Joanna Coles, Wendy Williams and the Inside Story on the New JFK Book

LunchAtMichaelsForget about having to dig out a coat for the first time this season to ward off this morning’s chilly temps, the real sign of fall here is that the power lunch scene is back in full swing at Michael’s. Today the dining room was full of famous faces (Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts at separate tables, Wendy Williams, Star Jones); entertainment bigwigs (Tad Smith, Nick Verbitsky); social swans (Margo Nederlander and pals); and more spinmeisters than there are Kardashian tabloid covers on any given week. You get the picture.

Fall also means the launch of a plethora of “important” titles and made-for-gift-giving books. I was joined today by Steve Koepp, editorial director of Time Home Entertainment, the book publishing division of Time Inc., who gave me the inside story on the company’s impressive and incredibly diverse fall list. He came toting three books to illustrate the point: the just-published Zoom: Surprising Ways to Supercharge Your Career by Daniel Roberts, born out of Fortune‘s compulsively readable “40 Under 40” annual list and featuring original interviews from headline-making top execs, including Marissa Mayer and Under Armour founder Kevin Plank; LIFE‘s bookazine The Wizard of Oz: 75 Years Along the Yellow Brick Road; and JFK: His Enduring Legacy (published by Time as both a book and bookazine).

Steven Koepp and Diane Clehane
Steven Koepp and Diane Clehane
Credit:

Between bites of Cobb salad, Steve told me the book business is, in fact, thriving over at Time Inc. thanks to the company’s multi-pronged approach to reaching all different readers with books that often connect them back to those people and eras that “resonate” and seem to grow more iconic over time. This is certainly true with The Day Kennedy Died from Life, which Steve described to me as “magisterial.” Certainly sounds like it. Due out Oct. 15, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the book is full of fascinating reporting, artifacts and images from Nov. 22, 1963. In fact, there is so much material that has been thoughtfully assembled that the book comes with a magnetic closure to hold a full-size exact replica of the issue of Life published immediately after Kennedy’s assassination as well as a gatefold with the entire Zapruder film — all 486 frames — published for the first time. Reporting includes the “centerpiece” of the book: a narrative by Dick Stolley, then the magazine’s Los Angeles bureau chief who flew into Dallas after the shooting and recounts his experience covering the event that made the world stand still. Stolley, not so incidentally, was also the person that purchased the film from Zapruder for $50,000 the day after the assassination. He then went back the following Monday and bought all rights for an additional $100,000. The e-Book version contains the footage from the film. “The images from that film are burned into our collective consciousness,” says Steve. “This is a very substantial book,” he says, adding: “The Kennedys have been a staple of Life from the time JFK was a senator to his courtship of Jackie, his presidency and his death.”

Based on early sell-in numbers, The Day Kennedy Died is expected to be one of Time Inc.’s biggest books of the season. Other books from this year with high hopes include New Scientific Discoveries from Time and The Rat Pack from LIFE.  As for Time Inc.’s top sellers of all time? Inside the Red Border, which looks at world events through the decades with the iconic covers and reporting from Time and Baseball’s Greatest by Sports Illustrated. In other words there’s something for everybody here. Aside from the usual go-to booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the new books will be sold at Costco, which placed a “substantial order” — just the thing for harried holiday shoppers. Steve tells me that bookazines are flourishing due to two important factors: accessibility — many are sold at supermarket checkouts that allow for perusing while that annoying person in front of you has to run back for that carton of milk they forget — and price (most run between $11.99 and $14.99). “They are doing quite well because customers see a good value,” says Steve.  Other strong sellers include the bookazine about Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee and anything about the British royal family. “The royals are always strong sellers.” Next year looks equally promising with Bob Spitz’s book on The Beatles’ first trip to America. “It’s a look at the 14 days that changed pop culture forever.” Mark your calendars, it’s due out in February.