How Suggs' missing memoir left a publisher out of pocket
Delay in 'key Christmas title' blamed for Quercus' disappointing profits
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Friday 25 January 2013
It was the small publishing house that brought Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy to Britain, turning the deceased Swedish crime author into a household name and earning millions off the booming sales. Yet Quercus, after making its name from Scandinavian mystery novels, created another mystery today at the announcement of its interim results.
A delay to one unnamed “key Christmas title” meant profits in the year to the end of last December would be “significantly below market expectations”, the management revealed.
It would not give any clues to the title of the offending work, saying the information was “commercially sensitive”. But The Independent understands that book is a memoir written by Madness frontman Suggs.
It is unclear why its release has been delayed, or whether it is now finished. The singer’s autobiography That Close was pencilled in for release at the end of October but has now been pushed back to this Christmas.
Suggs last comment on the matter was on Twitter in March saying: “I am staying on in mehico to finish writing the book what I wrote, its coming on, and should be out, in oct.” [sic] His representatives declined to comment today.
Quercus announced it had snapped up the memoir in July 2011. Richard Milner, Quercus’ non-fiction publishing director said: “Popular music is littered with short-lived successes, but part of the reason Madness endures is Suggs’ literate, heartfelt and cheeky dissection of British life.”
He added: “His voice leaps off the page, taking the reader on an extraordinary journey in the company of one of our genuine national treasures.”
Previously, Suggs, real name Graham McPherson, wrote Suggs and The City: My Journeys Through Disappearing London in 2009. He also embarked on a solo tour, telling stories about his life, which is expected to make up the backbone of the autobiography.
On the website for the book, he said: “To be honest it’s not all there, maybe I’m not all there, and factually it may not be completely correct, but I do hope that these snapshots give you some sense of how Graham McPherson became Suggs.”
He had spoken hopefully of the book being a bestseller but even before yesterday there had been rumours in the industry that the title had hit delays.
Many were surprised one book could have such an impact. One publisher at a rival company said: “This is an example of a super-lead title that the company hopes will lift everything up. It’s not the be all and end all but it’s a large part of the jigsaw and its absence is felt.”
London based Quercus began life modestly in a small office on Baker Street in 2004, set up Mark Smith and Wayne Davies after the pair defected from the Orion Publishing Group.
But the massive sales of the Millennium trilogy, whose word of mouth success was started when staff left copies of the books on park benches and the tube, turned it into a significant publisher in the UK. In the first six months of 2010 alone revenues at the independent publishers, now based in plush offices in Bloomsbury Square, trebled to £15m in one year.
An English language film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Larsson’s first book, directed by David Fincher and starring Daniel Craig was released in December 2011.
Smith, the company’s chief executive, said 2012 would be a “year of transition” as sales of Larsson’s books have peaked with Quercus facing a battle to find other titles to replace the lost revenue. Smith stressed that Quercus continues to trade profitably and had net cash of £1.8m at the year end.
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The daughter of New York mob boss John Gotti was taken to court by HarperCollins to retrieve $70,000 (£44,000) it paid her for a memoir. The publishing house asked for the money back after an “unacceptable” book outline.
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