Avoiding what was expected to be an intense bidding war over Kurt Cobain’s journals, a New York imprint snapped up the world publishing rights on Monday for a seven-figure sum. Publishers who got an advance look at the diaries were told to submit their bids by 11 a.m. on Monday, but the auction was called off around 10 a.m. after a deal was struck with Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam.
“The journals are an intimate, unadulterated portrait of an artist of great influence,” Riverhead’s Julie Grau, who will be the project’s editor, said in a statement released Tuesday (February 26). “They reveal Cobain’s vision and design, they document his creative and personal struggles. They are insightful, provocative, moving, funny and show him to be very smart and very aware.”
Though disappointed bidders surmised that Riverhead must have offered a rather large sum in order to close out the auction, Courtney Love’s manager, Jim Barber, said the financial commitment wasn’t the only consideration. He said he could not discuss the details of the terms, but he confirmed it was a seven-figure deal and denied reports that pegged the price at $4 million.
“There were several [publishers] who could have done a good job,” Barber said. “Of the 11 publishers I met with, nine thought this was the most amazing thing they had ever seen, and two or three of those stepped up and saw what it could do. This is mostly about finding it a good home. Anyone who’s involved in Kurt’s career has to be excited and enthusiastic to work with him, to spread the word about his life and music. That’s a big deal.”
What was most important in making the decision, Barber said, was a sense of the publisher’s understanding of the material – 23 notebooks’ worth of Cobain’s journal entries, drawings and letters totaling 800 pages.
Riverhead Books plans to publish the still-untitled work as a hardcover by October or November, Barber said. As for the book’s promotion and marketing, which Love was said to be very concerned about, the details are still being worked out.
“What we do know is that we plan to publish with great care and great thought, which is what it deserves,” said Riverhead spokesperson Marilyn Ducksworth.
Love will have limited promotional involvement, Barber said. “She might do an interview about the decision to publish it, but it’s not her book. It’s Kurt’s book. I don’t think her name should be mentioned in connection with it. The family, the estate made the decision. Courtney is part of that decision, but she’s not the decision.”
Proceeds from the book will go to Cobain’s estate, which is controlled by Love as its executor.
Riverhead Books has previously published authors such as Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity”), Alex Garland (“The Beach”) and the Dalai Lama.