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Wilbur Smith gets one of the biggest publishing deals ever

Brian G Turner

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Danish publisher Bonnier Zaffre have bought the world rights to Wilbur Smith's next eight (co-written!) books, along with English language rights to 34 previous works - all for "an eight figure deal":

Bonnier Zaffre poaches Wilbur Smith in eight-figure deal | The Bookseller

Bonnier Zaffre has poached author Wilbur Smith from HarperCollins in an eight-figure sterling deal, described as "one of the biggest in publishing history" by Bonnier Publishing group chief executive Richard Johnson.

Mark Smith, c.e.o. of Bonnier Zaffre, acquired world all-language rights to eight new Wilbur Smith books, together with English language rights to 34 backlist titles including classics such as When The Lion Feeds, Elephant Song and River God, from Kevin Conroy Scott at Tibor Jones Agency.

Smith, who is now 84, is said to have sold more than 130 million copies of his novels worldwide, and is currently published in 25 languages.
I wonder if Bonnier Zaffre are planning to follow the James Patterson co-writer model here?
 

MWagner

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So authors are now simply brands? Not a development I can get on-board with. If Smith's work is so formulaic that it can be handed off to any hack looking for a paycheck, then it's not for me.
 

Cli-Fi

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Danish publisher Bonnier Zaffre have bought the world rights to Wilbur Smith's next eight (co-written!) books, along with English language rights to 34 previous works - all for "an eight figure deal":

Bonnier Zaffre poaches Wilbur Smith in eight-figure deal | The Bookseller

I wonder if Bonnier Zaffre are planning to follow the James Patterson co-writer model here?
I think the Danish market is flush, I keep hearing about Danish TV shows and books making it big time.
 

Brian G Turner

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Interestingly enough, it was another Danish company - Egmont - who bought out IPC magazines in the 1990's. It's suggested they were only really interested in the licencing rights from Disney that they owned. They sold off 2000AD to Rebellion in the year 2000, and Egmont currently publish all those fun TV show magazines for kids:
Egmont Group - Wikipedia

The Bonnier Group is the one that bought a load of titles owned by Time Out about 10 years ago:
Bonnier Group - Wikipedia

Zaffre is a UK imprint of the company, and for the money being reported must surely be treating the name Wilbur Smith as a brand they can get a lot of mileage out of. They need to, seeing as the writer is 84 years old. I wouldn't be surprised if they get him to outline a number of ideas, then push them on for "co-writers" to develop in a similar manner to James Patterson. If true, expect to see Wilbur Smith on new titles long after his death. That's just speculation on my part, though.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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Interestingly enough, it was another Danish company - Egmont - who bought out IPC magazines in the 1990's. It's suggested they were only really interested in the licencing rights from Disney that they owned. They sold off 2000AD to Rebellion in the year 2000, and Egmont currently publish all those fun TV show magazines for kids:
Egmont Group - Wikipedia

The Bonnier Group is the one that bought a load of titles owned by Time Out about 10 years ago:
Bonnier Group - Wikipedia

Zaffre is a UK imprint of the company, and for the money being reported must surely be treating the name Wilbur Smith as a brand they can get a lot of mileage out of. They need to, seeing as the writer is 84 years old. I wouldn't be surprised if they get him to outline a number of ideas, then push them on for "co-writers" to develop in a similar manner to James Patterson. If true, expect to see Wilbur Smith on new titles long after his death. That's just speculation on my part, though.
At least we Americans are already used to the last name of smith, otherwise, it probably wouldn't have been such a large deal.
 

Gonk the Insane

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I wonder if Bonnier Zaffre are planning to follow the James Patterson co-writer model here?
You mean to put his name on something that bears no resemblance to the actual work he produces and that he might never have seen? That model?:sneaky::whistle:
I rather fear (being the cynic I am) that it is indeed the case - I'm only surprised it hasn't happened sooner. James Patterson Corps has been - I think - successful enough (in terms of income rather than quality:)) that I was wondering when someone else would jump on the bandwagon.

That said, Wilbur Smith's a successful author with a long back catalogue, and the publisher could make a fair amount just from his backlist with very little effort, so I can't really fault them on that front.
 

Cli-Fi

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You mean to put his name on something that bears no resemblance to the actual work he produces and that he might never have seen? That model?:sneaky::whistle:
I rather fear (being the cynic I am) that it is indeed the case - I'm only surprised it hasn't happened sooner. James Patterson Corps has been - I think - successful enough (in terms of income rather than quality:)) that I was wondering when someone else would jump on the bandwagon.

That said, Wilbur Smith's a successful author with a long back catalogue, and the publisher could make a fair amount just from his backlist with very little effort, so I can't really fault them on that front.
Stephen King has, and to a lesser extent JK Rowling, although she only capitalizes on the Harry Potter universe. She gets residuals on anything Harry Potter. The funny thing is nothing she will do outside of Harry Potter will be remembered.
 

