Friday, February 20, 2004

Peter Robinson switches publishers 

Holy crap, this is kind of a big deal, as reported in Nicholas Clee's latest Bookseller column for the Guardian Review:

The best authors for publishers to poach are ones bubbling under the very top of the bestseller lists, but with the potential to get there. The current bestsellers will want bigger advances to move; and the advances they are getting already are probably at the limit of what is affordable. But up-and-comers will get much larger offers from optimistic publishers than they have ever seen before.

That is how Peter Robinson secured a rumoured 1.4m (pounds) four-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. The Yorkshire-born, Toronto-based Robinson has been publishing novels since 1987. Set in the Yorkshire Dales and starring Inspector Alan Banks, they have been gaining sales steadily in the past few years.

So far, so good, and I have no problems whatsoever with this, being a huge fan of his work and hopeful that he can break out even bigger than he already has. But here's the most interesting part:

...an oddity about the deal is that Robinson still has seven editions - a Banks novel in paperback, plus three more titles in hardback and paperback - to publish with Macmillan, the firm he is leaving. Macmillan's strategy will be interesting to observe. Of course, it will want to sell a lot of copies; but it does not have an incentive to put all its energy into creating a star for a rival publisher to inherit.

That is indeed a bit weird. So basically, if he had 3 books to go, chances are that Robinson signed a three-book deal or at least had a 3-book extension done fairly recently--so why is Hodder & Stoughton knocking on his agent's door for a deal right now? Are they really going to want to wait three books before publishing him? Did said agent try to break the contract with MacMillan and fail to do so? And come to think of it, why even bother making the deal public at this point? Many other major deals are completed long before they are announced for all sorts of reasons, mostly not to rain on the former publisher's parade or to cause mutiny among the agent's other clients. So in short: what the hell?

Any further enlightenment on the matter would be very much appreciated. I believe Robinson's finishing up his Canadian tour and may be in my town Monday night; if I have the chance, I'll ask him myself.

UPDATE: A quick search on Amazon UK did clear things up a little bit. The paperback edition of Robinson's current book, PLAYING WITH FIRE, will be out early in 2005. His next released book is NOT SAFE AFTER DARK, a collection of short stories originally published in the US by Crippen & Landru in a limited edition in 1998. The hardback comes out in September with the paperback the following summer. Then in January 2005 is the next Inspector Banks book in hardback, with the paperback released the following year. So that leaves only one hardback/paperback combination unaccounted for.

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