Remainders: publishing, then and now edition

  • Robert McCrum argues that everybody needs to chill out about Google’s digitization project because “there is a line of argument, from historical principles, that says copyright is inalienable.” (On another note, I continue to wear my tinfoil hat and predict that Google will sell our deepest secrets, culled from Gmail, to the devil direct marketers and spammers for a song.)
  • A love letter to the founder of Penguin “begins in a publishing industry that was chaotically amateurish, run in tumbledown Bloomsbury houses. It ends in a chilly new atmosphere of open-plan offices and hard-headed sales conferences, where backlists are pulped, the marketers make decisions on what we are allowed to read and publishers crave a ‘synergistic’ alliance with movie studios or television networks.”
  • A writer named Richard was lured away from his supportive first publisher with the offer of a two-book deal and the promise to position his third book as publisher #2’s lead title. It’s kind of like the Ray Charles story, except Ray triumphed, while Richard’s move nearly ended his career.
  • For its New Writing line, Macmillan has done away with advances and required authors to foot the bill for editing. Last week Hari Kunzru (who received a whopping advance for his first novel) called it “the Ryanair of publishing — it’s like having to pay for your own uniforms.” Stewart Dalby disagrees (as did the Grumpy Old Bookman).
  • At Splinters, Chris reponds to a U.K. bookseller’s guarantee of shelf space for selected self-published authors.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.