Round-up, 28 September 2012: Rejected Manuscripts, Ghosts, Britishisation, J.K. Rowling, and Indexers

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.)

Round-up, 21 September 2012: Gay heroes, copyright, small press successes, and hobbitses

So the other week I was passing comment on gay elves. I guess what the world really wants and needs, but some literary agents seem to want to suppress, is a gay hero. Or maybe a just-happens-to-be-gay hero. All credit to Viking Penguin, who just signed up a post-apocalyptic young adult novel with what sounds like a just-happens-to-be-gay protagonist.

(While on the subject, we mustn’t forget that J.K. Rowling’s Dumbledore was apparently a just-happens-to-be-gay wizard.)

Here’s a detailed but useful assessment of how and why academics and teachers should defend their own copyright and the use of their own content: ‘Copyright for Academics in the Digital Age’.

Some good coverage from the BBC and the Guardian on the small presses (and alternative publishing models, e.g., subscription at And Other Stories) who have been brought to wider attention by the shortlist of the Man Booker Prize. Ra ra for the Man Booker judges! This year has a particularly interesting selection of titles, I feel. Am particularly keen to read both Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home and Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse (from the very excellent Salt).

(I keep wondering: do those small presses have to pay for their seats at that flash dinner at the Guildhall. I did note the conditions of entry of the prize, which include the publisher putting up £5,000 as a contribution to publicity if a book makes the shortlist, and another £5,000 if it wins. Hope those small presses have good cash flow – we’d better get buying!)

The Guardian pays tribute to the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit, which includes its first publication in Latin (Hobbitus Ille … ‘in foramine terrae habitabat hobbitus’).

And in case you were hiding away in a hobbit hole yourself this week, here’s the trailer for the forthcoming film of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (which is now the first of a trilogy).

And as I finish typing this, my fall issue of Paris Review arrives with a thud. Gosh, it’s beautifully produced – print that creates a dent in the doormat. I love me some Kindle, but thank heavens for print (I imagine my eyeballs are thankful too). Some excellent content to look forward – I always love their ‘Art of …’ interviews in particular (James Fenton and Roberto Calasso here), and this issue also has poetry from Bernadette Mayer, a whole novella from Sam Savage, and some curious collages.