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Friday, April 01, 2005


money sign

From Broadband to Book deal

The sort of story I like to read:
  • 26-yr old freelance writer posts work in progress.
  • Catches eye of Gollancz editorial director who buys world rights for 4-book deal.
  • Astute suit then proceeds to clinch three-book, six-figure deal with Bantam (USA) *plus* rights deals with France, Germany, and Holland.

Actually, I was trying not to sound my usual mean-spirited self: it's a story that thoroughly depresses me.

Hell, Scott doesn't even need to change his name to sound like an odious bestselling scribbler.

As for Gollancz - it's a fine name to conjure with in publishing circles, tho' I was saddened to see the old Henrietta Street offices still so rundown - Tiens! Do my eyes deceive me? Can that really be my old booktrade buddy and rival ace publicist, Reggie Bosman, lying there? Sleeping off another good lunch at The Groucho, eh Bozzers?

Alas, the photographer's guess is probably about right about those offices looking like that these last 30 years - but I remember Gollancz knees-ups when Livia held sway and it was a major player. A bit of history for you literati:

Victor Gollancz was George Orwell's first publisher and the founder of the Left Book Club through which he commissioned Orwell to write The Road to Wigan Pier. Gollancz also published Orwell's early novels, but published nothing after 'Wigan' because they parted ways when Gollancz refused to publish Animal Farm on political grounds, not wanting to offend Britain's wartime Soviet allies or Soviet supporters among his own readership.

Orwell then moved to Secker & Warburg for whom, dear reader, *I* had the honor of running their publicity during the heady 1970s. Indeed, my office housed first edition file copies of Secker's A-P output (which included Orwell). I'll never forget my astonishment one afternoon while slacking off to browse through 1984: out from its pages floated a handwritten note *from* Orwell himself (real name Eric Blair) to Fred Warburg, on some tetchy author's moan he had with the publisher.

But back to Gollancz whose name for many will always be synonymous with the non-pareil Liz Calder, one of the great names in publishing and probably best known these days as a Bloomsbury director (whose list includes a certain JK Rowling).

But I met Liz long before that, when still a junior squit in London publishing and she already a *femme formidable* in the trade - not to mention formidably beautiful, which one was allowed to notice in those days.

I can't fib about being a *close* pal but I can say that she was unfailingly civil and friendly - always a sign of true class - even 15 years on when she bought a first novel from me in my reinvented guise as Hong Kong's first international literary agency. Good times, in tribute to which, let me reproduce the incomparable Liz's

FIVE THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN BEFORE I STARTED
  1. For a clear head and a clear desk, get into the office one hour before everyone else... you’ll accomplish two hours’ worth of real work.
  2. When choosing staff look around in other professions or departments. Great book editors, for example, are often former journalists, publicists or marketing people.
  3. Be prepared to trust your instincts.
  4. Don’t let setbacks break your heart. Or only allow it to happen once… get tough after that.
  5. Be prepared to admit when you’re wrong – nobody’s perfect!

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