Today in publishing: the hunt for the next Harry Potter continues, Barnes & Noble gets a cash infusion, and Graham Swift's knowledge of publishing history is challenged.
- The overall state of the publishing industry may be bleak, but the market for first-time authors with books that could conceivably be "the next Harry Potter" is hot, hot, hot, reports The Wall Street Journal. An "elfin painter" named Erin Morgenstern got "a high-six-figure advance" from Doubleday for The Night Circus, which tells "the story of two young, love-struck magicians who compete in a magical circus." That's less than the seven-figure advance Random House gave Karen Thompson Walker for her 2012 novel The Age of Miracles. That one is "about a California girl whose adolescent angst is compounded by a cosmic disaster when Earth's rotation slows." Putnam, meanwhile, "paid a six figure sum" for online artist Marie Lu's Legend, the first installment of a planned "dystopian, futuristic" trilogy set in 2130 Los Angeles. The lesson for aspiring author: if you want your manuscript to get read, call it The Next Harry Potter. [The Wall Street Journal]
- Barnes & Noble is getting a $204 million investment from Liberty Media. Portfolio says Liberty's stock buy was "lured more by the potential of its Nook e-book reader than by the prospect of owning bookstores." According to Publishers Weekly, the stock buy "puts an end" to the prospect of Liberty buying up the entire chain. Instead, they'll settle for owning 17 percent. [Portfolio and Publishers Weekly]
- When Booker Prize-winning author Graham Swift went on the BBC last Wednesday to lament the rise of ebooks, he cited the deal Lewis Carroll (nee Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) struck with Macmillan to publish Alice in Wonderland as "the correct" for how authors and publishers should divvy up book revenues: 90 percent to the author, 10 percent to the publisher. At The Awl, author Paul Carr made the counter-argument that one man's correct arrangement is another's wild risk. He explains:
"Dodgson's deal with Macmillan required that the author pay all of the costs of printing and producing Alice, with the publisher acting as a distributor. If the book did well (as it did, in Dodgson's case), Macmillan only received its 10% commission—but if it failed to break even (as most books did then, and still do today) the author was in the hole for all of the costs."
That arrangement sounds familiar for a reason, says Carr. "Today we'd call it vanity publishing." [The Awl]