Parson

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Stephen King has, and to a lesser extent JK Rowling, although she only capitalizes on the Harry Potter universe. She gets residuals on anything Harry Potter. The funny thing is nothing she will do outside of Harry Potter will be remembered.
Probably, but I wouldn't take that to the bank. With her name she can get a sizable printing of anything she writes. If she writes something really good, it will soon be "must have" and she might indeed be remembered for something else.
 

Boneman

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To be fair to JKR, without derailing the thread, I'll remember Cormoran Strike. He's growing as a character, and I hope there are many more books. I went to an evening with James Patterson, and he came over very well, but there were no probing questions about co-authors. Back on thread: what the hell do you do with £10+ million at the age of 84...?
 

Cli-Fi

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To be fair to JKR, without derailing the thread, I'll remember Cormoran Strike. He's growing as a character, and I hope there are many more books. I went to an evening with James Patterson, and he came over very well, but there were no probing questions about co-authors. Back on thread: what the hell do you do with £10+ million at the age of 84...?
It looks like it's a family affair. He probably has ideas that he lets other people put together for him
 

Vertigo

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Another one engaged in this sort of 'co-authoring' where it seems the original author has little to do with the book (and somewhat closer to SFF) is David Weber. The last co-authored book of his that I read (with Eric Flint) bore no resemblance whatsoever to Weber's own style of writing or plotting.
 

Toby Frost

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Hmm. I got the distinct impression that some of Arthur C Clarke's co-authored books didn't have much Clarke in them. And didn't Tom Clancy do something similar with Op Centre?

I agree that the idea isn't very palatable, though. If this sort of thing becomes popular, I would much rather that the stories were sold as being set in Wilbur Smith's "world" rather than as "by" him (although there may not be much of a "world" so much as a style). When I wrote Straken, I learned that Warhammer fans don't all regard every author in that franchise as equally good (some are much-loved, others derided), and many choose the next book by author as well as subject.
 
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Dan Jones

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It's a funny one, isn't it? It seems like a logical extension of the Tribute Band template. And in some cases, the tribute acts do very well indeed (The Bootleg Beatles, The Australian Pink Floyd Band and No Way Sis come to mind off the top of my head as being successful enough to warrant their own very popular tours). Guns' N' Roses continued for years with just Axl Rose, and Deep Purple and King Crimson have had more versions than Windows. The band is the brand, as they say in the biz.

Yes, it's a purely commercial evolution of the fiction market, but if it sells, it sells. What I'm more worried about is that it will put even more of a squeeze on emerging authors trying to compete with new releases by the likes of Stephen King, Wilbur Smith, Ian Fleming, James Patterson, George RR Martin and the like even after they're dead.

The flip side is that I think significant sections of the audience will know they're not getting the Real McCoy with these "co-authored" efforts, and will want a more authentic product. Who knows, perhaps "Real" authors will be the next hipster thing, and in a few years' time, the whole thing will come full circle and the concept of authors releasing their own books will become mainstream again!

Ok, I'm being tongue-in-cheek. The point is, just as there are always new authors coming along, there are always new readers coming along to read them. We're not dead yet.
 

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Hmm. I got the distinct impression that some of Arthur C Clarke's co-authored books didn't have much Clarke in them. And didn't Tom Clancy do something similar with Op Centre?

I agree that the idea isn't very palatable, though. If this sort of thing becomes popular, I would much rather that the stories were sold as being set in Wilbur Smith's "world" rather than as "by" him (although there may not be much of a "world" so much as a style). When I wrote Straken, I learned that Warhammer fans don't all regard every author in that franchise as equally good (some are much-loved, others derided), and many choose the next book by author as well as subject.
Yeah Gentry Lee "co-wrote" Rama II, Rama Revealed and Gardens of Rama - the style was changed significantly into a much more character driven style and for me lost the wonder of science that the original Rama captured so well. Not to say these are bad books - they are in fact very good, but Clarke is clear that he supplied the ideas and Lee wrote the story.

I agree that this isn't a particularly palatable thing but without Gentry Lee input most likely the story would have ended with Rama.
 

Toby Frost

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I have to say that I really disliked Cradle: while Clarke was no great writer of character before, Lee's style just felt cheesy and pot-boiler-ish. If anything ever convinces me that the only good SF is hard SF (which won't happen), it would be books like that.
 

Ursa major

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I got the distinct impression that some of Arthur C Clarke's co-authored books didn't have much Clarke in them.
In the case of the Rendezvous with Rama sequels, the quality fell with each book. (I haven't read the two books that do not bear Clarke's name. I strongly suspect that I have done myself an enormous favour.)
I agree that this isn't a particularly palatable thing but without Gentry Lee input most likely the story would have ended with Rama.
I wish it had.
 

Parson

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eah Gentry Lee "co-wrote" Rama II, Rama Revealed and Gardens of Rama - the style was changed significantly into a much more character driven style and for me lost the wonder of science that the original Rama captured so well. Not to say these are bad books - they are in fact very good, but Clarke is clear that he supplied the ideas and Lee wrote the story.
Sigh! too true. There is little to compare with the original Rama, certainly the sequels did not.
 
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