Persistence has paid off for Jordan Fenn, publisher of the Canadian independent house Key Porter Books, helping him land Gordon Ramsay, the fiery-tempered British celebrity chef who hosts Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares, to a three-book deal. The first title signed under the pact, Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food, came out in April; interest and sales have climbed steadily. In Ramsay's first-ever North American tour to promote the book, the chef met with zealous audiences: one event, at an Indigo store in Canada, drew 4,000 people, many of whom camped out overnight in the rain.
Fenn said he spotted the chef years ago, before his shows had come to North America, when Ramsay “was someone people had heard of, but didn't have that big of a North American presence.” Fenn chased Alison Cathie, who publishes Ramsay at Quadrille in the U.K. and acts as his literary agent, for two years. He built his case for acquiring Ramsay on the fact that Key Porter distributed books by Jamie Oliver—another successful British celebrity chef—in Canada through Hyperion and did very well. Finally, Ramsay agreed to meet Fenn for dinner in London, and the two hit it off, signing a three-book deal for North American rights.
Key Porter released Fast Food through its distributors H.B. Fenn and Company in Canada and the Perseus Books Group in the U.S. Ramsay's previous books, published by Wiley and HarperCollins in the U.S., had sold modestly, but good timing—Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares both began airing on Fox before Key Porter inked the deal with Ramsay—along with an author tour to Burlington, Ontario; Toronto; Chicago; and New York resulted in a huge jump in sales. Fenn expects to sell 100,000 copies before the end of 2008. He spent more than $100,000 marketing Ramsay, high for an independent publisher, but said, “If we didn't have the three-book deal, we wouldn't have done that. You make investments in things you're confident in.”
In October, Key Porter will publish Gordon Ramsay: Three Star Chef, and in January 2009 it will publish Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite. “We are dedicated and committed to signing everything and anything new that Gordon wishes to work on,” Fenn said, although there are no books in development (aside from the initial three) at this point.
The Ramsay books are the biggest books Key Porter has published since it was acquired by H.B. Fenn in July 2004. Key Porter Books was founded in 1979 by Anna Porter with Key Publishers and puts out about 100 titles a year.