joy Luck Club author has a small backlist (which Ballantine publishes), giving her some mobility. She reportedly has a close relationship with the marketing and publicity departments as well as current editor Aimee Taub, but with her previous editor Faith Sale dying two years ago, and Grann now gone, it's reasonable to wonder. And one can imagine a good fit at Knopf. At the moment, though, she's finishing the second of a two-book deal with Putnam. "We got a number of calls when Phyllis's severance with Penguin was first announced," said agent Sandra Dijkstra. "But we're tabling the conversation for the moment. There will be time to see how both houses function."