The company next spring will publish "The Perfect Wedding" as a hardcopy national edition, hoping to include ads from a few major marketers such as American Express Co., said Clayton Carlson, senior VP-publisher at HarperCollins.
At the same time, "The Perfect Wedding" is set to appear as a paperback in Dallas, Los Angeles and San Francisco including an additional 160 pages with local editorial-and, Mr. Carlson hopes, advertising.
REGIONAL EXPANSION POSSIBLE
If the concept works, HarperCollins will consider publishing regional editions of the bridal guide in other cities.
HarperCollins is studying the feasibility of ad plans and considering different ways to sell local ads, Mr. Carlson said. No advertising has yet been sold.
If the ad effort succeeds, Mr. Carlson said, the News Corp.-owned publisher might try ads in books on some other topics.
"This is R&D," he said.
The project is not connected to the arrival of News Corp. veteran Anthea Disney, who last month joined HarperCollins as president-CEO with a charge to energize the $1.3 billion publisher. Mr. Carlson has been developing this plan for three years.
Assuming advertising flies, it will be kept separate from editorial, Mr. Carlson said.
But vendors featured in the local editorial-such as caterers or limousine services-would be "kind of a hit list for the space people," he said. For example, a recommended caterer might run a discount coupon.
"The advertising is conceived as a concept of giving additional value to the book," he said.
HarperCollins has published a series of "Day in the Life" photography books about countries, and those books have had corporate sponsors such as Hertz Corp. and Aer Lingus. But Mr. Carlson said the bridal title would be HarperCollins' first book with advertising other than for its publications.
ADS PREVIOUSLY ANATHEMA
In the past, ads in books had been anathema to mainstream publishers, but the attitude seems to be softening somewhat.
When Whittle Communications signed Federal Express Corp. to be an advertiser for one of a series of business books, it triggered howls of protests from established publishers. Despite the protests, one of the books, "The Disuniting of America" by Arthur Schlesinger, still made it onto best-seller lists.
Random House President-Publisher Harold Evans said: "I don't have ethical objections per se, but there can be practical problems. From a commercial point of view, it may be difficult to determine who the readers of a novel might be."
He has no objections to the coupons and display ads in the Random House-owned Fodor's Travel Guides and Mobil Travel Guides, published under an agreement with the oil giant.
Mr. Carlson, a three-decade industry veteran, said he had no professional qualms about his project-"as long as you keep church and state separate and as long as you add value for the reader."