Thursday, October 11, 2012

Maurice Sendak and the Marketing Manager

On some days my job is filled with delights. This is an example. As long as I've been here I've been trying to get John Cech's book on the poetics of Maurice Sendak back into print. It was published in 1996 and quickly went out of print. The road block came when we approached HarperCollins, Sendak's usual publisher, about using the illustrations for a second printing. The fees they asked for really made the economics of a reprint, let alone a new edition, unfeasible.

Then, back in the late oughts, our Humanities acquisitions editor at the time was talking to one of our authors, Jonathan Weinberg, at a dinner party, and Jonathan was telling her about the marvelous weekend he had just spent at the shore with his great friend Maurice Sendak. The editor asked Jonathan if he knew about the book we published about Sendak's work, and he said yes, both he and Maurice loved the book. She then mentioned that we were trying to bring it back into print, but the cost of repermissioning the HarperCollins illustrations was preventing that. Jonathan listened and promised to bring it up with Maurice.

About a week later, our Director got a call from the rights department at HarperCollins informing him that Mr. Sendak had asked that we be allowed to use any of his illustrations from HarperCollins books free of charge, and that was what they were calling to let us know. Because of this, a new edition of the book will be published, for the first time in paperback, in the Spring.

So this morning I found myself going through the old marketing file for the book, and it was there I came across this letter. It was written by one of my predecessors and in the letter she's asking Mr. Sendak about just what we can do with some of the illustrations. Again we find ample evidence of Mr. Sendak's generosity and kindness. But the best part is at the end, where Kate Capps, the marketing manager here at the time, tells Mr. Sendak what his work has meant to her, and there in his own hand, Maurice replies with a "Thank you", and then politely asks to order one of our books on photography. To see his writing in one of my silly little files, caused me to pause.

If the letter were written to me, I can't guarantee that the original letter would still be in the marketing file. Thanks Kate Capps, wherever you are. You just made my day.

To see the letters in their original size click here for page 1 and page 2.