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Comment from the book world in October 2004

October 2004

Can an advance be too big?

25 October 2004

'Everyone was throwing money at me. It was absurd. I was in a bar when I took the phone call saying it had been sold in America. But instead of doing a extravagant champagne-for-everyone, I thought: God. I'd seen a friend get a large advance. He thought that was it. It was going to be bitches by the pool in LA. But the fact was that his book didn't sell. At that point, nobody wants to touch you. I was going: is there any way we can tone this down? I didn't want them to pay a lot. I wanted them to pay enough. A rather worrying number of people assumed I would go off the rails. There was a period of six months where I'd walk into a room and there'd be this appraising quality. They'd be waiting for me to rip off the mask and reveal that I was Puff Daddy.'

Hari Kunzru on getting a big advance for his first book

'The dark forces of sales and marketing'

18 October 2004

'Editors nowadays move jobs much more frequently than before, and have little experience actually working with text. This leads to authors feeling unloved and badly treated. Young editors are being taught to be risk-averse, and although desperate to buy books, they are finding the barriers for entry get higher. They are going for the obvious choices or, tellingly, the novels which are in need of very little editorial work. Novels that merely show promise do not get sold - novels that are brilliant and in need of almost no attention do. All too often, it isn't the editor who calls the shots, but the dark forces of sales and marketing - the engine room of the business. An editor is going to have much more clout in arguing for marketing spend for a book they have paid £100,000 for than one which has cost a mere £20,000. It is less about the prose and more about the maths at this stage.'

Simon Trewin, literary agent at PFDRepresents authors of fiction and non-fiction, children's writers, screenwriters, playwrights, documentary makers, technicians, presenters and public speakers throughout the world. Has 85 years of international experience in all media. PDF now have a POD section. Some good advice for those seeking a representative., in the Independent on Sunday

'Those messy little notebooks'

11 October 2004

'Learning how to type does not make you a writer. It was one of the biggest disappointments of my life when I found that I couldn't compose at a typewriter. You see so many movies in which pages fly out of a writer's machine and novels pile up next to them. I'm in my late 30s now and I'm still working in those messy little notebooks I had when I was six.'

Donna Tartt in the Observer

Online reviewing - a dialogue amongst readers?

4 October 2004

'There are some who argue that by opening the gates to millions of reviewers, who may be incompetent, unedited and sometimes illiterate, the web has undermined the very idea of cultural authority. But this seems to misunderstand the nature of the new beast. At its best, internet reviewing provides a refreshing directness, a place where people say what they like and dislike without any of the baggage of literary criticism or knowledge of previous form, or grammar... The best online reviewers tell the story that they have read, add their own twist and take, and pass it on, creating a dialogue among readers that directly descends from the oral storytelling tradition.'

Ben Macintyre, The Times