Event publishing, mixed media packages and TV tie-ins that stand alone are the latest developments publishers report in the world of music and TV. At least two new presses, seeing opportunities, are dedicating a large part of their energies to pop culture books, particularly about TV and popular music. Marketing to a built-in eager fan base makes the Web a particularly powerful tool in this arena, shaping, in part, what titles are published and when they appear. But no book is a shoo-in, and houses struggle, as always, to find the right angle, author and timing for each project they undertake. Fans may love their pop stars, but do they love them enough to buy a book about them? Will Eminem or Bob Marley—or the Rolling Stones, for that matter—continue to enthrall? The risk of failure is ever-present.
Chronicle was dealing with a known (and revered) quantity when it published The Beatles Anthology in 2000, but the massive volume has proved to be a landmark in many respects, not only generating gargantuan sales—1.1 million copies domestically, another 1 million abroad—but also triggering a spate of follow-ups (see sidebar, page 34) and inaugurating the idea of the music blockbuster. "A few years ago, music books weren't events," says Billboard Book's executive editor Bob Nirkind. "Teen celebrities used to be the thing. The Backstreet Boys, the Spice Girls. Our teen book on Hanson was seven weeks on the bestseller lists in 1997, along with two or three others. But by the time Ricky Martin: The Unofficial Book came out in 1999 there must have been a dozen others in bookstores. Borders said they'd only take one or two. That's when I knew it was time to get out. Now there's more emphasis on TV tie-ins and the big blockbuster book, i.e., Ken Burns's Jazz, or Martin Scorsese's forthcoming The Blues to accompany the PBS series. The Beatles book and the new one about the Rolling Stones—they're events."
Chronicle's Amy Kaneko, director of mass and specialty sales, powered the campaign for The Beatles Anthology (in her then position as marketing director) and links the book's runaway success not just to the enduring popularity of the Beatles and their appeal to each new generation, or that in this book they wrote their own story for the first time. She says there was simply happy "convergence"—the right book at the right time, handled the right way. "The book came out at the same time as The Beatles 1 album," Kaneko says. "We expected 250,000 in sales, We went back to press in May and didn't stop till October. For the softcover edition two years later we printed 400,000 copies, but it hasn't sold as well. We sated fans' desire with the $60 hardcover collector's edition."
Due out next month, Chronicle's According to the Rolling Stones by Jason Mitchell will be released at the beginning of the band's much ballyhooed 40 Licks World Tour. "The book is another example of getting the word on artists not from hearsay but from the people themselves," says Kaneka. "It's not as new as The Beatles Anthology was and we're not expecting the same levels, but it's going into major accounts in a major way."
Riverhead is counting on major convergence for its release next May of The Wu-Tang Manual by hip-hop masters RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan. "They are arguably the most original and important group in hip-hop history, with multiple generations of fans and a built-in book-buying audience," says publicist Carolyn Birbiglia. In addition to forays into other media (TV, comic books, video games) and branded merchandise (action figures, clothing, a shoe line), the Clan will be celebrating its 10th anniversary next year with a 60-city international tour, with the book available at tour venues. Other publicity benefits from additional Clan projects include RZA's hosting a hip-hop American Idol-like competition on MTV that begins airing in 2004, and the release of the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill, with an RZA soundtrack. Birbiglia notes that the official Wu-Tang Web site, which launches next year, will certainly boost book sales even further.
Web marketing works at all levels, say many publishers—honing in on the fans is the key. And Books is putting this into effect, reports publisher Patty Walsh, with next spring's Louisiana: A Musical Treasure (Apr.), an oral history of the music and musicians of Louisiana—New Orleans jazz and Dixieland, Cajun, zydeco, rhythm and blues, brass marching bands. Says Walsh, "We've discovered from our other niche market books that Internet promotion, though it requires a lot of time, can really pay off if the subject of the book is a hobby or something that attracts fans. Louisiana music fits this description perfectly."
