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Big authors change publishers

6 April 2015

Two big authors, one American and one British, have changed UK publishers in the last week. Danielle Steel has a new ten-book contract with Pan MacmillanOne of largest fiction and non-fiction book publishers in UK; includes imprints of Pan, Picador and Macmillan Children’s Books and Kate Mosse has a contract for her new trilogy with the same publisher.

This is part of a push by Pan Macmillan to grow by acquiring reliable bestselling authors, the latest move in its fight to join the ‘big three' publishers, Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette. Pan Macmillan is not known for splashing out on big advances, but in the case of Danielle Steel in particular, this is probably what has swung the deal.

Otherwise the two cases are different. Danielle Steel has been a huge bestseller for many years, writing a steady four books a year and gradually extending the range of topics she covers. She is a very professional author but someone for whom her agents, Janklow Nesbit in New York, expect top dollar. Money is probably the key to this deal. As a spokesperson for Transworld (which still has 11 books under contract) said: ‘publishing profitability remains a key priority and unfortunately we were unable to agree mutually acceptable terms for a subsequent new deal for books to be published in 2018-2021."

Danielle Steel is the author of more than 100 novels, as well as children's books, poetry, and non-fiction. Her worldwide sales are estimated at more than 650m copies, in more than 40 languages. Her UK sales have however declined 15% since 2013. Can a new publisher reverse this trend with greater enthusiasm, new covers and marketing push? Quite probably they can.

With Kate Mosse things seem a little different. Her paperback publisher Susan Lamb has recently departed from Orion and her agent, Mark Lucas at Orion, probably feels that this would be a good moment, with a new trilogy, to move his client to Maria Rejt, who is widely admired and has her own imprint at Pan Macmillan. Mosse is a much-loved figure in the British book trade for her generosity of spirit and co-founder of the Bailey Women's Prize for Fiction, as well as being a bestselling author of historical sagas.

Both authors will in due course benefit from increased focus and enthusiasm from their new publisher, though exactly what this will achieve in sales terms remains to be seen.