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‘Generation X’ author turns to Pantheon

'Generation X' author turns to Pantheon

“Generation X” author Douglas Coupland joins a new pantheon of authors in his jump from previous publisher Judith Regan and her Regan Books imprint to Pantheon, a division of Random House.

Pantheon will publish Coupland’s next book, “Miss Wyoming,” a story of a hard-living movie producer and former child star who, both having experienced near-death experiences, seek to escape the “shallow” life of L.A. The book was acquired in a rumored mid-six-figure world rights hardback/soft cover deal by Pantheon editors Dan Frank and Jenny Minton, along with Marty Asher, a top exec at Vintage, the Random House paperback imprint that will publish the book in paperback. Coupland was repped by Eric Simonoff of Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

Coupland’s defection from Regan Books was particularly surprising since he had previously had a very close relationship with Regan, who has published the last five of his six books, first at Pocket Books and now at her own autonomous and eponymous imprint at News Corp. publishing house HarperCollins.

Although Coupland had been represented by agent David Vigliano in his first three books, he was largely without an agent in his relationship with Regan, who will also serve as a producer on the TV adaptation of Coupland’s musings about Microsoft culture “Microserfs,” which is set up at Universal. Coupland has consistently refused a film deal for “Generation X.”

With the new book, Simonoff has not only stepped in as literary agent but has tapped UTA to serve as co-agent for film.

Simonoff said he was approached by Coupland, “who decided it was time he was represented by someone in business matters.” He also said that Regan Books, which had the option to acquire this book, had made an offer on it.

Regan, when contacted by Daily Variety, said, “I wasn’t interested in publishing the book at the price they wanted,” but sources say she offered $400,000 for the book, close to what Pantheon eventually offered.

Indeed, the mid-six-figure sum is deemed an appropriate price for Coupland, whose sales here may be declining but remains a strong seller abroad. Coupland’s last book, “Girlfriend in a Coma,” was a bestseller in England, even though in the U.S. its sales fell short of those for 1995’s “Microserfs,” which sold fewer still than Coupland’s first and perhaps best known book, “Generation X,” (1991), still his bestselling book. (and the only one not published by Regan).

Many in the publishing industry felt that Coupland and Regan may have split because of the conflicts of interest and demands on her time that can arise from her multiple roles as publisher, agent and movie producer. She also serves as host of “That Regan Woman,” a talkshow on News Corp.’s Fox News Channel.

While Regan has served as producer on a TV movie based on one of the books she published, Jess Walters’ “Every Knee Shall Bow: The Truth and Tragedy of Ruby Ridge and the Randy Weaver Family,” another project, a biography of Mariel Hemingway, ran afoul when the book was dropped once, its authors charged, because it didn’t fit the concept of the tie-in TV project Regan (who retained dramatic rights) was planning.

And although she did not hold film rights to author Wally Lamb’s latest novel, “I Know This Much Is True,” she drew fire when she informally shopped the manuscript, with the request to serve as producer, prior to Lamb’s agent’s formal submission. The book ultimately landed a seven-figure deal at News Corp.’s Fox with Jonathan Demme attached and with Regan still aboard as producer (Daily Variety, April 2, 1998)

Regan would not comment on such speculation about a rift with Coupland. “I don’t talk about my business,” huffed Regan.

* * *

Another author Regan had previously edited, Walter Kirn, has also just signed a new book deal, this time with Doubleday for his second and third novels “Thumbsucker” and “Up in the Air.” Gerry Howard, the former Norton editor who came to Doubleday to head up its Anchor paperback imprint, acquired U.S. and Canada rights to the two books in a deal said to be in the high-five-figures. It was negotiated by literary agent Cynthia Cannell.

Kirn, a book critic for New York magazine and essay contributor to Time magazine, previously wrote “My Hard Bargain,” a short story collection, for Knopf in 1990 and first novel “She Needed Me,” for Pocket (where Regan served as its editor) in 1992.

The first book in the new deal, “Thumbsucker,” is a “carnival of Midwestern dysfunction,” said Howard, in which the hero tries everything from sex, substance abuse and Mormonism to flyfishing in attempt to kick that digit-slurping habit.

Howard plans to publish “Thumbsucker” as an original Anchor trade paperback in fall of 1999, followed by “Up in the Air” as a Doubleday hardcover.

* * *

Media conglom Viacom has announced the promotion of Jack Romanos, president of the consumer group of its publishing arm Simon & Schuster since 1991, to president and chief operating officer, Simon & Schuster.

Romanos will have operational responsibility for S&S trade and mass market publishing, children’s books and online and new media publishing. He’ll report directly to S&S chairman and CEO Jonathan Newcomb, who will continue to have overall responsibility for Viacom’s publishing division.

It may be a fancy new title, but in essence, Romanos’ duties are “basically the same,” said spokesperson Susan Duffy. “The title just reflects our new structure.”

Indeed S&S is now just the consumer group, with Viacom’s $4.6 billion sale of its educational, professional and reference publishing divisions to Pearson completed on Nov. 27.

But rumors persist that S&S’s consumer division will now be put up for sale or that a shakeout of top execs is possible within the newly downsized company.

Romanos, who could not be reached for comment, has consistently denied rumors of a sale in the past. And, in the announcement, Newcomb noted, “We have worked together as a team for eight years and I look forward to working with him (Romanos) and with Viacom, expanding on our successful collaboration and building on Simon & Schuster’s legacy as a leader in consumer publishing.”

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