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'Agents shouldn't hold us to ransom'

12 April 2004

'Where publishers have worked successfully to build an author over a number of books, agents shouldn't hold us to ransom every time there is a new contract. We accept that we should reflect past successes, but too often new contracts demand advances that bear no relation to even the most impressive sales increases. This can turn what has been a happy, successful and profitable relationship into one that is fragile and wary. Royalties may seem an outmoded concept, but there is nothing a publisher likes more than paying them to its authors.

And could the deal sometimes genuinely be about things other than just the advance money? As long as an advance is fair and not substantially lower than what may be available from the competition in the short term, surely editorial commitment, flair, passion, long-term vision and ambitious marketing plans should count for something. They do in some cases, but increasingly rarely. For the publisher, unearned advances are "dead money" - money that could be spent on marketing campaigns to stimulate not only sales of a particular title but also of backlist and future titles.'

Martin Neild, Managing Director of Hodder Headline adult consumer divisions