Jennifer Civiletto, in her new role as associate director at the Harper Group, manages the backlist, marking the first time Harper Perennial has had a person dedicated to finding backlist opportunities. Early on, she spoke with Peter Hubbard, executive editor at William Morrow, who helped launch the imprint’s Modern Thought line of philosophy titles. He suggested a similar effort for five short works that speak to contemporary issues; Harper Perennial will reissue the titles in August as the Resistance Library.
“We’re packaging it in a fun way to get the attention of readers,” Civiletto says. “We’ve had a great response from the indies to the design. These will have a small trim size, designed to put on a counter or on display.” The tidy 4”-by-7” books range from 112 pages (Erich Fromm’s On Disobedience, 1981) to 256 pages (Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority, 1974).
Experimenting with format led to one of Harper Perennial’s most successful backlist initiatives: Olive Editions, which feature illustrated covers and a similar trim size to books in the Resistance Library. The first three-volume limited edition set—Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (2002), The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (1988), and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (1984)—pubbed in 2008. “They sold really well,” Civeletto says; more than 50,000 print units together, per NPD BookScan. “Sales reps kept asking for more.”
After releasing three titles annually, the program took a couple of years off. Then, starting in 2014, every year the publisher has produced eight Olive Editions, which retail for $10, are typically are available for six to nine months, and are grouped around a theme. This fall’s offerings, mysteries and contemporary thrillers, feature a red, black, and white cover palette. Titles include The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman (1970), A Darker Domain by Val McDermid (2008), and Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (1935).