Now Playing in Your Living Room
TV show tie-ins aren't new, but stand-alone tie-ins are gaining favor at many houses. At HarperCollins, Amistad's Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey (Sept.), edited by Peter Guralnick, Robert Santelli, Holly George-Warren and Christopher John Farley, is both a companion book to the current seven-part PBS series on blues as well as a stand-alone title that seems headed for blockbuster status, judging from the frequency with which the book was mentioned by other publishers. "Every TV series has a book that goes with it; this book is not like that," says HC executive editor Dan Conaway. "It deals with the blues in a personal way. It's not big and oversized, but intimate and small. Its focus is on the written word." With a healthy five-figure first printing, the book roughly follows the structure of the TV shows with seven sections that parallel the series' seven films, but its content is independent, with essays by well-known writers. The newly relaunched Amistad imprint will join with PBS affiliate WGBH and corporate sponsor Volkswagen to promote the book at the end of each show. Universal Music will release a CD based on the series.
The Hal Leonard Corporation, which distributes to music stores and guitar shops as well as retail bookstore outlets, has two independent blues books out this month that it is promoting in conjunction with the PBS show: Squeeze My Lemon: A Collection of Classic Blues Lyrics by Randy Poe and Frank Explicit's The American Blues Guitar: An Illustrated History. "We are beefing up publicity in general, " says marketing director Michael Messina. "American Blues Guitar will have a 10,000 first printing, which is high for us, but the book won't date. It will be around forever."
Another tie-in project that promises to stand on its own comes from Hyperion, which, having had a big success with The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer last January when it tied in with the TV airing of Stephen King's Rose Red, has devised The Journals of Eleanor Druze (Jan.) by Eleanor Druze, a character in the forthcoming 15-hour ABC series based on King's Kingdom Hospital (airing Feb.—May over 13 nights). "We are calling it fiction," says publisher Bob Miller. "The author is not revealed. It's a wonderfully inventive book; it overlaps some events in the series but provides backstory." Hyperion has announced a 500,000-copy first printing. "We sold Ellen Rimbauer so cleanly [250,000 copies, followed by a mass market edition to tie in to the June DVD and video release] and this series unfolds over 13 weeks, not three nights like the other," Miller says. The book will share promo spots for the series on ABC, as well as on a dedicated Web site.
Pocket Books' busy TV-related docket includes tie-ins that accompany shows (Max Allen Collins's CSI: Body of Evidence, Nov.). and those that don't (Collins's CSI Miami: Florida Getaway, "inspired by the show") and released last month. Six Feet Under: Better Living Through Death, edited and with an introduction by show creator Alan Ball (HBO-Pocket Books, Nov.) creates a backstory for each member of the Fisher family and "expands upon ideas only hinted at in the show," according to associate publisher Liate Stehlik. Stehlik notes that the great success the house had with Amy Sohn's fan companion book to HBO's Sex and The City (125,000 copies in print) will hopefully be replicated when a trade paper edition is released on Feb. 22 (Amy Sohn's Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell, HBO-Pocket Books) to coincide with the final episode of the series.
Large and accessible fan bases are one reason several new publishers have jumped onto the performing arts bandwagon. Publisher Jeff Stern, who bought Bonus Books last year, is launching the Volt Press imprint next month with Brian Hartigan's Encyclopedia of TV Catchphrases (Oct.), a lexicon of more than 500 terms, catchphrases and taglines. As Stern puts it, "TV has had such a huge impact on baby boomers and below—it represents a huge opportunity. Not just text-driven books, but those that are graphically driven, fun and appropriate to the audience." He, too, plugs the Internet as a great marketing tool for leading publishers to where the fans are. "Our strategy is to work with people who have built-in audiences," he says.
The Sound of Music
At Justin Charles, which formed in 2002 and was launched this year with two mysteries and a general fiction title, publisher-owner Stephen Hull identifies performing arts, specifically music, as areas he wants to publish into. "We won't do niche books—no rock, jazz or blues—but broad-brush narrative nonfiction," he says. Just out (and already in its second printing) is Richard Cook's Blue Note Records: The Biography, about the influential jazz label. Due next May is Rob Jovanovic's Perfect Sound Together: The Story of Pavement, a profile of the beloved '90s indie rock band. "Web marketing is particularly apt for this," Hull says. "There is one official site, and scads of unofficial Pavement groups. The group has a vibrant, robust and cohesive fan base."
