The inside scoop on the book world

By EW Staff
Updated August 07, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

A FULL-FIGURED DEAL The new Bertelsmann-Random House empire is only a few weeks old, but it’s already worrying the competition. In the course of a recent auction for the tentatively titled Wake Up, I’m Fat, by Camryn Manheim — up for an Emmy for her role on The Practice — sources say Random imprint Crown set a $150,000 floor, giving it the right to top any final bid. But when Crown decided not to top an offer of about twice that amount from HarperCollins, new sister imprint Broadway Books stepped in and exercised an unheard-of ”corporate topping privilege” to buy the memoir. Broadway had not participated in the auction, since company policy forbids Random divisions to bid against one another. Agents are concerned, since by keeping its imprints out of the auction, Random House may have kept down the book’s price. Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum says, ”This was an unusual circumstance, and it’s not necessarily going to happen again.” Broadway will publish Manheim’s book next summer.

WHITE MAKES RIGHT? Irony lurks behind Modern Library’s largely dead-white-male ranking of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century (59 of which ML publishes) — and we’re not talking Henry James (three mentions). Chosen by a 10-person panel presided over by Christopher Cerf that included only one woman — A.S. Byatt — the list noted just eight female writers and even fewer authors of color. But you’d think Cerf would be the very model of a sensitive New Age man, since he’s worked on Sesame Street spin-offs, edited a 1987 sequel to Marlo Thomas’ Free to Be…You and Me, and cowritten The Official Politically Correct Dictionary. ”I’d love to see what Toni Morrison [zero mentions]would pick,” says Cerf, ”but she’s on another board and couldn’t do it.”

SEIN ON THE DOTTED LINE After months of negotiations, an authorized Seinfeld book is finally in the works: SeinOff, which will include reminiscences by the four stars and behind-the-scenes photos of the last show by David Hume Kennerly, will be published by HarperPerennial in October. Terms of the deal were not released, though William Morris agent Dan Strone had sought a reported $500,000 from publishers when he first floated the proposal in May. That price may have come down, since Seinfeld books have flooded stores in recent months, and some — like Seinfeld, an unauthorized tribute book — have already hit the remainder stacks.

— Alexandra Jacobs and Matthew Flamm