Archer signs £10m deal as publishers keep faith with the great storyteller

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Jeffrey Archer, the disgraced former Tory candidate for mayor of London, remains highly esteemed in publishing circles; he has just secured a multi-million pound three-book deal with HarperCollins.

Displaying his trademark ability to bounce back from misfortune, Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare has sold the rights to two novels and a book of short stories for a figure estimated to be as high as £10m. HarperCollins has also purchased the copyright for all the novelist's previous titles.

HarperCollins and Macmillan were the main parties in a bidding war for the three works, which Lord Archer negotiated without the aid of his former agent, Deborah Owen. It ended earlier this week when HarperCollins exercised its "topping rights", the means by which an author's previous publisher may see all bids and secure the deal for a 10 per cent premium.

Lord Archer's deal is an unusual one; the author will receive a fixed fee for worldwide rights, and no royalties - a contract which has raised eyebrows in publishing circles. He struck a similar deal with HarperCollins for his last three books, including To Cut a Long Story Short, which was last week's number 10 in the original fiction bestseller list. Jane Friedman, president and chief executive officer of HarperCollins Publishers, said: "We are proud to publish Jeffrey, who is truly one of the world's best-selling authors. At this time of transition at HarperCollins UK, we are pleased to further our relationship with this very important house author."

It had been thought that Lord Archer's long acquaintance with HarperCollins would be affected by that "transition" and the recent resignation of Eddie Bell, the former HarperCollins chief who signed previous deals with the author.

HarperCollins believes the success of To Cut a Long Story Short, which was published two months early without a publicity campaign, vindicates its decision. "Jeffrey Archer is a compelling storyteller," the company said in a statement. "His sales record worldwide speaks for itself."

Other publishing sources believe the deal too high. But an industry source said: "Even if he doesn't sell terrifically well in the UK, and he is less popular than he was, with Archer you make money on the export market, especially with the Americans."

Lord Archer said yesterday he was "delighted" to continue his "long association" with HarperCollins.