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Saving Careers, No Advances at a Time

The WSJ’s Jeff Trachtenberg makes note of a burgeoning trend for writers attempting to revive careers: go with a small publisher, or one who eschews large advances for more on the back end. Take Vanguard Press, a small imprint run by Perseus (that grew out of its initial owner, CDS) which is publishing David Morrell‘s current thriller CREEPERS, his upcoming one SCAVENGER, and new books by Eileen Goudge and Greg Bear in the spring.

“Traditional publishing functions as an assembly line,” said Morrell. “Often by the time a book is published the project has gone through various departments and the memory of why certain decisions were made weren’t passed along, so nobody can understand what’s going on.” By contrast, Morrell says he is involved in every step of the marketing at Vanguard, which plans on publishing only one or two books a month for the near future – doing so by focusing on marketing its books three months before publication — and then three months after publication.

But is it worth it? For those who don’t need to live off their advances or are just starting out, perhaps. Susan Ginsburg, Goudge’s literary agent, says she supported the move. Goudge’s books were selling well but needed a lift. Although publishing without an advance is a risk, the allure of a six-figure marketing budget was hard to resist. “If you can afford to make an investment in your career, it’s worth trying,” she says.

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