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Rugged duo stake book, pic territory

Investor to give shingle $1 mil to $3 mil a year

NEW YORK — Former Doubleday book editor Shawn Coyne and movie producer Webster Stone have married their talents to form Rugged Land Books, an independent publisher that will develop book ideas and produce films, some based on the novels they publish.

Company, which will publish six to seven books annually and keep a staff of four to six, is being financed by a billionaire investor who plans to pump into the shingle roughly $1 million-$3 million per year over the next three to five years. Rugged Land’s books will be distributed by German distrib Holtzbrinck, which handles distribution for such publishing firms as St. Martin’s Press, Farrar Straus & Giroux and Henry Holt and Co.

Rugged’s plan is novel: Few independent book publishers — Talk Miramax Books being one — combine the distribution clout of a large publishing conglomerate with a film component.

Stone was a producer on the Kevin Spacey/Samuel Jackson starrer “The Negotiator” and an exec producer on the Jerry Bruckheimer pic “Gone in Sixty Seconds.” Coyne, who last served as a senior editor at Doubleday, has worked with such authors as Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard, James Lee Burke, William Hjorstberg, Ben Crenshaw and Barbara Bush.

“We expect to drive the long-term careers of each of our authors from book to book,” said Coyne, who added that he felt frustrated at larger publishing firms, where a passion for projects was often missing.

Stone said: “We want to publish and market books as high-quality entertainment. We’re trying to do big commercial books — not just niche books. And we will not simply look for books that make good movies. We are kind of reinventing publishing.”

Stone added that his firm would not rule out paying large book advances, but emphasized that such a business plan was not the company’s central one. Coyne said: “We want to find Tom Clancy while he’s still selling insurance.”

Suzanne Gluck, co-head of the William Morris Agency’s book department, said: “Shawn Coyne was a very well-respected editor in publishing. Web is a book and film producer who has a great eye for story. I think Rugged Land will turn out to be one more good place to publish books. (Atlantic Monthly Press’) Morgan Entriken has shown us the best of entrepreneurial publishing; it will be nice to have some others in the field.”

Already on Rugged Land’s list are four books: “A Nasty Bit of Rough,” by golf expert David Feherty (March); “Henry’s List of Wrongs,” penned by “Life or Something Like It” scribe John Scott Shepherd (April); “Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts: Hopeless to Hardcore in Vietnam,” by Col. David Hackworth, with Eilhy England (May); and “The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle,” by Steven Pressfield (June).

Prior to Rugged’s commitment to distribute the books, films rights to “Henry’s List of Wrongs” sold to New Line for north of $1 million, while “Steel My Soldiers’ Hearts” sold to producer Casey Silver and Universal Pictures, also for more than $1 million.

As an editor, Coyne worked on titles such as Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire” and “Tides of War”; Robert Crais’ “L.A. Requiem,” “Demolition Angel” and “Hostage”; James Bamford’s “Body of Secrets”; Hackworth’s “The Price of Honor”; and the Bill Murray/George Peper book, “Cinderella Story.”

Stone has a number of film projects in development. Among them are: at USA Films, a script with scribe Glenn Eichler; at Disney, “The Interpreter,” with Barry Sonnenfeld and Barry Josephson attached; and at Jerry Bruckheimer Films, “Nuclear Emergency Search Team.”

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