UK publishers caught up in Sandy chaos

American publishers say they are "carrying on" despite the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy, with some—including Random House spokesperson Stuart Applebaum—managing to struggle into their New York office in the midst of the chaos. Meanwhile UK editors and agents currently in New York for business have also been caught up in the natural disaster.

Catherine Burke, Sphere fiction associate publisher, on a work trip to New York, told The Bookseller last night (30th October): "Unfortunately my apartment is on 32nd street and the power is out below 39th. I managed to charge up by Blackberry this morning via a power socket on the side of a bank on 40th, so it's great to have access to the outside world again. The Hachette offices are closed due to people being unable to travel in. I'm told it will be a minimum of two to three days before the power is back."

She added: "It looks like the UK office have just found me a hotel on 47th street. Running water and electricity may soon be in my grasp."

Curtis Brown agent Sheila Crowley, who has been in New York this week for a series of meetings, described Manhattan as a "ghost town". Speaking on the phone today (31st) she said: "Claire Wachtel from HarperCollins suggested we get lunch on Monday before the storm really hit. There we were chatting when all of a sudden we heard screams down the street. We were on the block where the crane had snapped. We thought we might be in the restaurant overnight as we waited for the police to tell us it was safe to leave." She added: "I've been fairly lucky as I've had power and a phone and been able to keep in touch, but it's been very strange to see Manhattan as a ghost town when it's usually so buzzing."

Penguin has closed its offices on Hudson Street in south Manhattan, with a decision yet to be made about opening later in the week.  Rebecca Sinclair, Penguin¹s communications director, described being "holed up" in a hotel near the office with no mobile coverage.

Stuart Applebaum, spokesman for Random House in New York, told The Bookseller he had managed to continue to travel into work yesterday. He said: "Here in New York, it's a little surreal, not just because of the loss of public transportation, which has impeded most people from coming into Random House to work, but the skyscraper construction crane that is unsecured and dangling, 76 stories above Manhattan, is about two blocks from our offices, so the entire immediate area has been cordoned off by NYPD—making vehicular transportation impossible, and foot passage a challenge."

He said his being able to gain access to the area was "further evidence that a Random House ID can get you into more places than mere mortals are able."

Applebaum added: "For those who still have power, which many of our people don't, there is plenty to do, and we're doing it. We'll see what Wednesday will bring, with transport access and destruction. One way or another, we are carrying on." He added: "[Random House c.e.o.] Mr Dohle is working from home all day, so he has been reaching out to people all around the world. Those who are able to are doing so. We are urging families first, that is always more important than any assignment."

UK staff at Wiley said there were communication problems with staff at the US base at Hoboken, New Jersey, with the office itself closed and power outages preventing colleagues from getting in touch.

The storm is thought to have affected a major server at Simon & Schuster US, which led to some knock-on IT issues.

Richard Charkin, Bloomsbury executive director, said: “Our American offices are based in the Flatiron Building, which has been closed. A lot of people are working from home and managing to keep in touch via phone and email. I don’t expect we will get them back in the office today, but hopefully they will back tomorrow.”

Meanwhile some US publishers took the opportunity to promote their e-book list to those stranded at home during the onslaught. US independent Melville House launched an e-book sale in an ironic gesture, offering 50% off all its e-books for those using the coupon code "Stormy weather".