McGinniss vs. Little, Brown: Publisher avoids the “s” word

McGinniss vs. Little, Brown: The publisher avoids the "s" word.

Topics: Books,

There’s been tension between writer Joe McGinniss and his publisher, Little, Brown, the Washington Post reported last Friday. The author of the bestselling book “Fatal Vision” feels that Little, Brown hasn’t pushed his new book, “The Miracle of Castel di Sangro,” as enthusiastically as it might have, and he recently sent an e-mail to Little, Brown’s publisher, Sarah Crichton, saying as much. (The missive was titled “Arrivederci, Sarah.”) Little, Brown counters that it bought several full-page ads for the book in the daily New York Times and in the paper’s Sunday Book Review. The company concedes that the book, for which McGinniss received a $300,000 advance, hasn’t garnered much television coverage, which would have given it a much-needed boost.

What’s gotten lost in discussions of the spat is the fact that even in those high-profile ads, Little, Brown was selling a book that simply wasn’t “The Miracle of Castel di Sangro.” Set in the Abruzzo region of Italy, “Miracle” is a colorful and compelling entry in the venerable tradition of memoirs by American innocents abroad. But it’s also a book about soccer, an activity as alien to the United States as the metric system. The subject matter might have made Little, Brown’s sales reps leery, and insiders say that it made booksellers’ response to the title lukewarm. Perhaps that’s why Little, Brown’s campaign bent over backward to avoid the “s” word.

The Times ads represent “Miracle” as an offbeat cousin of “Bella Tuscany,” Frances Mayes’ hugely popular memoir of the Mediterranean good life: “A bestselling American author left the comforts of home to pursue an obsession deep in the heart of Italy,” the ad copy reads. It carefully avoids mentioning that the obsession was a grade-B team that had a shot at the big time. The ad goes on to list some of the wacky characters McGinniss encounters in Italy, without ever specifying why he’s there to begin with.



It’s unlikely that a sporting memoir like “Miracle” will appeal to the audience that gobbles up lifestyle books on the order of “Bella Tuscany” and Peter Mayles’ “A Year in Provence” — that’s like assuming that people who love “Vertigo” will also go for “Mrs. Doubtfire” because both films are set in San Francisco. A more forthright approach would have been to position the book as a cautionary tale about a man’s love for sports and to solicit blurbs from the soccer-loving likes of Nick Hornby (“Fever Pitch”) and Bill Buford (“Among the Thugs”); the lack of blurbs is one of McGinniss’ beefs. The problem with that approach, of course, is that most Americans haven’t heard of Hornby and Buford, either. Which brings us back to the Little, Brown sales reps’ initial qualms about the title: It’s just not a terribly American subject. Perhaps McGinniss thought he could change that perception; as far as he’s concerned, his publisher dropped the ball.

Craig Offman is the New York correspondent for Salon Books.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 10
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie

    A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie

    Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant

    A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Black Silk" by Judith Ivory

    A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale

    A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner

    A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ...   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen

    Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal

    A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

    Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time.   Read the whole essay.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>