Uncommon Indicator: Editors of Semi-Obscure Literary Journal Still Pulling Big Book Advances


This may be the uncommonest indicator ever. Or of this blog, at any rate. While publishing in general is not experiencing its happiest moment, the editors of the well-regarded, Brooklyn-based literary journal n+1 are at least making a go of it.

Earlier this month Senior Writer Elif Batuman published a book about Russian literature, life, the universe and everything that The New York Times found delightful. Now comes news that Executive Editor Chad Harbach has sold his first novel, The Art of Fielding, about baseball, life, the universe, and everything to Little, Brown for that familiar yet fickle amount–a reported mid-six figures. So, yes, it is still possible, dreamers!

How does this compare to the advances paid to n+1 editors Benjamin Kunkel and Keith Gessen on the occasions of their first novels in 2005 and 2008, respectively? Pretty well, from what we can gather. Though it can be tough to tease out exactly how much publishers paid for a title, Harbach’s sum seems to be along the lines of what the other two earned. (Kunkel also reportedly received over a million dollars from super producer Scott Rudin for the screen rights.)

What this means for you, me, and The Upswing appears more prosaic but it is nonetheless a heartening sign of economic health: publishers–okay, sure, publishers with books like the Twilight series in their back catalogues–can still scare up a decent chunk of dough to buy literary fiction. For all the doomsaying inside the industry, good books will not be going away any time soon. And that’s at least one small indication that the world will not be crumbling completely today. Or tomorrow. That things may, in fact, be just fine.

[Via: The New York Observer]

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