NEW YORK FLOWERING NINE YEARS AGO Ifound myself sitting next to Oscar Dystel on an airplane out of Detroit. A wildcat strike kept the plane on the ground for three hours, but the time passed quickly in the company of the president of Bantam Books. We talked about publishing and Dystel confided his hopes for a pet project of his -- bilingual publishing for Spanish-speaking readers.
A decade later Bantam is getting ready to announce a major venture into Spanish-language publishing and, in fact, what appears to be the first venture of any American publisher to bring out a best-selling novel in Spanish in the United States. The book selected for this honor is Princess Daisy, by Judith Krantz, which is shipping into the stores as a Bantam paperback even as I write. The Spanish-language edition, Princesa Daisy, translated by Ana Maria de la Fuente, will be shipping in mid-May, with a June 1 publication date. Princess Daisy costs $3.95 in paper; Princesa Daisy will be $4.95 in paper. It has already been sold for serialization in the Spanish-language edition of Cosmopolitan.
The United States has the fourth-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world with its heaviest concentration in such rich book markets as metropolitan New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, southern Florida and southern Texas. Although Princesa Daisy will be available coast to coast, its strongest distribution will obviously be in these areas. At the same time Bantam will make available nationwide The Bantam Diccionario Ingles-Espanol/Espanol-Ingles, which has been revised and reoriented by linguist-lexicographer Walter Glanze for the Spanish-speaking reader for whom English is a second language.
In the years since that wildcat strike Oscar Dystel went on from the presidency of Bantam Books to become its charman of the board and chief executive officer; last year he stepped down as chairman to become a consultant to the house. But his cherished idea of a decade ago has gone from seed to root and now appears to be coming into flower. At the very least, into a daisy. SPEAKING VOLUMES LAWRENCE FREUNDLICH, who runs Wyndham Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, is jubilant these days. He has made a major acquisition for which he has major hopes. It's the second novel, as yet untitled, coming from Arnaud de Borchgrave and Robert Moss, the writing team which produced The Spike. How Freundlich nabbed this book is an interesting peek into the ways this business sometimes works.
A few years ago Lord Weidenfield, of the prestigious British publishing firm of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, came to New York to sell a book for which he had acquired volume rights for $100,000. Volume rights means that all editions, hardcover and soft, worldwide, belong to you and can be sold to other publishers by you as sole proprietor. He was asking $60,000 for what the trade calls. "U.S., Canada and open market" rights, which means mostly the United States, where the biggest money is to be made.
What Lord Weidenfeld was offering was a four-page outline for a novel of international terrorism by a distinguished pair of nonfiction writers. Freundlich was editor in chief of Crown and he and his house took the plunge. The result was The Spike. Freundlich became the line editor on the novel, working closely with the authors and developing an excellent relationship. At around the time the editing was completed Freundlich went over to S&S to start up his own imprint.
After Crown's enormous success with The Spike the authors upped the ante on their next book to the point where Weidenfeld & Nicolson lost its option by not meeting the price. What agent Morton Janklow had to offer this time was less than a four-page outline -- it was fewer than 1,000 words of typed description, a concise statement of the thesis of a novel about Third World terrorism in the United States. And who was he to offer this to? Crown had no written option but they had done very well in marketing and promoting The Spike. Yet Larry Freundlich had poured his skill and his enthusiasm into the book as well. The agent set a price and let only Crown and Wyndham Books have the first go at meeting it. The price: $750,000. After both houses made opening bids other factors came into play, such as royalties and, especially, payout. In these days where money costs more and more every month a publishing house naturally wants to hang on to the bulk of its advance payments for as long as it can. Just as naturally the authors want their payments in their pockets. So in the past few years "payout" has become a hotly negotiated item where big money is involved.
Anyway you knew from the front that Wyndham won the auction, but you didn't know that they got all volume rights. So that means you can sell this book to Lord Weidenfeld? I asked Freundlich. "I would love to." BACK IN THE SADDLE HERE IS PART OF A LETTER dated Dec. 30, 1980: "Dear Leonore: On Saturday last at about 9:30, Carole [Livingston, vice president, subsidiary rights, Lyle Stuart, Inc.] drove to the post office on her way to her riding lesson. She mailed announcements of the date for her [paperback reprint] auction for Herb Cohen's title, You Can Negotiate Anything. On which, incidentally, she has a $300,000 floor bid.
"At 10:45 that morning, she had a serious accident horseback riding. She lost a stirrup and while trying to get into it again, slid from her horse . . . She broke five ribs (two of them twice) and suffered a lung puncture. She was put into intensive care and bedside surgery was done to insert a tube into her chest . . . . For about 16 hours her condition was described as 'critical.'
"She came out of intensive care yesterday . . . . Her first words to the doctor after the bedside surgery were: 'Will I be able to conduct a telephone book auction in two weeks?' Sincerely, Lyle Stuart."
In point of fact, Livingston has had to postpone the auction until Feb. 5 because, although she is getting better every day, she hasn't yet regained the "breath power" to negotiate over the phone. The book is in its third printing, bringing it up to 100,000 copies. Cohen is even now on an extended publicity tour, so Stuart and Livingston expect to sell a lot more books. As to Livingston's budding riding career -- just before her accident she bought three more books of tickets for riding lessons. "So you'd better believe," she says, "that I'll be back in the saddle again."