BOOKS READ SUCCESS INTO VENTURES WITH MAGAZINES: STRONG BRANDS GO FROM RACK TO SHELF TO LIFT LACKLUSTER SALES

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Book publishers, appreciating the power of top magazine brands as the book industry slumps, are increasingly hitting the shelves with works inspired by magazines.

More upscale magazines-from Cigar Aficionado to Travel & Leisure-are striking rich royalty deals with retail book publishers. These deals come at the same time that Time Inc., Conde Nast Publications and Hearst Magazines are all expanding their own direct-marketed imprints to consumers.

HARPERCOLLINS DEAL

Literary superagents Janklow & Nesbit recently landed HarperCollins as a joint venture publisher for a new, magazine-inspired coffee-table book due out this fall. It will be spun off from Garden Design, an upscale magazine from Meigher Communications that will get a six-figure advance and a share of future profits.

Wenner Media's Us last month inked a contract with Time Warner's Little, Brown & Co. to jointly publish a book on Winona Ryder this fall, the first in a planned series that has the working title "Young Hollywood."

The two collaborated on last year's "Crazy Sexy Cool," a collection of stories and photos from Us; that volume sold more than 100,000 copies and has gone to three printings.

"The retail market is very competitive and co-branding a book has enormous appeal in helping to raise a book's profile," said Robert Asahina, president of the adult division of Golden Books Family Entertainment, which has a four-year, 16-book deal with Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing's Parents.

The deal, signed late last year, calls for Parents to receive more than a $1 million advance plus a slice of future sales after the books begin publishing in the spring of 1998.

BOOK SALES DOWN

The magazine/book alliance trend is gaining momentum even as retail sales of conventional consumer books, known in the trade as "adult trade books," fell 4.4% last year from $2.6 billion, according to preliminary figures from the Association of American Publishers.

"It's been a bad two years for book publishers. Anything they can do to promote more, they'll do. It's all part of a branding trend," said Stephanie Oda, publisher of the industry newsletter Sub Text. "Nobody buys a book because it was published by Random House; book publishers are not brands-magazines are."

Even small Philadelphia-based Running Press has jumped into the branding game with books from M. Shanken Communications' Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator.

But many magazines are going even deeper into book publishing with their own imprints marketed directly to consumers, hoping to gain a piece of the market long dominated by Reader's Digest Association and Rodale Press.

"We're not a laboratory anymore, we're a full-blown business," said David Gitow, managing director of Time Inc. Home Entertainment.

The unit, formed 41/2 years ago as magazines began to emerge from the ad recession, now does continuity book series for Sports Illustrated, People, Time, Life and four other established titles.

TIME VENTURE'S SALES TRIPLE

Sales tripled last year to $60 million, and for 1997, Mr. Gitow is predicting a 25% jump to $75 million as three new titles are added.

Time Inc.'s best seller so far: "Time's Great People of the 20th Century," selling close to 500,000 copies and generating an estimated $12 million in revenue since its release last fall.

"We've shipped about 9 million units over the last two years and sold between 5 million to 6 million units," said Mr. Gitow, who's now negotiating to handle continuity series for outside companies as well.

"Magazines are looking to extend their brands-books are just one of the many ways that people are thinking about doing it," said John Skipper, the senior VP of Disney Publishing responsible for Discover and Disney Adventures as well as book imprint Hyperion.

Last May, FamilyFun editors produced the spiral-bound "Disney's Family Cookbook" under the Hyperion imprint; it was also marketed by the Doubleday Book Club.

"A book can be the ultimate statement of the magazine as a brand," said Dana Fields, group publisher of Wenner Media. A 1995 book on rock star Jerry Garcia from Wenner's Rolling Stone even made The New York Times best-seller list.

POPULAR GENRES

Many books with magazine connections stick to the genres of how-to, annuals or guides. American Express Publishing's Travel & Leisure last month teamed up with Macmillan to begin publishing the first Travel & Leisure branded, pocket-size city guides.

Conde Nast has long had its own imprint at Random House, historically used to publish cookbooks for Gourmet and Bon Appetit as well as guidebooks for Bride's Magazine. But that formula may begin to change now that David Fishman has arrived from Walt Disney Co. as Conde Nast's first corporate director of business development.

"We're just beginning to investigate the opportunities," Mr. Fishman said, but he hopes to have book deals for Allure, Self, Vogue and others.

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