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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Pop culture literati

The New York Times highlights the new Simon & Schuster imprint, Simon Spotlight Entertainment (SSE), which will create books targeting the 18 - 35 demographic. The imprint is the brainchild of S & S's president and chief executive Jack Romanos, who challenged his staff "to find a way to reach a younger audience not necessarily interested in reading the same things that the baby-boomer audience was buying."

The resulting book roster from SSE includes an upcoming memoir by Tommy Chong (of Cheech & Chong fame) who writes about his prison term for selling drug paraphernalia. Also on the list is the interestingly titled Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay, a funny look at after-35 motherhood penned by comedian Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. The imprint hit a grand-slam last year with He's Just Not That Into You, the amusing (at least to me) how-to relationship manual inspired by an episode of "Sex in the City." Yeah, go figure. The book has sold over 1.5 million copies. Again, go figure.

In its quest to gain a large market, SSE is circumventing many of the traditional routes used by other imprints. First, the staff of young editors has been handed most of the responsibility of making the imprint a success, as "they live and eat and breathe the demographic," so says Rick Richter, president of Simon & Schuster's children's book division which houses SSE. Also, the imprint seeks alternative distribution channels in an attempt to find fresher, innovative ways to reach and expand its market. Much of He's...You success came through sales via Urban Outfitters, a clothing and houseware chain that targets a youthful market.

SSE has a lot of competition in its pursuit of younger readers. Similar imprints include Penguin's Plume, Random House's Three Rivers Press, Harlequin's Red Dress Ink and Simon & Schuster's own Downtown Press. Still, SSE seems to be pulling ahead of the fray.

Most of the writers signed up with SSE are first-time authors and already have a presence in other media; this is exactly what the imprint is going for. SSE publisher, Jennifer Bergstrom, states, "...what we decide to publish is greatly affected by our publicity department - who we can get on 'The Daily Show' or who might be great on a radio tour."

The secret to their success may be summed up by another quote from Ms. Bergstrom: "The thing that impresses me most about our editors is that they understand that it's not all about the book. It's about the money you can make from that book."

Hhmm, interesting premise. But what about quality and pride in the book?

I guess as a baby boomer, I just don't get it.

Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 10/29/2005 03:09:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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