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Posts Tagged ‘Danuta Kean’

Sales Jump After the Author Dies

UK-based publishing journalist Danuta Kean has a piece in the Financial Times today about literary estates, and how the posthumous works of an author end up being big business. Sebastian Faulks, for example, is expected to share royalties and be paid an advance by Penguin for the May 2008 James Bond novel DEVIL MAY CARE. There’s the posthumous cottage industry of V.C. Andrews and Robert Ludlum. But not all dead authors need produce new books. The owner of Agatha Christie‘s rights has kept her in the public eye without resorting to new books. Agatha Christie Ltd is part of the intellectual property group Chorion, which also represents the estates of Enid Blyton, Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon.

“We have absolute control over what’s made,” says Mathew Prichard, ACL chairman and Christie’s grandson, of various television series starring venerated Christie characters. “The most important thing about television is that it keeps the books alive. We definitely see a rise in sales across her whole list when the series are screened.” Another layer of protection is by trademarking: For dead authors who are still in copyright, trademarking may help estates keep control after the term ends, says intellectual property lawyer Laurence Kaye. “If you intend to republish a book that has gone out of copyright, you would have to do it in a way that did not infringe any trademarks.”

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Are Book Clubs Ruining the Reading Experience?

It’s a controversial (albeit familiar) stance that any type of book club from Oprah to Richard & Judy encourages homogeneity, which is why the Sunday Herald’s doom and gloom article about whether book clubs are, in fact, “ruining” reading and publishing leaves me feeling more than a little skeptical, even if there are many good points made. “People were initially very sniffy when Richard and Judy announced plans for the book club. They thought it would be about promoting trash fiction,” said publishing commentator Danuta Kean. “But Amanda Ross recognised that people were interested in literary books as well as more commercial ones and the list is a great mix. That can only be a good thing.”

The problem is, Kean explains, “as soon as they saw its effect, publishers started looking for books that would be selected for the Richard and Judy list. They are also looking for a recommendation from Waterstone’s and to be the hot pick on Amazon.” And now that Tesco is teaming up with Random House for its own book club, the cries of commercialization are growing louder.

Even R&J-picked author James Robertson, author of THE TESTAMENT OF GIDEON MACK, has doubts. “The downside is that if someone goes into a book shop and buys the books that Richard and Judy have recommended, perhaps they won’t buy other titles,” he says. “There is no doubt that there are winners and losers in this. That’s something I feel slightly disturbed by. There is a sense that it is very much about corporate dealing.” Cathy Kinnear, manager of an independent bookshop in Glasgow’s west end, concurs. “The book clubs are not about giving people choice,” she says. “They are actually narrowing it. We can offer recommendations that are targeted at our customers, bearing in mind local preferences rather than picking out a few books for the whole nation.”