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Was Frazier right to go for the money?

15 April 2002

The case of Charles Frazier has been causing much debate in publishing circles, particularly in New York. Frazier is the author of the 1998 Civil War bestseller Cold Mountain, which was published by the well-respected literary firm Grove Atlantic, received wonderful reviews and went on to sell 2.8 million copies in the US, as well as becoming an international bestseller. But now Frazier has accepted the lure of a huge advance and has moved with his new book to Random House for a rumoured $5 million.

The head of Grove Atlantic, Morgan Entrekin, did everything he could to acquire Frazier's second novel, but the author's new agent asked for sealed bids and in the end Grove Atlantic, a medium-sized independent publisher, simply did not have such a deep pocket as the Bertelsmann-owned Random House. Emphasising the importance to all publishers of the big bestsellers, Entrekin said: 'The success we enjoyed with the (first) book made it possible for Grove Atlantic to thrive as an independent publisher over the last five years.' Charles Frazier obviously found the decision to go to Random House a hard one to make and he has been widely criticised for his mercenary approach. However many in the author community will defend his right to sell his work as he pleases and for the highest price possible.