The story behind literary imprints

By Alexandra Jacobs
Updated August 14, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT
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There’s nothing quite like a posh literary imprint to warm the frosty cockles of a big conglomerate, as Holtzbrinck underscored recently (see Between the Lines). Disney needs one — perhaps Tina Brown can help now that she’s setting up house there — and so does Time Warner, whose once-august Little, Brown (est. 1837) is still recovering from post-Paula Barbieri stress syndrome. But caution! The road to eminence is strewn with tempting hazards — i.e., lucrative self-help books. Witness some of the current highbrow set’s more prestige-compromising offerings.

IMPRINT Knopf, est. 1915 OTHERWISE KNOWN AS Teflon PARENT Random House (Bertelsmann) THINK John Updike, Toni Morrison, and a pride of Pulitzers BUT THINK AGAIN Anne Rice; Learn Scuba Diving in a Weekend SNOB-APPEAL RATING [Four upturned noses]

IMPRINT Dial Press, est. 1995 OTHERWISE KNOWN AS The Bluestockings PARENT Dell (Bertelsmann) THINK Allegra Goodman’s smart-Jewish-chick first novel, Kaaterskill Falls BUT THINK AGAIN Laura Zigman’s spurned-Jewish-chick first novel, Animal Husbandry SNOB-APPEAL RATING [Three and a half upturned noses]

IMPRINT HarperFlamingo, est. 1998 OTHERWISE KNOWN AS The Frugal Gourmet PARENT Belt-tightening HarperCollins (News Corp.) THINK Magic realist Paulo Coelho; highfalutin foodie Isabel Allende BUT THINK AGAIN Wasted, a memoir about eating disorders SNOB-APPEAL RATING [Two and a half upturned noses]

IMPRINT Riverhead, est. 1995 OTHERWISE KNOWN AS The Edge PARENT Putnam (Pearson PLC) THINK Harold Bloom, Nick Hornby BUT THINK AGAIN Passion Play: Ancient Secrets for a Lifetime of Health and Happiness Through Sensational Sex; New York City Ballet alums Heather Watts and Jock Soto’s cookbook SNOB-APPEAL RATING [Three upturned noses]

IMPRINT Scribner, est. 1846 OTHERWISE KNOWN AS The Old Guard PARENT Simon & Schuster (Viacom) THINK Angela’s Ashes; The Best American Poetry 1998 BUT THINK AGAIN Stephen King; To Read or Not to Read: Answers to All Your Questions About Dyslexia SNOB-APPEAL RATING [Three and a half upturned noses]

IMPRINT Bard, est. 1955 (as a paperback publisher — reincarnated this year) OTHERWISE KNOWN AS The Renaissance Festival PARENT Avon (Hearst) THINK Michael Chabon, Kathryn Harrison BUT THINK AGAIN Island of the Sequined Love Nun SNOB-APPEAL RATING [Two upturned noses]

IMPRINT Farrar, Straus & Giroux, est. 1946 OTHERWISE KNOWN AS The Untouchables PARENT Holtzbrinck THINK Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Susan Sontag, poet laureates galore BUT THINK AGAIN Why Did You Have to Get a Divorce? And When Can I Get a Hamster? SNOB-APPEAL RATING [Five upturned noses]

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