The Weird of Dalkey's Catalog [Publishing Mysteries & Wild Speculation]

So, in addition to the interesting books I found in going through Dalkey’s catalog, I also came across a couple of odd listings that I thought I’d share in hopes that someone out there can explain this to me . . .

One of the reasons I go through all catalogs is to add all the new titles to our Translation Database. (Which is a pain in the ass, but does give me the opportunity to keep up with what books are coming out from all the other publishers out there.) Anyway, when I hit Herve Le Tellier’s The Sextine Chapel, my database alerted me to the fact that this was a “duplicate entry.” This isn’t all that unusual. Publishers occasionally have to delay titles, and sometimes end up relisting them in the next catalog. So no big deal.

BUT, in double-checking the info on The Sextine Chapel, the price has jumped from $12.95 (which is what it was listed at when it had a April 2010 pub date) to $34.95. (!!) Almost a 300% increase . . .

Adding to the weirdness is a listing on the same page for Herve Le Tellier’s A Thousand Pearls (for a Thousand Pennies), which is also due out in July 2011 and is retailing for $39.95.

It’s not like either of these are long books or special editions. According to all the available info, these are plain old paperbacks, that are 104 pages and 200 pages respectively. So, what’s going on here?

Speculation Point #1: This is the same price point Dalkey uses for its “Scholarly Series,” for which academics pay a $XX subvention (around $5,000) to have the books published by Dalkey. (See here for all the info.) These titles are done in very short runs (100 copies or so) and sold almost exclusively to university libraries.

So, are these translations part of the Scholarly Series? Is translator Ian Monk subsidizing these? That seems awfully weird, since they are “delightful and daring entertainments” that seem as geared towards the general public as anything else in Dalkey’s catalog.

And to add to the mystery, yesterday I also came across the Publishers Weekly review of Herve Le Tellier’s Enough about Love, which is translated from the French by Adriana Hunter and coming out from Other Press next month. This book lists for a reasonable $14.95 (it’s 240 pages), and sounds pretty entertaining. (From the Other Press copy: “Love at first sight is still possible for those into their forties and long-married. But when you have already mapped out a life path, a passionate affair can come at a high price. For our four characters, their lives are unexpectedly turned upside down by the deliciously inconvenient arrival of love. “)

Speculation Point #2: At $34.95 and $39.95, the two Le Tellier books from Dalkey will not be available in any bookstore in America. (Except maybe one or two truly Dalkey-devoted ones, but, well, you know what I mean.) Readers interested in Le Tellier will most likely just buy Enough about Love, which is great for Other Press, less so for the two Dalkey titles.

Speculation Point #3: The ebook versions of the Dalkey titles are listed for $14.95. Is Dalkey trying to promote a primarily ebook future for translations? Seems weird, since Dalkey isn’t the most wired of publishers.

Does anyone know what’s going on here? I’m mainly interested in this from a publishing decision perspective, since it seems to run counter to all that Dalkey has, and does, stand for of providing access to international works of literature.

But I’m also interested because it seems like there’s some sort of intriguing story to be told. This switch from a $12.95 to (the unsellable) $34.95 feels like some sort of punishment or retaliation or something. But where is this punishment directed? At Ian Monk? Le Tellier? The agent/French publisher? And what will this accomplish?

I’m totally confused and intrigued, and plan on speculating wildly (in my own head) if I don’t get the full story . . . If anyone has any leads, please e-mail (chad.post [at] rochester [dot] edu) or post them in the comments section below.

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