Harper lays down the gauntlet with global deal

Harper lays down the gauntlet with global deal

HarperCollins president and c.e.o. Brian Murray has ramped up the publisher’s "unique global publishing programme”, announcing the acquisition of thriller writer Karin Slaughter in a four-book deal spanning world English rights and more than a dozen foreign languages.  Murray told The Bookseller that the “world is changing” and said HC was actively targeting other authors in commercial fiction, crime/thriller and YA. HC added more than a dozen international publishing offices to its operations when it acquired Harlequin last year and is now also rebranding four more offices as HC.

Slaughter moves to HC from Penguin Random House. The publisher said it was the first time it had acquired a new author with world English and foreign language rights and the intention of publishing across all HarperCollins locations worldwide. The deal, done through agent Victoria Sanders, reunites Slaughter with her long-term editor Kate Elton, executive publisher for fiction and non-fiction at HarperCollins UK. The first book in the new deal will be Pretty Girls, to be published this September by PRH’s Century imprint in the UK, but now by HarperCollins in all the other countries in which it operates, bar Holland, Australia and New Zealand. HC will take over UK publication for book three of the new deal.

Describing Slaughter as "quite simply one of the best, most exciting and most creatively ambitious thriller writers working today", Elton said she was “incredibly excited about the scope for huge international brand growth which this new multi-language deal with HarperCollins creates”. Slaughter told The Bookseller: “Kate’s a fantastic editor and publisher so I’m putting all my eggs in her basket. At the moment, in some territories I’m envisioned as a literary writer, in some a thriller writer - I really like the idea of having one global vision and branding.” 

Murray told The Bookseller: "I'm very pleased with the author response [to our global publishing programme]… There are more authors we are talking to, and I'm pleased with the momentum we have built in a very short space of time. The way we are building this programme is in the commercial fiction area - we are not so interested in literary fiction and non-fiction because it tends to be much more tied to local culture. The big commercial fiction authors are much more likely to travel – they show up in bestseller lists in many markets."

He added: "Penguin Random House is the only publisher bigger than us, and as far as I know they don't tend to operate this way. It is much more a collection of very independent, distinct publishers – a much more traditional publishing model. What's unique about what we're doing it this co–ordinated, commercial publishing platform." Murray said: “Agents have traditionally tried to divide up the world as much as possible – but the world is changing. Facebook is not linked to territories or languages.”

The deal marks an unprecedented period of author poaching with Kate Mosse and Danielle Steel among the authors having signed deals with new publishers in the last month—in some cases ending long term relationships with their existing publishers.

The Slaughter deal is part of strategic move undertaken by HarperCollins, as it looks to respond to the merger of Penguin with Random House, with acquisition of Harlequin last year vital. It has already formed HarperCollins Germany, HarperCollins Iberica and HarperCollins Espanol and is now also rebranding four more offices, forming HarperCollins Holland, HarperCollins Japan, HarperCollins Nordic (Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark) and HarperCollins Polska (Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia). Each will publish a list of 30-50 HarperCollins books, starting this autumn, alongside their existing Harlequin programmes, with extra editorial and marketing staff being hired. 

Murray said that now all the wholly owned international companies had been rebranded, with "case by case discussions" going on in countries where HarperCollins has joint venture partners (in France with Hachette, in Italy with Mondadori, and in Brazil with two publishers). 

Meanwhile Chantal Restivo-Alessi is expanding her position as chief digital officer to include oversight of the HC foreign language programme as executive vice president, International, working in partnership with Steve Miles, Harlequin chief operating officer, international.