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Book Trade

'Savvy' Editor Turns to Books

March 15, 1987|ELIZABETH MEHREN

NEW YORK — As editor in chief of Savvy magazine for five years, Wendy Reid Crisp traveled the country, talking to women entrepreneurs, printing their stories, marveling at their success. "I just met all these women all over America who owned their own companies and were d1701603698Savvy," Crisp said. "I thought, what am I doing? Why am I killing myself so this man can make more money?" Last July, displaced Californian Crisp resigned from Savvy to start her own book publishing company, New Chapter Press Inc. With just two full-time employees (plus publisher Crisp), New Chapter definitely qualifies for the "small press" category, but already the trio has produced a winter/spring list of six nonfiction titles. Topping the roster is a title brought to her by "One Minute Manager" Ken Blanchard: "Up Your Score: The Underground Guide to Psyching Out the S.A.T." The guide's three teen-age authors won a $3,000 advance from Crisp, slightly below her usual range of $4,000 to $10,000. But rather than big advances, Crisp said she offers her authors "intensive marketing." As a magazine editor, "I read many books because we were buying excerpts. One by one I watched nothing happen for those books--very, very good books that should have sold 35,000, not 6,000." Mindful that "90% of small businesses fail," Crisp is nonetheless unintimidated by the prospect of sparring off against the giants of publishing. "The world out there doesn't care whether a book is published by Simon & Schuster or by me," she said. Distribution for New Chapter Press is handled by Kampmann and Co., and Crisp and her staff have settled into a cozy office on Park Avenue South. "Our office is a kind of medium-size loft," Crisp said. "It's real cute."

READING, WRITING AND REVOLUTION: The Nicaraguan Cultural Center of Los Angeles has announced the country's first international book fair, scheduled for July 20-26. A package deal organized in part by the Center (213-939-7802) offers free booths for participants, who so far include publishers, writers and book sellers from Australia, Cuba, East and West Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Though U.S. participants (two U.S. writers attending are Norman Mailer and Noam Chomsky) will have to contend with the Reagan Administration's "partial embargo" on exports to Nicaragua, Marcia Santos of the center said the ruling permits "exportation of books and any technical data which is generally available to the public."

At a news conference on the fair, featured speaker Dennis Brutus, a South African writer and human rights activist, broadened the agenda to talk about his work in forging an alliance between movements against apartheid and against the contras .

Imprisoned with Nelson Mandela for protesting apartheid in the early 1960s, Brutus fled to the United States in 1965. In 1981, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service began trying to deport him, but protests from the American literary community halted the INS attempt in 1983. Brutus found his South African shadow still looming this January, however, when administrative tangles related to his still-ambiguous status of political asylum prevented him from leaving the United States to visit Nicaragua.

Undaunted, Brutus is organizing "Let Freedom Ring in South Africa," a rally scheduled for July 3, the day before the joint session of Congress convenes in Philadelphia to commemorate the signing of the Constitution. And buoyed by his success in leading the campaign that banned South Africa from the 1984 Olympics, Brutus is working with other South African expatriates to draft a Constitution for a new "post-apartheid" government in South Africa.

The Nicaraguan fair, which Brutus still hopes to attend, opens one day after the eighth anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution.

THE WINNER: Vikram Seth has won the Quality Paperback Book Club's New Voice Award for his novel in verse, "The Golden Gate" (Random House/Vintage), the 600-sonnet story of the lives of several California men and women. The award carries a cash prize of $5,000 and is presented to the "most distinctive and promising" work of fiction or nonfiction offered by the book club in 1986.

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