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Business Books: Financial crisis lights fire under publishers
April 9, 2009 / 3:19 PM / 9 years ago

Business Books: Financial crisis lights fire under publishers

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The financial crisis is happening so fast that books about it can be outdated before they hit the shelves. Some U.S. publishers and authors are responding by bringing books to market faster.

While it normally takes 9 to 12 months from the time an author turns in a manuscript to when a book is released, that is down to just a few months for some publishers trying to keep up with the 24-hour information age.

One example is “A Colossal Failure of Common Sense,” a book about the collapse of Lehman Brothers by former vice president Lawrence McDonald. Crown will publish it in July, after acquiring the manuscript only last month.

“With something as current as this, unless your timing is right, you can lose your audience for it,” said John Mahaney, executive editor of Crown Business. Crown is a division of Random House, part of Bertelsmann AG BERT.UL.

Changing events are an added burden for authors. Shari Olefson’s “Foreclosure Nation -- Mortgaging the American Dream” was due to be published in October last year, but when the economic meltdown erupted she realized it would be “wrong and outdated.”

“Really the whole book had to be rewritten,” she said. After resubmitting her manuscript at the end of December the book was published late last month by Prometheus Books.

“Writing a book about an ongoing financial crisis is like herding cats, it’s just really challenging,” Olefson said.

Simon & Schuster, part of CBS Corp (CBS.N), is publishing several books related to the financial crisis that it says have been turned around at a faster rate of four to six months.

“Books that are related to any ongoing, shifting crisis are best published as close to when they’re written as possible,” said David Rosenthal, Simon & Schuster executive vice president and publisher.

Among them is “Bold Endeavors: How Our Government Built America, and Why It Must Rebuild Now” by Felix Rohatyn, released in February, just as the U.S. government was considering stimulus plans.

E-BOOK

Meanwhile, PublicAffairs released “The New Paradigm for Financial Markets” as an e-book in March last year, just 10 days after billionaire investor George Soros submitted his manuscript. A print copy was out just two weeks later and a paperback with four new chapters came out last month.

“Things were moving fast and we wanted to make sure we were in the marketplace,” said Peter Osnos, PublicAffairs founder and editor-at-large. “I do think that now you want to hit it hard and fast.”

Portfolio, an imprint of Pearson Plc’s (PSON.L) Penguin Group, will publish “Street Fighters: The Last 72 Hours of Bear Sterns, the Toughest Firm on Wall Street” by Kate Kelly in May, just three months after receiving the manuscript.

“Every time there’s a big news story like this there tends to be books that are timed to come out in the news cycle before they would normally come out,” said Adrian Zackheim, president and publisher of Portfolio.

“The failure of the banks and the resulting economic turmoil is the story of our time right now,” he added.

Kathryn Popoff, vice president for adult trade books at Borders BGP.N, said customers want to understand what happened and protect themselves.

“The financial crisis has led to several instant books,” Popoff said. “The publishers want to be timely and the sooner they can get it out, the closer they can get it to the event happening, the more relevant the book.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Eddie Evans

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