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.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • 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>