A robust fan base will also serve Continuum's new 33 1/3 series, launching next month with six titles, including Neil Young's Harvest by Sam Inglis, Dusty Springfield's Dusty in Memphis by Warren Zanes and Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by John Cavanagh. "The original idea was for interesting people to do interesting books about interesting albums," says acquisitions editor David Barker. "It's been done before but we hope to do it better and more creatively. Some would say it's a dangerous time to start such a series, with Internet downloading putting an end to albums and sales so poor, but I think albums will have a bit of a resurgence. They get into your head in a certain way." The key audience is older, Barker says, reiterating the refrain that, though this is not an easy audience to crack, if you give people what they're looking for, you can be successful.
Crown's book about Eminem, Anthony Bozza's Whatever You Say I Am: The Life and Times of Eminem (Oct.), was initially intended to address the rapper's core, youthful audience, but once the movie Eight Mile was released and Eminem won a Best Oscar for the lyrics to its song, the larger goal became to reach an older audience, says publisher Steve Ross. "People had seen the media saturation about Eminem and became curious about who he was, what he does and what he stands for. The audience has grown substantially since the book was acquired," Ross says. "The accounts are responding accordingly."
"We're seeing a real boom in pop music titles," says Ross Plotkin, associate editor for Taylor Trade Publishing and Cooper Square Press, whose forthcoming offerings range from Frank Moriarty's Seventies Rock: The Decade of Creative Chaos (Taylor, Oct.) to Up-Tight: The Velvet Underground Story by Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga (Cooper Square, Oct.). The appeal of the Velvet Underground, Plotkin reports, seems to be "increasing exponentially as new generations continually discover and rediscover these pioneer songsmiths."
Up on Your Toes
If it seems surprising that Ballet for Dummies by Scott Speck and Evelyn Cisneros (Wiley, Oct) is being published so late in the Dummies game, consider it a reflection on the paucity of dance titles in general, which in turn may well reflect the relatively minor position of dance in contemporary American life. Still, a few dance books are slotted for the coming months, including a November title from Yale University Press that is, in its own quiet way, a terpsichorean blockbuster. The 896-page No Fixed Points by Nancy Reynolds and Malcolm McCormick is a history of 20th-century dance. With blurbs by Edward Villella, Moira Shearer and others, publicist Liz Pelton expects major review attention and calls the book "a work of dance scholarship that will be around for years." Grace Under Pressure: Passing Dance Through Time by Barbara Newman (Limelight Editions, Nov.) attempts to answer questions about the persistence of dance: how has it changed over the years and when does tradition become a burden? The author looked for answers by talking with dancers and choreographers. On the gift end, Rizzoli has Valeria Crippa's Nureyev, an October title that offers a look at the famous dancer in his various roles in photos by Ralph Fase.
And last but not least come two books by consummate crowd pleasers. The Lyons Press is publishing Modern Day Houdini: Secrets of the World's Number One Escape Artist (Oct.) by Bill Shirk, as told to Dick Wolfsie, in which Shirk divulges the secrets behind 25 of his most spectacular escapes. Is escape artistry a performing art? "Where else do you put it?" asks executive editor Mary Norris. "It's not biography. It's entertainment. Performing arts are entertainment. The book is a good quick read, something you would want to give to your brother."
Timed to take advantage of magician David Blaine's latest stunt as he hangs suspended in a box over the Thames River for 44 days ending in mid-October, Random House will issue the paperback reprint of Blaine's Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic the week before Blaine is due to emerge. The book contains new clues to the unsolved treasure hunt introduced in the hardcover edition last fall (worth $100,000 to the lucky solver). "He's a magician, a performing artist—not like Carol Burnett, but his autobiography is about being a performing artist in our time," says Brian McLendon, associate director of publicity. Like almost every other book on the performing arts, Mysterious Stranger will be promoted on magic Web sites, fan Web sites and Blaine's own Web site.