Tami Hoag Leaves Bantam for Dutton

Publishers Weekly reported this afternoon that NYT bestseller Tami Hoag, who has been publishing her work with Bantam since she was writing romance novels for their defunct Loveswept line, is switching publishers, moving over to Dutton where Ben Sevier will edit her. At first glance this prompts a slightly raised eyebrow because Hoag isn’t the first of Bantam’s big ticket romantic suspense writers to leave – Iris Johansen moved over to St. Martin’s Press a couple of years ago after spending most of her career with Bantam. But here’s where the eyebrow raise gets more pronounced:

Hoag had reupped with Bantam in July 2007 for three new suspense novels, and Deeper than the Dead, the first title in that deal, was to be due out from Bantam in December 2008.

Now this is interesting on a couple of levels, especially if one tries to read between the lines of Hoag’s comments in the accompanying press release: ‘“I am at a point in my career where making a change to a new publisher

is very exciting for me. I’m very pleased to be taking this step with

the team at Dutton/NAL and I’m looking forward to a great and

successful partnership.” Because getting out of a contract for a single book is complicated enough, let alone one for three books. No wonder then the publication date for DEEPER THAN THE DEAD had to be pushed back a year in order for Dutton to market the book (and later series installments) properly.

But the other reason is that Hoag is believed to be connected to one of the more weird marketing campaigns this year, one that had its genesis at Love Is Murder in February and included cryptic comments, here and especially at the Crime Fiction Dossier, about some unnamed character named PLBW. Could that have had something to do with why Hoag is leaving Bantam after so long? Will the PLBW campaign resurface in advance of DEEPER THAN THE DEAD’s publication a little more than a year from now? (Or is this another example of irony displacement?)  

And then we have Dutton, where Ben Sevier is adding to the fiction list with big ticket acquistions like T. Jefferson Parker (who recently re-upped for two more books), Daniel Suarez, Jonathan Tropper, Marcus Sakey and Meg Gardiner, among others. At the rate they are going, spurred by the continuing success of Harlan Coben, it’s like they want to be the new Bantam Dell – where Coben first made a name for himself with the early Myron Bolitar novels and especially TELL NO ONE. This idea is bolstered further in light of Kelley Armstrong moving her prodigious output of paranormal and straight thrillers from Bantam to Dutton earlier this month. So in a way, Hoag’s switch is both flashback and flash-forward for the imprint, making things that much more interesting for them over the next couple of years…

UPDATE: Though GalleyCat’s Ron Hogan doesn’t name imprint names, his item, about whether it’s “worse” for a publisher to hang onto a hitmaking author too long should that streak fade, seems germane to this post and adds yet another interesting wrinkle to the discussion:

So when one predominantly commercial imprint at a major publishing

company loses two franchise authors to another predominantly commercial

imprint at a rival publishing company in less than a month, we start

hearing whispers that the house that’s been abandoned isn’t too

disappointed with the results. Unconfirmed rumors go so far as to

suggest that comparatively lowball offers may have been made

specifically to encourage agents to find their clients a new home—and

that we should expect word of at least one more defection from a

similarly-esteemed author soon.

I guess we’ll see if that bears out…