Apparently Penguin is asking some writers to return advances for manuscripts that were never delivered. Too right! (More for those who can deliver.) Some of the Guardian commentariat reveals a certain ignorance of what an advance really is. The posts by cstross usefully clarify things such as contracts and advances usually being broken down into payments on signature of contract, delivery of manuscript, hardback publication, and paperback publication. One agent quoted in the article refers to books rejected for editorial reasons, though the works referred to here seem to be books that were simply not delivered (which suggests the agent seems to be stirring things, as one comment suggests).
But it makes me think of the time when Joan Collins was taken to court for delivering an ‘unreadable’ manuscript. I remember seeing a super documentary on the trial, where ghostwriter Lucianne Goldberg, called as expert witness, wrily dismissed the manuscript’s inconsistencies as things that are fixed as a matter of course during the editorial process. (‘It’s a miracle’ was one explanation for, I think, someone returning from the dead – I thought the judge was going to say she was in contempt of court … but this was fiction, your honour.) If anyone knows where to find that documentary, let me know! But meanwhile enjoy Lucianne Goldberg discussing the trial and celebrity publishing with Judith Regan (e.g., note some fascinating arguments about fiction vs nonfiction writers using/needing ghost writers). I guess one major issue was that the perceived value of a Joan Collins novel, even if expertly rewritten/doctored, was diminished in the eyes of the publisher between the time the book was signed up and the time it was delivered. Writers: take note …
A good interview with Jeffrey Eugenides appeared in Salon this week. I enjoyed the discussion of his first sentences. It occurs to me they work as wonderful little elevator pitches.
Neologism alert! The BBC reports on the Britishisation of American English (and with an -ise ending at that).
A brief feature in Forbes on a boutique publisher using a subscription model, a form of underwriting production that’s also used successfully (to some degree or other) by, e.g., the wonderful Peirene Press and And Other Stories.
Apparently, there were some problems with the formatting of the ebook of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. Ow!
Following my own post earlier this week, more on the value of book bloggers in the Guardian. (You know, the more I think about it, I’m more likely to read – and trust – a books blog than a conventional book review.)
Also from the Guardian: John Sutherland on one of the great unsung heroes of publishing: the indexer. (Or should I say unsung heroines, as so often they are women. I never know whether women prefer to be heroes or heroines, actors or actresses, and whether it’s right/wrong to use either.)
And yay, the Kerouac Scroll is coming to the British Library! Next week, at that.
Final comment, amid all the coverage this week of The Casual Vacancy (which I’ve yet to read): aren’t we glad that J.K. Rowling 1. took pen to paper, and has 2. such a public profile, and 3. a voice that she uses to good purpose? I gather from those in the know that 4. she is a truly lovely person, too. Which just goes to show. (Haters: remember what Zadie said – we have to write from Love, not Envy.)