Sunday, June 12, 2005

Story of a book

Fittingly for a book that one internet reviewer said felt as if it had been dreamed up by two mates in a pub for a wheeze, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists was dreamed up by two mates in a pub for a wheeze.
The story of Gideon Defoe's first novel, from conception to publication, told by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian.
[Editorial director of Weidenfeld & Nicholson, Helen Garnons] Williams quickly read the manuscript, and liked it, but the days have gone when an editor can make such a financially significant decision alone. She immediately consulted Joanna Carpenter, head of Orion's sales department, for an impromptu forecast of how many copies the book might sell. "You never want a manuscript to be your 'rope book'," Williams says - the work you passionately campaign for, only to see it fail in the marketplace. But even Carpenter makes her judgments primarily on gut instinct and experience, not scientific market research. "It's enthusiasm," she says. "When Helen comes down here with her eyes shining - if you can replicate that in front of a book buyer, you've got it made. It's only with that that books work. Without that, it would be a dreary process." Williams punched Carpenter's forecast into an in-house spreadsheet that uses the estimate to compute a suggested advance to be paid to the author. "The problem is that it almost always comes up with a figure of about £4,000, so you have to ignore it," says Williams. By Monday morning, she had made a low five-figure offer.

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