discussions writing & publishing

Doorstep Novel

Author wins publishing deal after leaving manuscript on Richard and Judy’s doorstep:

A struggling author landed a major publishing deal for her first novel after leaving a draft copy on the doorstep of television presenters Richard and Judy… The college tutor sent the manuscript to several publishing houses but had no reply and was on the verge of giving up. But when her mother-in-law mentioned that Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan had a country retreat nearby she decided to take them a rough copy. Mrs Saberton drove to their secluded house and placed a 400 page manuscript on the doormat and a note through the letterbox asking them to read it. She was then stunned when Richard – who along with his wife hosted a regular book club on their TV show – phoned her and said he loved the novel. Richard, 53, offered to write a foreword and allowed her to use their name when approaching potential publishers – and she soon secured her first deal.

After their own TV show bombed, I’m guessing literary agency isn’t a bad option for Richard and Judy. Is this a dangerous culture?

To be honest, I have no gripe with this – I realise that the land of literary agents and editors is made of subjective opinion based on the market (and, one would hope, talent). And, as is increasingly the case in publishing these days, it’s shifting units which can make a career last, rather than artistic merit – whether that’s good or bad is something entirely different.

Are TV celebs better or worse than publishers in deciding which books get attention and which should be successful?

Right, tongue in cheek.

Bear in mind just how much money publishers spend on making a book successful – they have to pay vast sums of cash for novels to go in promotions, did you know that? The in-store displays ain’t cheap, neither are magazine adverts, or making advance reading copies. They won’t often (at all?) do that with experimental books they know won’t sell to the masses. (I think that’s called a business model.)

So it’s money that can really make a book a success – publishing is an industry for the most part, after all. (I’ll blog on the money issues and how to buy a success story, if my editor will ever let me.)

At least getting the TV guys in to make the decisions cuts all the crap and is a little more honest about its own commercialism. TV people are readers, right? They can tell what’s a good book, right?

And before we moan about Art (because I’ll even join you after), let’s not forget that these commercial novels are the ones which allow publishers to fund the arty stuff. In genre land, Feist and Brooks and Jordan – well, they might not be intellectually stimulating, but they sure as hell bankrolled the major houses to bring you the more experimental literature over the years. If TV celebs select commercial, inoffensive literature, is it bad if it creates publicity and brings in readers in order to fund other books? Do we even care?

Now, you lot, get back to your Proust.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

9 replies on “Doorstep Novel”

To be fair to Richard & Judy, they picked some decent books for their book club – Andrew Smith’s Moondust was one, for example.

But having Richard Madeley write a foreword and, you’d assume, as a result help promote the book can only have made the book sound like a good proposition…

I think if it promotes the industry, it can’t be a good thing. I don’t particularly enjoy the fads, but I support that they make people readers and people will try to repeat good experiences with books.

Let’s be honest, the best thing for book sales is to have a movie come out, so I guess this is on the way there. It’s working for Oprah.

I tried to get vaguely offended by this, and muttered something about William Blake dying in the gutter, but I suppose if you have a blatantly commercial novel you should deal with it in the most commercial way you can.

I guess I can cool my jets unless Richard starts going on about how it is “better than Faulkner” or something.

Richard and Judy were canceled?! For shame, how could you have let this happen? I blame their show and it’s tantalizing teasers for keeping me from writing the Great American novel, when I lived in the UK in the early 90s.

Seriously though, I have no problem with this path to publishing nirvana. Anyone know where Ruby Wax lives?

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