HarperCollins comeback

Company launching multifaceted imprint

Seven months into Jane Friedman’s reign as president and CEO of HarperCollins, the company is launching HarperEntertainment, an imprint devoted solely to entertainment- and media-related publishing, including books related to film, TV, celebrities, music and sports.

The imprint is intended to encompass various publishing formats, including hardcover, paperback, coffee table, children’s digest and related print merchandise, such as calendars, desk diaries and posterbooks.

HarperCollins also announced that its HarperReference imprint would be renamed HarperResource, and would focus on developing branded publishing programs in partnerships with nationally known experts and well-known organizations.

Just a year ago, HarperCollins was the most beleaguered publisher on the block, with almost daily speculation that News Corp. topper Rupert Murdoch was looking to shed the house from his media kingdom.

But under Friedman, the publisher no longer is retrenching but is in the throes of expansion.

“The changes going on in the publishing industry are more revolutionary than evolutionary right now, and we are determined to take full advantage of the new market opportunities that are opening to us,” said Friedman. “The launch of Harper-Entertainment and the revitalization of HarperResource reflects our directional strategy of identifying our strengths, playing to them and then taking a dominant position in the category.”

With the announcement of the new imprints, Friedman also upped John Silbersack to senior VP, publishing director, in charge of the HarperEntertainment imprint, and Linda Cunningham has been promoted to the same post for HarperResource.

Silbersack has been with HarperCollins since 1993, during which time he founded and ran the HarperPrism and HarperHorizon imprints. As publishing director of HarperEntertainment, Silbersack will maintain offices in New York and in HarperCollins’ Los Angeles office on the 20th Century Fox lot, where he will work along with Lucy Hood, the senior veep of entertainment publishing, who is based in L.A.

Entertainment umbrella

The announcement of HarperEntertainment essentially brings the majority of HC’s existing entertainment-related activities under one imprint. Among the publisher’s recent successes in this category are the “James Cameron’s Titanic” tie-in and “The Simpsons” and “X-Files” companion books. Other recent publications have included singer Jewel’s book of poetry and a novelization of the Sony film “Godzilla.”

Books are expected to begin carrying the HarperEntertainment logo this fall, and the first properties with the stamp are expected to be programs for the NBA, the “X-Files” and Nascar. It is not clear at this time how many books, or whether celebrity bios, will be published by the imprint.

Friedman and Silbersack stress that the entertainment imprint intends to go beyond its ties to News Corp.’s Fox film and TV divisions. Within the past year, HarperCollins has struck deals with Sony and New Line for publishing programs related to “Godzilla” and “Lost in Space,” respectively.

And Silbersack said they recently struck a deal with Universal to do a novelization, a “making of” book and a poster book for the studio’s 1999 Will Smith-starrer “The Mark.”

“Our goal for HarperEntertainment is to become the entertainment book publisher of choice,” said Silbersack. “We will work not only with members of the Fox family, but also with other major studios, such as Sony, New Line and Universal, as well as with many TV networks and national sports organizations.”

Silbersack said that his entertainment imprint offers film, TV and media companies “a very strategic way of getting a very creative message across and that message can help extend the property into a number of channels and areas that have been difficult to reach.”

Friedman is quick to point out that “these are not just tie-ins. What we want is to own a category, a big growing category. And I think we are in a very special position at this moment, we have had some successes and we are learning as we go.”

“At a time when Bertelsmann (is) buying Random House, we can’t be the biggest publishing company. But we can be the best in certain focused areas, like entertainment and reference.”

Cunningham, who joined HarperCollins four years ago, has been VP and publishing director of HarperReference and HarperAudio. Under the new HarperResource banner, Cunningham will oversee the expansion of the ACCESS travel brand and its burgeoning golf reference program. HarperResource currently publishes books from such orgs as Johns Hopkins University, the American Bird Conservancy, Jane’s (military books) and the Emily Post Institute.

“People today expect their information to be instantly accessible, up-to-the-minute and delivered to them in ways that suit their lifestyles,” said Cunningham. “We plan to seize the moment and take full advantage of a combination of all available formats — hardcover, paperback, audio and online — to redefine reference publishing.”